Following IHG’s well-documented buy of Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, the brand, according to sources, will occupy a slightly higher niche in Europe than it does in its ancestral U.S. home.
BERLIN—Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants has started its push in Europe, where its hotels will occupy a slightly higher niche than the company’s United States’ properties, according to sources.
Richard Solomons, CEO of InterContinental Hotels Group—which bought the U.S. chain in 2014—said at the time IHG would protect Kimpton’s “brand integrity.” Solomons also said that the acquisition helped IHG “fill white space in the upper-upscale segment at the top end of our portfolio.”
At the recent International Hotel Investment Forum in Berlin, Robert Shepherd, IHG’s chief development officer of Europe, said the Kimpton brand would be positioned more or less alongside IHG’s legacy InterContinental brands, although the target market of guest was different.
“We will think differently in Europe, where Kimpton’s profile will be raised. To some extent, Kimpton is coming home to the continent where the idea of boutique hotels was founded,” Shepherd said,
Like their kin in the U.S., European Kimptons will have their hotel operations separated from those of their restaurants, Shepherd said. The brand is also being pushed in design and growth by another IHG brand, Hotel Indigo.
Investors also are helping to grow Kimpton’s presence in Europe, Shepherd added.
“(In Europe) the level of investment interest is very strong, which comes from the brand’s legend in the States,” he said.
Long-term IHG investor Pebblebrook Hotel Trust has shown interest in Kimpton, as have other private-equity vehicles, institutional funds and existing owners, Shepherd said, who ruled out franchise activity for the brand.
“Deals will be management contracts, but in some locations we will use our own balance sheet,” Shepherd said.
“We’re fishing in a hungry pond,” he said of IHG’s push of the Kimpton brand in Europe.
Shepherd said the overall excitement was underlined by Hotel Indigo’s pipeline of 61 hotels globally, to add to its existing portfolio of 65 properties.
A pipeline of approximately 50 Kimptons in the next 10 to 12 years is the desired goal, he said, many of which would be in Europe. Shepherd said that 10 Kimpton deals are currently being finalized, but again that was a global figure.
“We will be very deliberate with (European) locations, and we are looking at new builds in cities such as London and Paris,” he said.
He added new Kimptons in Europe would be given unique names followed by either “by Kimpton” or “(comma) a Kimpton.”
IHG has already signed one property to its European Kimpton line, which the company announced in January. The 270-room hotel will close its doors this month as the Crowne Plaza Amsterdam City Centre and will open as a Kimpton in April 2017.
Shepherd said the Amsterdam property will sit in the “luxury boutique space.”
Legions of fans
Shepherd said the wants and likes of Kimpton’s loyalty base have been clearly heard.
“We have to be, and intend to be, brand champions,” he said. “There is so much loyalty (to Kimpton). We will look after it.”
Shepherd referred to the recent “2016 IHG Trends Report” as evidence that guests want to be part of a community but at the same time have memorable experiences.
To that effect, he said, Kimpton’s global SVP of design, Ave Bradley, has walked two blocks around every site signed or considered for the Europe portfolio to look for partners, experiences and other advantages that will result in what he calls “ridiculously personal experiences.”