Why Independent Hotel and Resort Collections Are on the Rise

Robert Roffulo

Independent hotel and resort collections have been growing bigger in the hotel and resort industry for about a decade or so, but they’re growing even more important to the industry now. Just this year, we’ve seen a few signs of independent hotel and resort collections growing in size. Preferred Hotels […]

Independent hotel and resort collections have been growing bigger in the hotel and resort industry for about a decade or so, but they’re growing even more important to the industry now.

Just this year, we’ve seen a few signs of independent hotel and resort collections growing in size. Preferred Hotels & Resorts added thirteen new properties to its roster, while Hyatt’s Destination by Hyatt independent hotel brand announced its expansion into Asia this year. Leading Hotels of the World has also announced the opening of around 20 hotels in 2022, adding an additional nine in January and February alone.


What is driving this push in travelers choosing independent hotels over large brands?

Most likely, travelers have encountered at least one independent hotel or resort collection in their lifetime. From Curio Collection by Hilton to Marriott’s Autograph Collection, large hotel corporations have been instrumental in growing the independent hotel trend and are typically the most recognizable of these collections. Though others, like Preferred Hotels & Resorts, have over 50 years of experience in the independent hotel and resort sector. Others still, like Curator Hotel & Resort Collection, began just two years ago, capitalizing on the growth in desire for unique hotels.

Cheryl Williams, Chief Revenue Officer for Preferred Hotels & Resorts; Jennifer Connell, Vice President & Global Brand Leader for Marriott’s Tribute Portfolio and the Autograph Collection; and Jennifer Barnwell, President of Curator Hotel & Resort Collection weigh in on what makes independent hotel and resort collections so popular and what makes their collections unique.

Cheryl Williams explains why some travelers prefer independent hotels. “More than ever, today’s traveler wants experiences that go far beyond what they already know, seeking opportunities to learn about new cultures, expand their perspectives, and witness something that Instagram photos could never do justice to.”

“They want authentic, personalized, and one-of-a-kind lodging experiences, which is exactly what independent hotels are inherently designed to provide thanks to the reality that they have freedom to have more fun and express their personalities through their distinct style, design, and approach to delivering exceptional service and enticing guest amenities,” she added.

Preferred Hotels & Resorts is the world’s largest independent hotel collection, with over 650 hotels across eighty countries. It specializes in luxury hotels offering unique character, history and a connection to a destination’s culture.

“I have had the pleasure of working with Preferred Hotels & Resorts as a member hotelier in various roles throughout my career and have always viewed Preferred as a trusted and valuable partner,” said Williams. “Preferred Hotels & Resorts is a thoughtful brand with a strong culture that truly cares about the communities in which it does business. It’s exciting to be a part of a successful organization with a great vision for global growth.”

The LAYLOW, Autograph Collection in Waikiki (photo courtesy of Travel Impressions)

Marriott’s Autograph Collection and Tribute Portfolio came later, but offer the benefits of Marriott Bonvoy, Marriott International’s award-winning travel and loyalty program. The Autograph Collection launched in 2010 and today offers over 250 hotels worldwide. The Tribute Portfolio launched in 2015 and today offers 65 hotels, with almost 100 in development.

Jennifer Connell explains what makes the two independent hotel collections different: “Travelers may opt for an independent hotel experience such as those offered by Autograph Collection Hotels and Tribute Portfolio because of their unique perspectives on design, craft, and hospitality… Hand-selected for their inherent craft and distinct perspectives on design and hospitality, Autograph Collection hotels offer enriching experiences that leave a lasting imprint.”

“Tribute Portfolio has struck a chord with those who seek out unique perspectives and crave a connection with the community when traveling… Each hotel offers vibrant social spaces that foster a sense of community,” Connell continued. “While every Tribute Portfolio hotel has its own unique personality and point of view, each aims to create an emotional connection with its guests – one that evokes an indie spirit and reflects our understanding of the importance of human connection among today’s travelers.”

Curator Hotel & Resort Collection began in 2020 and offers a collection of 85 unique hotels, from historic giants like Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel to Washington, D.C.’s futuristic Hotel Zena.

The collection’s origins began when Pebblebrook Hotel Group acquired LaSalle Hotel Properties in 2018 and grew to include the properties under Davidson Hospitality Group, Noble House Hotels & Resorts, Provenance, Sage Hospitality Group, Springboard Hospitality and Viceroy Hotels & Resorts, acquiring the name Curator Hotel & Resort Collection in 2020.

Mackinac Island featuring the Grand Hotel & Chicago
Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island (photo via Collette)

Jennifer Barnwell, the president, explains the collection’s inception: “As a collection of distinct independent lifestyle hotels, resorts and small brands, Curator Hotel & Resort Collection helps the independents shine by offering innovative solutions and over 80 preferred vendor agreements to our members.”

“These resources have delivered Curator members significant annual expense savings and the opportunity to incorporate new products, services, and technology—whether a new booking process or alternate workflow system. In addition, these resources allow our members to provide exceptional guest experiences unique to their property. Our selection process also makes us unique from traditional groups, as we have an inclusive selection process that doesn’t require extensive checklists or brand requirements.”

A report by Preferred Hotels & Resorts and PHG Consulting analyzed data from STR and HVS, finding that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, independent hotels outperformed traditional brands in key performance metrics, including RevPAR, ADR and occupancy in March through October 2020, when the pandemic restrictions were at a high.

According to the analysis, hard brands and franchises held occupancy rates of 29.57 and 25.90 percent, respectively. Independent hotels saw occupancy rates of 35.60 percent. If the trend continues, that means that independent hotel collections will see a recovery faster than larger hotel brands.

As larger hotel corporations and smaller hotel groups continue growing independent hotel collections, will they one day become the dominant form of hotels in the United States and the wider world? Perhaps, perhaps not. But what’s clear is that for now, the pandemic’s trend on travelers desiring more experiential vacations impacts where they choose to stay.


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