The Great Northern Hotel at London’s Kings Cross will now be marketed under Tribute, which is the tenth brand to be created by the hotel giant and was launched in April with the tagline of “Stay Independent”.
It fills a gap in Starwood’s portfolio for the kind of independent hotels it believes travellers are increasingly seeking, at the same time allowing owners of “upper upscale” hotels to maintain their distinct spirit, but benefit from Starwood’s distribution, loyalty and sales platforms.
“The Great Northern was one of the great railway hotels of the world, made even greater by its current owner Jeremy Robson, who has done an outstanding ‘back to brick’ renovation,” said Michael Wale, Starwood Hotels & Resorts president, for Europe, Africa & Middle East.
Robson added: “Starwood really understands the upscale hotel world and understands the customer set we’re attracting at the hotel, so Tribute Portfolio is a perfect match for us. The hotel has a distinct personality and we don’t have to compromise.”
Robson said his 91-room hotel – which sits at the heart of a 67-acre site being developed by Argent around the Kings Cross and St Pancras area - has been “constantly busy” but that the new deal would mean a rise in profitability.
“Running an independent hotel is tough and while we’ve had a great first two years, we could never have the reach that Starwood now brings us. The deal gives us a new sail in a prevailing wind,” he added.
Starwood has five other hotels in London and Wale said the city had experienced a “tremendous July”.
“London continues to thrive – and is just one of those exciting, in-demand cities and a key global destination,” he said. “Yes, there’s intense competition but hotels here really do offer a great return.”
He said the growth potential for Tribute generally was unlimited: “In Europe for example, as much as 65% of the hotels are unbranded independent operations.”
“There is an opportunity for us in ski locations, resorts and in cities where we could be better represented such as Rome, London and Paris,” he aded. “There’s no reason why we couldn’t even have more Tribute hotels in London.”
Tribute launched with the Royal Palm South Beach Miami and will add new openings in Asheville, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; Savannah, Georgia; and Charleston, South Carolina this year and next.
The group has also signed The Kiroro, a new ski hotel in Japan’s Hokkaido island set to open in December in the Kiroro Resort, where a Sheraton is also set to open.
Starwood expects to have 100 Tribute Portfolio hotels signed up by 2020, with the US and Europe prime targets.
“All the trends point towards travellers looking for something more independent and unique, so we’re delivering on that,” said Wale.
The Great Northern joined the Starwood network on September 1 with agents able to book the hotel and earn points via SPG Pro.