Although Interstate Hotels & Resorts is the 19th largest hotel company in the world measured by rooms and is ranked 9th by total hotels under management, few people outside of the hotel industry have heard of the company.
There is a good reason for this, since the group operates most of its hotels under the brands of the major international hotel chains like Marriott, Hilton and Wyndham.
Indeed, the company's hotels are managed under some 45 different lodging brands which are all franchises; in addition there are more than 40 independent boutique/lifestyle hotels in the Interstate portfolio.
The hotel group used to be quoted on the New York Stock Exchange, but, at the end of 2009, Interstate was acquired by a 50/50 joint venture between Maryland-based Thayer Lodging Group, and Jin Jiang, the largest Chinese multi-brand chain, in a transaction valued at US$307 million.
Interstate launches INTRIGUE Hotels & Resorts
Up until now, as noted above, Interstate has always used the brands of the major hotel chains.
But, in late October 2017, for the first time, the group launched its own brand – a 'lifestyle' concept called INTRIGUE.
The new brand, which took nearly a year to develop, is focused on delivering "innovative culture, style and technology as well as next-generation lodging and experiential services to fulfil the curiosities of the modern traveller".
As the world's largest second-tier hotel management company, with a long and varied experience of dozens of brands as a franchisee, Interstate is well placed to create its own brand.
INTRIGUE to be a soft brand
According to interstate, INTRIGUE Hotels & Resorts, brings a modern, tech-centric, lifestyle-focused management psyche to a variety of independent and soft-branded properties including urban boutique hotels, upscale restaurants, spa retreats and international properties.
INTRIGUE is a 'soft brand' which means that it has less rigorous standards, particularly in terms of architectural features.
Soft brands are ideally suited to affiliate heterogeneous portfolios of hotels.
The major chains have been busy introducing a series of soft brands in recent years, including: Marriott's Autograph collection and Tribute Portfolio (a former Starwood brand); Hilton's Curio; Choice's Ascend and Hyatt's Unbound Collection.
Immediately upon introduction, INTRIGUE Hotels & Resorts will be able to draw on Interstate's decades of experience operating independent and soft-branded properties worldwide including, for example: Nomo SoHo in New York; Hotel Erwin in Venice Beach, California; The Charles Hotel in Boston; and The Marker in Dublin.
"Blending the global reach of Interstate with a cutting-edge technology platform and a lifestyle-centric approach to hotel management, INTRIGUE enters the market in prime position to be a leader in the management of Independent and soft-branded hotels and resorts," notes Michael Deitemeyer, Interstate's president & CEO.
What's in it for owners
For the first time in the company's history, it will find itself on the other side of the table when negotiating franchise contracts.
Interstate has loads of experience of sifting through the offers of various brands, but now they will be the ones promoting their new concept to hotel owners.
According to Interstate, INTRIGUE offers a technology-focused management platform with a proprietary suite of tools to yield increased revenue contributions and better cost savings to improve overall operating margins.
In addition, INTRIGUE will offer a cutting-edge central reservation system integrated with a consolidated revenue management platform designed for independent hotels.
These new features are backed up by a dedicated national sales team, a human resources team specialising in lifestyle talent acquisition and training, as well as a procurement programme that allows properties to benefit from the economies of scale that Interstate delivers through its considerable buying power.
"With a dedicated focus on the Independent lodging sector, INTRIGUE embraces modern travel trends with a proprietary technology platform that is unique in the industry," notes Leslie Ng, Interstate's chief investment officer, who adds that, "With our extensive experience with independent and lifestyle properties, we anticipate strong future momentum, especially in urban and gateway markets such as New York City, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles."
A dedicated management team
Hotel industry veteran, Brian Sparacino, is to head up the dedicated management team that specialises in independent, non-branded or soft-branded hotels and will manage the rollout of the INTRIGUE brand.
As Interstate's senior vice president for operations, Mr. Sparacino brings more than two decades of hospitality experience to INTRIGUE Hotels & Resorts. His past and present responsibilities with Interstate include oversight of hotels and resorts located in major gateway markets. Prior to joining Interstate, Brian held positions with Marriott, Starwood and Trump Hotels and Resorts.
"Modern travellers are seeking unique experiences and lodging options that suit their particular lifestyles," remarks Brian Sparacino, adding that, "With a separate, specialised operating division dedicated to carefully curating an unparalleled guest experience for our independent properties, Interstate can lead this rapidly growing segment by blending our traditional hotelier experience with a new paradigm for lifestyle property management."
The INTRIGUE team will be based at Interstate's headquarters in Arlington, Virginia and in New York City.