by Michael J. Shapiro | June 05, 2017
In news announced today at the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference in New York, the hotel giants are increasingly turning their attention to soft brands. For Wyndham Hotel Group, that equates to the launch of a new brand, the Trademark Hotel Collection.
The new collection targets independent hotels that are upper-midscale and above, and hopes to lure entrepreneurial owners of iconic hotels with the promise of Wyndham's scale, distribution, services and loyalty program. 
"A trademark is a symbol of character, an emblem of individuality," explained Lisa Checchio, Wyndham Hotel Group's vice president of brand marketing and insights. "Trademark isn't just another brand: It's a rally cry for independent entrepreneurs who aren't afraid to make their own mark."
While Wyndham hasn't named any specific hotels set to join its 19th brand, the company counts in its pipeline more than 50 owners of existing properties or those in development that are interested in being a part of the collection. 
"The explosion of soft brands in the last several years has been focused on luxury and upscale hoteliers," said Chip Ohlsson, Wyndham Hotel Group's chief development officer. "With demand still growing at a rate of nearly 20 percent, [that leaves] a market void for independent hoteliers in the upper-midscale segment - the largest segment, accounting for 18 percent of rooms in the U.S. Wyndham is the only hotel company positioned to champion upper-midscale-and-above independent hoteliers so they can compete in an ever-changing distribution environment with brand-backed support and guest recognition and loyalty." 
A few of the more upscale soft brands Ohlsson calls out belong to Marriott International, which likewise today touted the popularity of such collections. The lodging company currently has more than 240 hotels across its three soft brands - the Luxury Collection, Autograph Collection and Tribute Portfolio - and plans to increase that number by nearly 50 percent by 2019.
"Marriott is now able to offer more choices than ever, especially for owners and guests who prefer an independent hotel experience," said Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International. "We doubled our portfolio of independent hotels with the acquisition of Starwood and significantly increased our global footprint. The growth projected for the next few years underscores the demand Marriott is seeing for more customized, local experiences."
According to Marriott, each of the brands is distinct and Marriott will continue to cultivate them so that hotels meet the different expectations for each brand. The Luxury Collection is part of the Distinctive Luxury brand portfolio and includes hotels that provide a full luxury experience in both property and service and "define the destination." The other two brands both are part of the Premium Distinctive brand portfolio. Autograph consists of upper-upscale, full-service lifestyle hotels that are particularly unique, with "rich character and uncommon details." The properties of the Tribute Portfolio, meanwhile, offer a focus on design and vibrant social spaces.
The three brands are expected to grow by 20 percent this year, with the addition of more than 40 hotels and the expansion of the brands' collective footprint to 50 countries and territories.
Not only do the brands provide independent hotel owners with access to Marriott's scale, they allow Marriott to offer unique, independent experiences as part of their mammoth portfolio. "Size, scale and choice really do matter in the complicated distribution environment that we are in," said Stephanie Linnartz, executive vice president and chief commercial officer at Marriott International. "Independent hotels are an invaluable part of our portfolio, because they make our loyalty program more compelling, our sales efforts more effective and our overall hotel portfolio even more attractive to guests."
For its part, Wyndham also beefed up its loyalty perks today by partnering with Caesars Entertainment and its Total Rewards program. Starting today, a complimentary status match will be offered to members of both Wyndham Rewards and Total Rewards; as of later this summer, members of one program will be able to book rewards stays with the other.