The division of Resort Hotel Association is seeing growth after repositioning for the meetings market.
NEW YORK—Like other collections, Kindred Resorts & Hotels is a group of independent properties, but the resemblance ends there.
Kindred, which was formed in 2009, is a division of the Resort Hotel Association of America—a collective purchasing nonprofit formed to help hotels buy insurance and other financial services.
Kindred is unlike other collections in a number of ways. For one, it does not cost anything to join and there are no commissions or fees; however, membership is contingent on being a member of the Resort Hotel Association. Managing director Bree Brostko said there might be a pay-to-play option eventually, but that isn’t the plan for the time being.
Although the organization is only seven years old, Kindred regrouped and repositioned itself in 2014 while targeting the group and meetings markets.
“We started during the economic downturn when meetings were really hurt,” Brostko said. “Even a few years later, members were finding challenges in that market as the cost of acquisition kept going up. We decided to hone in on groups. All 62 of our members have some kind of meeting space, although it is limited in a few properties.”
Brostko said that with the repositioning Kindred has developed good trade awareness among meeting planners.
Brostko said RHA’s goal with Kindred is to boost member retention and recruitment. What members get is an opportunity to network, discuss common challenges and provide referrals for fellow Kindred properties.
About a third of RHA members also belong to Kindred. Brostko said the remaining properties don’t because “they just don’t see the value-add at this point, although we would like more to join. And some don’t have meeting space.”
She said marketing has been a significant challenge for independent hotels, particularly group marketing, and Kindred represents an effort to help with that. She added Kindred would be doing more in the sales and marketing areas in the future.
Brostko said that consumers are increasingly looking for local and authentic experiences.
“We happen to be in that space,” she said. “As they move away from brands and even soft brands, we are what consumers are looking for.”
Gregory Riehle, president and CEO of the RHA, said Kindred membership is a key way to help the organization’s members.
“We do public relations and other marketing for all RHA members as part of our mission,” Riehle said. “All of these initiatives are about the stability of the association.”
Several members said their membership has been helpful for their businesses.
Candace Engdall, director of marketing and revenue management at Saybrook Point Inn & Spa in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, said membership is a good way to connect with the greater meetings world.
“With the targeting of meetings, it is an opportunity to get the word out to planners,” Engdall said. “It’s a way to create group awareness of small independent properties.”
Bettina McCrady, director of sales at The Woodstock Inn & Resort in Woodstock, Vermont, said the program brings added value without added costs.
“It gives us a broader identity as an independent hotel,” McCrady said.
Jen Wyman, director of resort marketing at Basin Harbor Club in Vergennes, Vermont, said it helps even the playing field.
Being a member of Kindred “gives the resort a brand identity, especially since they began to focus on meetings,” Wyman said.