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Boutique Boom

Vision Hospitality Group Grows Its Kinley Brand, Independent Portfolio

Wednesday, January 08, 2020
Dennis Nessler
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With the groundbreaking of a new independent hotel in Chattanooga earlier this week, Vision Hospitality Group, Inc. has officially cemented plans to double the presence of its newly formed Kinley brand as the company deepens its commitment to the growing boutique segment.

The Chattanooga, TN-based developer and operator currently has a portfolio of some 37 hotels, the vast majority of which are premium-branded select-service properties. However, roughly a year-and-a-half ago the company created a dedicated division for boutique hotels called the Humanist collection--which includes the newly formed Kinley brand--in an effort to create its own space and branding for the properties.

Mitch Patel, president and CEO, Vision Hospitality Group, detailed the formation of the Humanist division and the importance of developing a staff which also includes people from outside the industry with expertise in areas such as branding and food & beverage, for example.

“If you want to get different results then it starts by thinking differently. That’s why we thought with this different space and the different brand that we’ve created with the Humanist and the type of people that we are recruiting in that division we feel like we will be able to achieve different results. In this hyper-competitive world in the independent boutique and lifestyle space you’ve got to differentiate yourself,” he said.

Patel pointed to the development of The Edwin Hotel in Chattanooga several years ago and its subsequent recognition among national media outlets as being key to the company’s entry into the independent boutique space after having been a “mainstream developer” since its formation in 1997. That property--which opened in 2018--received the #10 ranking in Travel Leisure’s listing of the best 15 city hotels in the U.S. in 2019.

“It made us real proud and what it did was it gave us some confidence that we could go execute more of these type of properties,” said Patel.

Meanwhile, the company has begun development of the Kinley Chattanooga Southside, which will feature 64 guestrooms and suites. Located in the southside’s entertainment district, the new hotel is slated to open in 2021. The first Kinley hotel will debut in downtown Cincinnati in early 2020. In addition to being part of the Humanist portfolio, both hotels will be part of the Tribute collection, Marriott’s soft branded portfolio of independent boutique hotels.

Patel acknowledged he maintains modest growth expectations for the Kinley brand, noting it will not grow to 50 or 100 properties but rather more likely in the neighborhood of 7 to 10 and “maybe even more than that.”

He offered additional perspective on the creation of the Kinley brand and its initial property. “I thought ‘we’ve got to do an independent, boutique hotel that tells the story of Cincinnati’ and so that’s when the idea came. So instead of just every market and every opportunity trying to do something extremely unique we thought ‘let’s create a brand and develop this brand ourselves and then let’s do multiple hotels with this brand in the right places,’” commented Patel.

He elaborated on what he sees as the identity of the brand and the types of markets it will be found in. “Kinley is going to be the living room of the neighborhood. Each respective neighborhood that they’re going to be in the brand is going to be part of the fabric of these smaller towns throughout the U.S. Our intention is not to go to New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles. Those are great markets but there’s a tremendous amount of boutique hotels in those type of markets,” he said.

Patel later added, “to push the limits of traditional hospitality in the country’s most exciting neighborhoods and small cities that’s the goal of Kinley.”

The CEO touted the Chattanooga location, in particular, as being ideal for the brand’s second property. “There’s very little representation in terms of lodging in that neighborhood so we thought that was a perfect fit,” said Patel.

Patel, meanwhile, discussed the challenge of coming up with a name for the boutique brand that would be suitable for multiple locations and how the company landed on Kinley.

“The name needed to be more broad so it’s simply just a name derived from the word ‘kinship.’ A big part of Kinley is the sense of everyone is welcome, come as you are and make yourself at home. It’s a personable name that speaks to the brand’s inclusive nature, a place where it’s easy to feel connected and at home,” he said.

According to the company, the Kinley Chattanooga will offer a contemporary approach to the hotel experience that is warm and effortless through a variety of distinctive touchpoints. The uncheck-in desk is designed to provide a place for guests to touch down without the formality of a standard desk. In addition, items from local artisans will be on display for purchase. The hotel will also feature a coffee bar, as well as appealing, distinctive lounge seating for guests to experience its various public spaces.

Patel acknowledged as with any brand there will be certain common elements for each property, but he pointed out there is still plenty of differences as well. “A good 40 percent is going to be consistent and 60 percent will be unique to the local markets and that gives us some flexibility there,” he noted.

Patel emphasized that regardless of industry conditions the company continues to move forward with a robust pipeline of product with some 8 hotels, both branded and independent, under construction and number of other properties in the planning stages.

“We believe in this industry. We’re confident in this business; it’s a sustainable industry. Things may be slowing down in many markets throughout the U.S., but we’re in this business for the long term. We’re not short-term players and we are developing for the next 10, 15, 20-plus years,” he concluded.


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Dennis Nessler    Dennis Nessler
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