Rise of the two-in-one hotel

By Jill Becker, Special to CNNUpdated 10th June 2014
When Marriott opened its new 68-story hotel overlooking Central Park in New York City back in January, it became the tallest hotel in North America.
But its impressive stature wasn't the only thing distinguishing the hotel, it also became one of the growing number of dual-branded hotels cropping up in cities across the globe.
A dual-branded hotel -- or "two-pack" as it's called in the industry -- is a property that contains two different hotel brands from within the same hotel family in a singular location. At the aforementioned Marriott in Midtown Manhattan, for example, guests can stay at either the Courtyard hotel occupying floors 6 through 33, or at the Residence Inn found on floors 37 through 65.
"Either brand could have done fine on its own here," said Marriott's CEO Arne Sorenson at the hotel's ribbon cutting, "but this gives us the opportunity to tap into two distinct types of customer feeds."
"Instead of filling up its 639 rooms with just one brand, we can fill it up with two," said hotel developer and owner Harry Gross.
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The possibility of attracting different target demographics is one of the advantages spurring this growing trend. It's also cheaper for hoteliers.
"Dual-branded hotels are designed to maximize resources while minimizing costs for owners and developers," said Ian Carter, the president of global development for Hilton Worldwide.
"The most notable benefits to hoteliers are the operational efficiencies and cost savings gained by combining certain areas of the hotel, such as laundry, storage, and employee facilities, and combining the roles of various team members," Carter said. "Owners can also save money on the land costs, since the model has a smaller footprint."
Another advantage is the increased possibility of travelers experiencing new brands and becoming loyal, long-term customers.
The benefit for guests? Choice.
"The biggest benefit for guests is the added element of choice they receive. Dual-branded hotels can provide more robust amenities than they may be able to individually," said Chris Walker, the vice president of brand experience for Hyatt Place and Hyatt House.
For instance, when Choice Hotels International developed its dual-branded Sleep Inn and MainStay Suites concept, the first of which was introduced in Port St. Lucie, Florida, they opted to go with the Sleep Inn's heartier, expanded offerings when it came to choosing which free breakfast guests of the property would receive.
Of particular interest to groups and business travelers at the combination Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites that opened in Bossier City, Louisiana, in 2013 is the nearly 9,000 square feet of onsite meeting space, a feature anyone staying at a Homewood Suites typically wouldn't be able to take advantage of.
Another example of the multi-branding concept can be found at the bustling L.A. Live complex in downtown Los Angeles. It features an 879-room JW Marriott and a 123-room Ritz-Carlton, along with some residential Ritz-Carlton units, and has proved so popular that Marriott has built another dual-branded hotel directly across the street.
The new site, which opened May 29, contains a Courtyard and a Residence Inn, giving visitors even more options and flexibility. Guests of the Courtyard and Residence Inn get unique perks like signing privileges at any of the adjacent Ritz-Carlton's and JW Marriott's restaurants.
While dual-branded hotels are the norm, properties flying three or even four different flags are popping up in some destinations with the appropriate market demand.
In Canada, for example, Hilton is building a three-pack complex at the Calgary airport, which they're referring to as a "hotel village," that will combine a Hilton, a Hampton and a Homewood Suites. Properties combining different brands from different hotel families are also starting to make their way onto the scene, like the one in the River North neighborhood of Chicago that features one entry each from Starwood, Marriott and Hyatt.
With multiple hotels in one place, one might expect there could be a bit of brand confusion among the guests, but developers insist they are careful to maintain each brand's unique identity.
"While there are various shared public spaces, each hotel still has its own front desk and lobby space, so the individual brand check-in experience is the same as any other hotel within that brand," said Hilton's Ian Carter.
"It is critical that we have clear identities," said Hyatt's Walker. "Even though the brands are placed next to each other, we are fully committed to preserving the key guest experience elements for which each brand is known."
In fact, some hotels don't even advertise the fact that they are a multi-branded property, so a guest who books a room online at, say, the Westin resort in the ski village of Changbaishan, China, may not even know there's a Sheraton on the same spot until they arrive.
Whether travelers are aware of the concept or not, multi-branded hotels are only expected to continue to grow in popularity, as the potential benefits for hotel owners and developers can't be denied.