by Loren G. Edelstein | July 01, 2015
Choice Hotels' Michael Murphy
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The wave of hotel "collections" being introduced or expanded by major chains was a hot topic of discussion during the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference, held last month in New York City. Among key players in this fast-growing space:

 Marriott's Autograph Collection, launched in 2010, will have a grand total of more than 100 properties by the end of this year, said Noah J. Silverman, chief development officer, North America full-service hotels, for Marriott International.   

 Starwood's Luxury Collection now has more than 75 properties. The chain unveiled a new brand, Tribute Portfolio, this spring, targeting properties that are "slightly below the luxury segment," according to Allison Reid, senior vice president of development and acquisitions, North America. The collection has one property open, the Royal Palm South Beach Miami, and four more under development.

 Hilton launched Curio last November. The brand will end 2015 with 13 hotels and another 43 in the pipeline.

 Choice Hotels International introduced the Ascend Collection eight years ago, now with 150 properties worldwide.

 Best Western created the Premier Collection early this year, extending Best Western's reservations system to independent properties.  

"The best idea is a stolen idea," quipped Michael Murphy, senior vice president, upscale brands, for Choice Hotels International, at the conference. Establishing the Ascend Collection "solved unmet demand in some primary markets, like New York, where we didn't have a presence," he added.

Before Marriott introduced its Autograph Collection, "We were looking at a great group of hotels that simply didn't fit into one of the brands in our portfolio," said Noah Silverman. "We would either have to force them into one of our brands or pass on the opportunity. The collection allows us to celebrate their individuality. Owners, too, are seeing the benefits of being part of the collection. Five years ago, we were basically selling a dream. We thought it would work; now we know it works."

"Consumers today design their own sneakers and customize their cars," observed Allison Reid, senior vice president of development and acquisitions, North America, for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. "This concept appeals to what consumers want." She added: "From our perspective, we didn't want to displace business that would have gone to a Sheraton or a Westin. We wanted to pick up a different customer." On the other hand, she said, "If you're a meeting planner, you like Hilton, Westin, Sheraton, because you know what you're getting." Ninety percent of Starwood's properties are branded, Reid noted.