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The Road To Success

Two Roads Hospitality Continues To Expand Brand Lineup Internationally

Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Miss Kerry Medina
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Lifestyle hotel management company Two Roads Hospitality has been on a hot streak since its 2016 formation following the merger of Destination Hotels and Commune Hotels.

The company’s luxury Asian brand Alila Hotels & Resorts is about to make its debut in North America with the reopening of Ventana Big Sur, following a multi-million dollar renovation of the property and more new Asian locations are in the works across Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Oman, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam.

Thompson Hotels too is on the move, growing its existing roster of 10 North American hotels to include new properties in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Hollywood and Mexico. In May, Joie de Vivre Hotels debuted its first New York City outpost with the opening of 50 Bowery in Chinatown and in early 2018, the opening of the 107-room Revival at Mount Vernon Place will mark the brand’s entrance into Baltimore.

Destination Hotels, meanwhile, added the Cliff House in Maine to its portfolio in 2016, expanding the brand’s presence to include the Northeast while also completing a $10 million redesign of The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch in Arizona. Two Roads’ nascent brand tommie hotels is slated to come to market in 2019 in Hollywood.

It is entirely by design that Two Roads is growing its footprint across these two continents. “Our focus is primarily on Asia and North America and growing outwardly from there,” said Chief Operating Officer Tom Luersen at Two Roads’ Leisure Travel Advisory Council, which took place earlier this month at The Cape, a Thompson Hotel in Los Cabos. “We’ve got to be strategic and not simply grow for the sake of growing. Just putting a pin on the map doesn’t work for us because we’re looking for locations where guests will experience the full brand essence.”

Luersen also added that not even the current geopolitical climate has proven detrimental to the company’s expansion plans nor to its hotels’ margins. He admitted the company had some concerns going into last year’s U.S. election and after, but noted that the travel bans have had little impact on business and Thompson’s three Mexico hotels have not been adversely affected by the political climate between the U.S. and Mexico.

“To the contrary,” he said. “Mexico is a growth market for us now and we have new opportunities in the country that we’re moving forward on, which is indicative of a positive environment and the fact that U.S. travelers continue to go to Mexico.” He further noted that Alila’s 12 existing properties, which include locales in India and Oman, haven’t felt any ramifications of global political situations.

But like each brand in Two Roads’ stable, Singapore-based Alila Hotels & Resorts plays a role in propelling the hotel management company on its path forward. Ventana Big Sur defines the brand’s cornerstones for the U.S. market, offering sprawling views of the Pacific from atop a secluded ridge surrounded by nature. Guests can opt for a luxury “glamping” experience or go the more traditional route of a guest room, replete with a porch and hammock. “The Alila guest is someone who clearly wants to travel internationally, but also has a keen sense of the environment and the natural beauty of the locations that they travel and they want to be immersed in the experience of the places that they travel to,” Luersen explained. He added he believes there’s boundless opportunity to broaden the brand’s global footprint, potentially entering Europe at some point.

Alila’s growing presence across Asia casts attention on Two Roads’ North American successes among international investors, as evidenced by the 2015 acquisition of what was the Ventana Inn & Spa by Wanxiang America, a subsidiary of the Chinese multinational automotive component manufacturing company Wanxiang, and San Francisco-based Geolo Capital. According to Luersen, the level of business is sustainable and that business generates interest in all five Two Roads’ brands among investors. “For developers, these hotels become extremely profitable over a period of time and the results for the brand overall are exceptional,” he said. “From the investor’s point of view, these hotels also demonstrate how we execute a vision and our company ethos and that has lead to greater growth and greater investment.”

Joie de Vivre is also poised for further growth in California, beyond San Francisco, as well as other primary and secondary West and East Coast markets. But Luersen also explained that the Tommie brand will draw from an entirely different demographic than Two Roads’ other brands; these guests are willing to trade smaller rooms for more social engagement and nightlife and high-tech connectivity points while still expecting customized service that’s inline with the company’s other hotels.

With more than one Airbnb stay under his belt, Luersen points to Two Roads’ experiential service elements as the primary reason why he doesn’t view the home-sharing company as a direct competitor, but as a growing distribution channel worth watching. “When you’re in an Airbnb, you’re on your own, but with Two Roads’ experiences, you’re guided through opportunities that the staff connects you with and there’s social activity happening across the hotel—in the lobby, restaurants, bars, spas—that doesn’t exist in Airbnb-type products,” he said.

The company’s approach to achieving those service experiences is as distinct as its brands. Built upon a six-step training program that includes sending a brand operations team to every hotel prior to opening as well as a visit by Luersen himself, there are neither formal service SOPs for staff to follow, nor scripts to learn. Instead, training teams relay stories that have highlighted the visits of past guests, such as the front desk agent who worked with a guest to make sure she made it to the airport when she was running late or the waiter who infused humor into a conversation with a guest over how he would like his coffee.
“We bring our brand essence to life through storytelling because you can teach parameters, but we don’t want to teach exact words or phrases,” he explained. “This creates an organic flavor for our brands and it’s more engaging for our new team members. We want freedom within the framework.”
Miss Kerry Medina
Freelance Writer
Other (not listed above)
Kerry Medina, Freelance Writer
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