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Two-Faced Structure

Davidson Thrives As Proven Operator For Traditional Brands, Independent Hotels

Wednesday, December 20, 2017
Steve Pike
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Davidson Hotels & Resorts’ recent addition of the 550-room Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa to its management portfolio continues its history of aligning itself with hotels and resorts that each are part of what company President John Belden calls “hard brands.”

“Ones that have well-defined identities, strong franchise systems and sophisticated sales and distribution support platforms,” said Belden. “As an example, Davidson has had a long and successful history with Hyatt, operating 11 full-service hotels over the past 11 years, thus providing us with a deep understanding of its systems, sales and marketing resources and frequent travel programs.

“This knowledge of well-defined brand systems and resources allows us to leverage very specific skills and brand relationships that can be aggressively applied to a property like the Hyatt Regency Monterey.”

Davidson Hotels & Resorts, according to Belden, has its longest-running relationships spanning Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt. Meanwhile, Pivot Hotels & Resorts, the company’s lifestyle and luxury operating division, manages all of its independent and soft-brand hotels and resorts—ones that each require individual brand development, strong culture creation, differentiated demand channel sales and revenue management, and unique integrated marketing strategies.

Among Pivot’s more notable hotels is the fabled Don CeSar in St. Petersburg, FL. Pivot added the “Pink Palace” to its portfolio this past February.

“Successfully operating in this space requires tremendous creativity in the melding of storytelling, design and culture development; all of which when strategically combined create compelling and indelible memories in the hearts and minds of our guests,” Belden said. “Operating without the structured tools a brand offers, our team of creative operators and clever marketers must develop the systems and resources required to make each property uniquely successful.”

Regardless of a hotel or resort being a “hard brand,” such as Hyatt, or a “soft brand” such as the Don CeSar, Belden said Davidson’s philosophy is the same:

“First and foremost, we look for partners that have similar values, culture and investment philosophies," he said. “We also seek partners that keenly understand and appreciate our industry, as well as having a long-term focus on hospitality. This kind of alignment between owner and operator produces a highly creative, aggressive and powerful partnership that in turn generates the strongest financial outcomes.

“You are often judged by the company that you keep and we’re very fortunate to have earned the trust and confidence of many of the largest and most respected REIT’s and private equity firms, as well as highly respected local or regional development firms.”

But while the overall partnership philosophy remains constant, no two properties are alike, meaning that each property, be it the Hyatt Regency Monterey or the Don CeSar, has its own dynamics.

“National and local economic factors, location, physical and quality aspects, positioning, supply, branded versus independent, and quality of management are just some of the factors that make every hotel operate differently,” Belden said. “Because Monterey is affiliated with the Hyatt Regency brand and the Don CeSar is independent, there are noticeable differences in the types of tools and resources we have at our disposal. There are also strategic differences in how we approach the asset personality, as evidenced by the emotions and experiences we want our guests to feel.

“In Monterey, we’re leveraging the global power of the brand identity itself, promoting the quality, consistency and confidence guests expect from the Hyatt Regency brand globally. At the Don CeSar we bear the responsibility of evolving and protecting the highly unique name and experiential integrity of a one-of-a-kind landmark resort.

“Both opportunities require a highly talented and passionate culture-centric team, but as each hotel has very different personalities to evoke, and potentially disparate tools and prescriptive standards to utilize, the methodologies used to achieve success may vary materially. You simply can’t operate one like the other and expect to achieve the maximum value for both, hence our decision to have distinctly different operating platforms.”

Belden said Davidson and Pivot each “are highly sought after and each has ample opportunity to grow.

“The branded space is a much larger universe, and given our reputation in the industry, we are presented with constant opportunities in the full-service, upper-upscale to near-luxury segments,” Belden said. “Given its relative infancy, the lifestyle and soft-brand space is considerably smaller. Given the unique development and operating complexities of this space, the importance of management is materially amplified.

“Pivot’s launch has been one of the fastest and most successful in the lifestyle space, largely because we have paid homage to the requisite talents, creativity and unique resources necessary to build a best-in-class team. As a result, we have quickly gained the trust of the industry’s most recognized and respected owners in the lifestyle space."

Steve Pike
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division

Bio: Steve Pike is an award-winning golf writer and author who helped define golf business reporting in the early 1990s as the first Golf Business Editor for Golfweek magazine and later at Golf World and Golf Shop Operations magazines for Golf Digest. Pike further pioneered this genre at the PGA of America and Time Warner as the golf business writer and editor for PGA.com. He started in newspapers more than ...
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