Marriott’s will

Marriott’s will

The power of the Marriott brand is quite apparent this week as its new Autograph Collection has snared two high-profile hotels ? the soon-to-open, 3,000-room Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas and the famed Algonquin in New York City. These latest announcements raise the sales and marketing arm?s portfolio to somewhere between 15 and 20 hotels (working on exact count) since the brand was launched in January.

While the competition says this business model is not Marriott?s specialty and that it potentially leads to cannibalization of business from existing Marriott hotels, there is no denying the allure of the vaunted Marriott marketing muscle and alignment with its loyalty program. The Algonquin is already taking advantage of that by offering bookers a chance to earn an extra 2,500 Marriott rewards points per stay from September 14 to November 27?a very savvy move.

When I attended the press conference announcing the ?brand? in January, it seemed like such a natural and relatively easy way to extend the company?s reach into the independent category. Now, it appears a growing number of independent hotels agree.

Some of these decisions to join Autograph might be more out of necessity these days as lenders are demanding that independents find a way to take advantage of the power of a brand. This option offers the perfect compromise?brand power and retained independence.

So, how will the likes of The Leading Hotels of the World, Preferred Hotels Group and other sales and marketing consortia respond? No doubt, they have to do whatever is necessary to build their loyalty programs.

Will other brands like Hilton, Hyatt and Sheraton jump in? Starwood already has its Luxury Collection and Hilton has the Waldorf Astoria Collection, but they are niched at the highest end of the market with fewer growth opportunities, while the Autograph Collection, still upscale, is much more accessible.

This is turning into a very interesting development. I would expect this space to be very active in the months ahead.