The importance of character in independents
The importance of character in independents
09 MAY 2014 9:48 AM

An independent hotel without character won’t appeal to experiential travelers looking for something beyond the cookie-cutter blandness of chain hotels.

Developing a hotel is simultaneously thrilling, exasperating, uplifting and ulcer-inducing. It’s also a lot of fun and, with proper planning, financing and a dollop of good luck, a profitable exercise. That’s true for all hotels, but especially true for the development of independent properties. 
“They’re a lot more fun to do, that’s for sure,” developer Jim Brady told me recently. Brady is converting a former office building in Portland, Maine, to The Press Hotel, which opens next April. “I’ve developed a number of branded hotels, but it’s more interesting to do an independent because you have a lot more flexibility, and you’re able to be more creative when it comes to the design." 
Of course, the flexibility and creativity that comes with developing an independent hotel also requires that the developer have the vision and foresight to give the property the character and uniqueness that will make it attractive to the growing segment of travelers who want an original, not a copy.
Adding character to an independent hotel happens in a number of ways. Sometimes, it’s the hotel’s location. Other times, it’s the history of the hotel or the structure from which it was created. For example, The Press Hotel in Portland is an adaptive reuse of a 91-year-old building that once housed the Portland Press-Herald newspaper.
Often, the character of a hotel is reflected in its name, and the right name can set the tone and identity of the property, as HNN’s Alicia Hoisington writes. The name can be a mirror to the hotel’s location, history or some other specific characteristic of the property. NEED LINK
Sometimes, the name combines these elements to create the hotel’s character. Earlier this month, the Hotel Oceana in Santa Barbara, California, rebranded itself as Hotel Milo in a nod to both location and history.
The property sits across the street from a Pacific Ocean beach in a neighborhood of Santa Barbara founded by Milo Potter, a 19th-century entrepreneur who built and operated a hotel on the site of today’s Hotel Milo.
Travelers gravitate toward independent hotels because they’re unique and not like cookie-cutter chain properties. But a hotel without character—whether that’s in its name, history, design or style—doesn’t give the experiential guest the product they’re seeking.
Now to recent news from the world of independent hotels:
Performance improves for U.S. independent hotels
Hotels in the independent chain scale in the United States posted positive results during March in all three performance metrics, according to STR, the parent company of Hotel News Now.
When compared to March 2013, occupancy for the segment increased 2.2% to 61.3%, while average daily rate rose 3.8% to $113.04. Revenue per available room rose 6.1% to $69.32.
Owners of independent hotels in France want to sell
Nearly two-thirds of small independent hoteliers in France want to sell their properties due to chronic unprofitability, according to a study by Coach Omnium and the Committee for the Modernisation of French Hotels, which unites 700 hotel and tourism industry professionals, writes HNN correspondent Tamara Thiessen.
Of the participating hoteliers, 59% claimed they were not making any profit or were suffering losses, and 60% saw a decline in their turnover over the past two years. 
“Even if they are not necessarily suffering a deficit, they are very fragile, even in a very precarious situation,” according to the report, when translated from French.
The findings are based on a year-end poll of 716 independent hoteliers, whose properties comprise 25 rooms or less. Such hotels represent nearly 50%, or 9,000 out of 17,000, of French hotels, according to Mark Watkins, president and founder of the study’s organizations. 
Hotel planned for Graceland
Elvis Presley Enterprises is planning a hotel near Graceland, the late entertainer’s home and a tourist attraction in Memphis, Tennessee, according to a report in the Memphis Business Journal
Tentative name for the 450-room hotel is The Guesthouse at Graceland. The company said the property could be open by August 2015.
Stash Hotel Rewards adds hotels
Two hotels—the Essex Resort & Spa in Essex, Vermont, and the Horton Grand Hotel in San Diego—have partnered with Stash Hotel Rewards, a points-based frequent guest program designed for independent hotels.
Preferred Hotel Group reports increased reservations
During the first quarter, reservations revenue for members of Preferred Hotel Group increased 19%, according to a news release from the company.
The company’s seven-month-old iPrefer points-based guest loyalty program has generated a 52% increase in enrollment since its pre-launch marketing campaign and a 120% increase in active members, or members with at least one hotel stay. According to the company, iPrefer reservations have shown an average stay value of $705.
Preferred added 29 hotels during the quarter.
Bud & Breakfast Inn to open in Colorado
Pladeo Corporation, which will soon change its name to The Mary Jane Group, signed a lease with the owner of the Adagio Bed and Breakfast in Denver. The company plans to convert the property to the all-inclusive Bud and Breakfast.
The inn will provide guests with unlimited food, drink, marijuana and marijuana edibles. The property will also provide 24-hour transportation for guests to anywhere within Denver city limits.
Deals and developments
  • The Benbow Historic Inn in Garberville, California, has joined Historic Hotels of America, a group of more than 250 properties in the United States designated as a National Historic Landmark or listed in or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Developers Henry Suarez and Kiran Patel opened the Hotel Zamora in St. Petersburg Beach, Florida, the first new hotel in the city in more than 20 years. Trust Hospitality operates the property.
  • The 153-room Hotel G opened in San Francisco on 2 May following a two-year renovation. The property was built in 1908 as The Fielding Hotel.
  • Rockbridge and partners Marc Dugas and Peter Anastos purchased the Cliff House Resort & Spa, a 166-room property on 70 oceanfront acres in Ogunquit, Maine. The owners will renovate the hotel following the 2015 summer season. New Castle Hotels in the operator.
  • A former DoubleTree by Hilton in Utah converted to an independent in April and is now known as the Grand Lodge at Brian Head.
  • A Curious Group of Hotels, a collection of boutique properties in the United Kingdom and Europe, acquired The Portobello Hotel in London.
  • White Lotus Group selected Stout Street Hospitality to operate the 168-room Winter Park Mountain Lodge at the base of Winter Park ski resort in Colorado.
  • Sotherly Hotels acquired the 326-room Georgian Terrace Hotel in Atlanta for $61 million. Chesapeake Hospitality will operate the hotel.

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