St Giles, a London-based brand with nine owned and managed hotels, will move to add a management model and expand its footprint globally.
NEW YORK—St Giles Hotels, a London-based chain with nine wholly owned and managed hotels, is seeking to expand globally and hopes to gain management contracts in the near future to stimulate faster growth, according to Abigail Tan head of U.K., Europe and North America for the company.
The brand started in 1996 with the purchase of the 700-room St Giles Hotel in London. It now includes properties in New York; Sydney; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Penang, Malaysia; and Manila. The parent company, IGB Corporation, is a Malaysian holding company owned by Tan’s family with interests in real estate, construction and hospitality; it has six other hotels in Asia under different brands.
St Giles hotels have three separate price tiers and are differentiated by logo color and other graphic and name elements. The highest priced brands are branded as St Giles Signature, the next highest priced have red graphics and finally the lowest priced is distinguished by a blue logo. Tan said she plans to educate consumers about the differences among the hotels, saying she wants to maintain the St Giles name on all properties to leverage the group’s size.
“When you’re as large as Marriott,” Tan said,” you have to have multiple brands, but at our size why define our demographic? We want to cater to everybody. We want to say to veteran travelers and newcomers: we can help you create your local experience.“
Brand consistencies, she said, revolve around “an ethos that stresses a contented staff and guests who enjoy a unique local experience.”
St Giles appeals to a diverse market because of the variety of its hotels, Tan said, which range from boutiques like the 124-room Tuscany in New York to the London flagship, which sees 30% of its business from groups.
Courting new owners and projects
Tan said the business model for each additional property would depend on the market.
“We have capital to invest,” she said, “but we can’t grow as fast as we’d like with just the owner-manager model. A differentiator for us in appealing to outside owners is that we are owners ourselves and understand what that means.”
On the drawing board is a large mixed-use project in the Southwark area of London that would include a 400-room hotel, which is currently awaiting approvals. The company also has a site in Birmingham, England, that could potentially be a hotel. And an extension was recently built to the hotel at Heathrow Airport in London.
To this point, all properties are centrally located city hotels, and that will remain a focus even as St Giles looks to destinations like Cuba. The company is also looking to other United States and European cities, as well as Asia. Discussions are underway in locations as disparate as Thailand and Congo.
The one exception to the city locations is a site in Malaysia that may become the first St Giles resort, but that is a couple of years down the road.
“With our background in real estate,” Tan said, “we have tremendous flexibility when it comes to any site; we can decide what its best use will be.”
The key at this juncture, Tan said, “is marketing and building a brand.” She added that while the company is small, there are opportunities to build a loyal base.
“We hope to announce partnerships with airlines or other suppliers by the end of the year that will bring rewards to loyal guests,” she said.
The company has several ideas for distinguishing its product in a crowded marketplace, Tan said. One is the addition of a “surprise and delight” associate at each hotel who will—by talking to guests or other employees—learn about something a guest might want, and then provide it. For instance, a guest might ask the concierge about a bus tour but not take it. The surprise and delight person will then offer them two tickets to the tour.
The company is also rolling out a virtual reality program called St Giles 360, using video shot by guests themselves, and social media influencers.
“Instead of us telling guests what to see or do,” Tan said, “we decided to ask them what they like to do and built it around that.”
St Giles 360 is part of a global marketing campaign launched last year called “Be Central, Be St Giles” that emphasizes the brand’s locations and emphasis on local experiences.