While in the past hotels were either branded or independent, soft brands now offer hoteliers the option to land somewhere in the middle.
At the 2018 Lodging Conference, Hilton’s VP of Full-Service Brands, David Marr, predicted the Hilton Tapestry Brand will boom over the next five years. With Tapestry, Curio, and Canopy, and possibly others on the way, Hilton is bullish on the market for soft branded hotels.
Hilton isn’t the only hotel chain capitalizing on the growing popularity of soft brands. As of 2018, there are roughly 475,000 independent hotels in the market, and only around 55,000 occupy the soft brand category. The hospitality industry expects to see this number grow as knowledge on soft branding becomes more mainstream.
What is a Soft Brand?
By definition, a soft brand hotel is an independent hotel that joins a chain while maintaining a strong sense of individuality and independence. For most hoteliers, the draw of independent hotels is the custom identity, personal touch, and commitment to service that offer a one-of-a-kind guest experience. Big hotel chains want to be known for similar offerings, which makes soft brand partnership valuable for both parties.
One of the most significant charms of soft brands is their focus on accommodating the lifestyle traveler. Culinary spaces, rooftop bars, and intentionally designed wellness/fitness centers are crucial elements of a well-designed soft brand hotel.
One way soft brands are changing the game is by serving different cuisines at various dining stations throughout the property, such as providing a distinct F&B offering from the main restaurant to the bar. With various meal options available, guests will remain on-site to experience all the individual eats a property has to offer.
Ballrooms may be the main appeal of traditional brands, but soft brands are all about the rooftop. Rooftop bars enable guests to relax while taking in the beautiful views and experiencing the local surroundings from above.
Many soft-branded properties appeal to the health-conscious lifestyle traveler with state-of-the-art fitness centers and a mindful approach to the guest experience. Take Hotel Xola, one of Wyndham’s Trademark Collection properties. The soft brand hotel uses amenities such as plush, allergen-free pillows and soothing eucalyptus linens to integrate wellness into every guest touchpoint.
Best of Both Worlds
With a soft brand hotel, independent properties keep their unique personality while tapping into the larger chain’s loyalty programs, among other benefits. Specific perks include:
- Bigger budget. Independents often transition to soft brands to reap the rewards of big chain budget and marketing. When you partner with a large franchise, you can rely on their in-house booking platforms and reduce dependence on online booking services (OTAs).
- Enhanced reputation. Improved brand reputation is a significant benefit of making the switch to a soft brand hotel. If your umbrella company is known for exceptional service, guests will then associate your property with all the great things about that brand, which may allow you to increase room pricing.
- Operational upgrade. Another added plus of joining with a franchise? You gain access to their operational playbooks to streamline staffing and implement proven processes for your independent property operations.
Soft brand partnerships are beneficial for independent hoteliers and large hotel brands alike. Today’s travelers are looking for an immersive, one-of-a-kind experience during their stays, and soft brand hotels are an attractive option.
Have more questions about soft brands? Reach out to Innvision Hospitality today! Our experienced design and procurement consultants will be happy to guide you.