A visitor arriving at the Hilton Garden Inn or Homewood Suites Midtown Atlanta might be forgiven for doing a double take about the destination. The brands share the same building in what is known in the industry as a dual-branded hotel.
As the economy recovers and hotels begin new construction — Smith Travel Research reported an 18.5 percent increase in hotel rooms under construction in April — hoteliers that took pains to differentiate brands are now, if not tossing those notions aside, at least testing their limits.
NY-Times: Seeing Double on Check-In at Certain Hotels
“I can’t say that it’s the dominant form of hotel construction at this point, but it definitely is on the radar,” Jeff Higley, vice president for communications at Smith Travel Research, in Henderson, Tenn., said of the dual-branded approach.
These combination hotels, which share buildings, meeting rooms, recreation facilities, back-office operations and sometimes front desks, are sprouting in cities like Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta, and in smaller markets like Austin, Tex.; Huntsville, Ala.; and suburban Baltimore.
The hotels typically pair an extended-stay property like a Marriott Residence Inn or Hilton Homewood Suites, with a limited-service hotel like Marriott Courtyard or a Hilton Garden Inn or Hampton Inn. White Lodging of Merrillville, Ind., a hotel developer, expects to open a combined Hyatt Place/Hyatt House in Denver in 2015. Choice Hotels has linked a Sleep Inn with a MainStay Suites in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
“The trend is intensifying as the cost of building and running hotels is becoming more expensive and growing as developers seek creative ways of building out real estate,” says Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst with Hudson Crossing, a consulting firm in San Francisco. Marriott estimates that 12 percent of Residence Inns being built will be joined with other Marriott brands. Hilton has 15 combined hotels open in the United States and Canada and 15 more under construction.
Hotel executives say the model allows them to provide more amenities than at individual hotels. “There are bigger pools, fitness centers and guest laundries than would otherwise be available,” says Craig Mance, senior vice president for development for North America at Hilton Worldwide.
The chains do not necessarily advertise the combinations or even mention them on their respective hotel Web pages. As with any relatively new concept, prospective guests need to be aware of potential sticking points.
S. Jay Patel, president and chief executive of the North Point Hospitality Group, which develops and manages hotels in Georgia and nearby states, opened the combined Homewood Suites/Hilton Garden Inn Atlanta Midtown in December 2012.
Each hotel brand has a separate entrance and its own check-in area. Inside there is access to one hotel from the other through a closed interior door, but Mr. Patel said a guest “would not know the other lobby exists.” Travelers share meeting rooms, the pool and fitness area, and Homewood Suites guests have access to Hilton Garden Inn room service. That brand offers a free breakfast; Hilton Garden Inn does not. Gina Kreiss, corporate director of sales and marketing at the North Point Hospitality Group, said rates depended on factors like rate of occupancy and the number of nights guests stayed at the Homewood Suites.
Marriott is also combining hotels. It is building a Residence Inn/Courtyard in Los Angeles and plans to open a Residence Inn/Courtyard in Midtown Manhattan this fall. Guests there can expect to check in at a single front desk, before their experiences diverge. Courtyard guests will be on the lower floors, through 33. The upper floors will be reserved for Residence Inn guests, who typically stay longer. A Residence Inn guest who prefers lower floors would be required to switch brands.
As with other Residence Inns, guests will have access to a free breakfast and even board games on the third floor, which will be off limits to Courtyard guests. The Courtyard guests will have a separate elevator that will stop only at the Bistro restaurant, which is also available to Residence Inn guests. Neither hotel will have room service, but guests at both hotels will have access to Courtyard’s Bistro to Go. They will share fitness facilities including virtual fitness classes.
For Diane Mayer, vice president and global brand manager for Residence Inn, the trend of combining a long-term-stay hotel with one that offers limited service instead of building a full-service hotel makes economic sense. “Full-service hotels are expensive to build and don’t deliver the margins that select-service hotels do,” she said.
With combined back-office operations at the properties a given, some hotel executives are extending cost-cutting by training front desk personnel and housekeepers, a strategy that experts say can be risky. “If hotels utilize employees across properties and brands, it’s not just technical skills, but personality that matters,” Mr. Harteveldt said.
Still, with housekeepers beginning a shift in one property and finishing in the other, some guests notice. Norman Moy of Cypress, Tex., attended a Comic Con Convention in Austin last October with his 12-year-old son. They stayed at the Courtyard Downtown Convention Center, which shares space with a Marriott Residence Inn. Previous trips had led him to expect morning room-cleaning, and he said he was surprised when he returned after lunch to hear a knock from the housekeeper. “We packed up really quick,” he said. While management did not explain the schedule alteration to him, a Marriott representative said most of the dual brands did share staffs, including housekeeping.
Jim Butler, partner and chairman of the global hospitality group at the Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell law firm in Los Angeles, says the complexity of putting the brands together means there may be a shakedown ahead as hotels decide “what facilities get shared, how large should they be, and even what brands go together.”
And some hotel companies are not stopping at two under the same roof. White Lodging recently opened a hotel with three separate brands — a Marriott Fairfield Inn and Suites, an Aloft owned by Starwood and a Hyatt Place — in the River North section of Chicago. And Marriott has announced plans to add a Springhill Suites to an existing Courtyard and Residence Inn in Houston.
A version of this article appeared in print on July 9, 2013, on page B6 of the New York edition with the headline: Seeing Double on Check-In At Certain Hotels.
See the original article on the New York Times website.