Back in 1998, Starwood Hotels launched its W brand sparking the trend of global hotel chains spawning boutique style hotels, a market then dominated by independent owners. The major chains needed a way to attract the growing number of younger, well-traveled consumers who were actively avoiding big boxes. Now it’s tough to find a major chain without a “lifestyle brand” in its portfolio, including Marriott’s Edition, and Hyatt’s Andaz. And it’s no wonder, since the boutique hotel segment is outpacing the rest of the industry in occupancy, rates, and revenues per room.
But now even the W has become a big chain of sorts. So Starwood is launching Tribute Portfolio, its first new brand in eight years to bring together a collection of “independent” hotels and resorts that will have nothing in common except the brand name. The brand makes its debut with the Royal Palm South Beach Miami with plans to open four more outlets in Nashville, Charleston, S.C., Savannah, GA, and Asheville, N.C., in the coming months.
Dave Marr, Starwood’s senior vice president of brand management in North America says that the company initially thought of simply expanding its five-star Luxury Collection, but decided the new four-star properties warranted their own brand.
“The difference between our other nine brands and Tribute Portfolio is it’s about celebrating the unique qualities of these individual hotels,” says Marr. “It could be in wine country, a design-driven hotel in South Beach, or a cool hotel in a trendy London neighborhood. We want to celebrate their individual stories.”
A key part of this campaign will be a major push in social, inviting key media and influencers to its hotels to Instagram and Vine the hell out of every angle. Marr says they’ve been working closely with Instagram to make Tribute Portfolio the first travel brand to use the Carousel ad platform, which boasts of the ability to “bring the potential of multi-page print campaigns to mobile phones.”
Marr says the focus of the brand’s marketing strategy will be on what’s different and unique about the new hotels coming in to the portfolio. “We’ll do that through traditional channels, digital and print media, but social is the key to creating unique content that people are interested in seeing and sharing with their friends.”