Soft Brands – the new normal in the Indian hospitality industry?

In recent years, the Indian hospitality sector has seen soft brand launches by national and international chains operating in the country, with the shift to the soft brand model gaining momentum post-pandemic. Soft brands typically have more flexible development guidelines that allow independent hotels to join a larger chain while maintaining their distinct design and features. The increase in the number of travelers seeking authentic, unique and local experiences and eager to seek alternative accommodation to obtain them has prompted hoteliers to respond to these changes by developing unique properties.

Soft brands, however, are not a new concept in the global hospitality industry, with independent hotel consortia such as Preferred Hotels & Resorts, Leading Hotels of the World and Small Luxury Hotels of the World pioneering this segment. Among global hotel chains, Choice Hotels (via the Ascend Hotel Collection launched in 2008) and Marriott (via the Autograph Collection in 2010) are often recognized as pioneers in the soft brand segment as we know it today. . Since then, several companies around the world have joined this movement. In India, the segment has been gaining momentum in recent years, major hotel chains such as IHCL (SeleQtions), Marriott (Tribute Portfolio), Radisson (Radisson Individuals) and ITC (Memento) have launched their soft brands, mainly to facilitate the conversion of independents. and boutique hotels that don’t conform to their traditional product development standards and guidelines.

The soft brand model is often ideal for hotel owners who seek the perfect blend of independence and brand affiliation, without incurring the high costs of physically converting the property to meet traditional hotel development standards. A brand. These brands integrate independent hotels into the system of a large chain without losing their uniqueness or altering the distinct individuality of the properties. Meanwhile, the hotel benefits from the chain’s global distribution channels, marketing platforms, state-of-the-art reservation systems and, most importantly, customer loyalty, trust and confidence. Additionally, owners retain control of day-to-day operations and strategy, and in some cases soft branding even allows hotel owners to improve property visibility, resulting in higher occupancy. higher and better financial performance.

From a hotel brand perspective, soft brands allow them to move away from cookie-cutter hotel properties and introduce unique products ranging from iconic heritage properties and bespoke boutique hotels to contemporary properties with distinct designs, responding to the changing preferences and desires of today’s travelers. We expect the soft branding trend to pick up momentum as conversions or rebranding gain momentum, with hotel owners and brands considering this win-win proposition to grow post-pandemic. . Hotel conversion accounted for 30% of total hotel signings in 2021, compared to 26% in 2020 and 24% in 2019. With over 60% of quality hotels in India being independently owned, hotel chains have the opportunity to consolidate the segment through soft branding. , and it’s only a matter of time before all the other hotel chains launch their soft brand in the country to raise their game.

Mandeep S Lamba
President (South Asia), New Delhi
+91 (124) 488 5552
HVS

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Christina A. Kroll