Creating a Unique Sense of Place: Provenance Hotels
By John Tess President & CEO, Heritage Consulting Group | March 31, 2019
According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, there are an estimated 54,000 hotel properties in the United States serving 4.8 million guests per night with cumulative annual hotel revenue of $245 billion. For the hotelier, these statistics represent both a challenge and an opportunity. There are of course "big dogs" out there that dominate the marketplace. The top five hotel products, led by Holiday Inn Express, comprise 14% of the market. These products, much like the original Holiday Inn, are based on value and consistency.
Marketplace opportunities, particularly with the newest generations of travelers, lie with finding a niche that creates a unique sense of place, often tied to the unique characteristics of the community. The roots can be found with the rise of the boutique hotels in the 1980s, pioneered by Bill Kimpton with the Clarion Bedford Hotel in San Francisco, and followed shortly by Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell's (now closed) Morgans in New York City.
In the decades that followed, the boutique hotel "movement" took hold, prospered, and evolved. Recently, major nameplates such as Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton have developed "soft brand collections," such as Autograph, Unbound and Curio respectively – attempting to blend the strength of the parent's management with a less standard design approach.
Despite the rise of "soft brand collections," there remain opportunities for niche brands that create their own unique experiences. One such brand is Provenance Hotels, founded in Portland, Oregon in 1985. Today, the company's portfolio includes fourteen hotels with four in development. The portfolio includes both owned and operated properties and managed assets with 2,500 plus rooms under its control.
Bashar Wali is president of Provenance Hotels. To him, words like "boutique" and "lifestyle" have become overused and diluted. The cutting edge concept that the original boutique hoteliers provided is increasingly dated and unfortunately often formulaic, being dumbed down to mean smaller, quirkier properties. In contrast, Provenance Hotels focused intently on its audience, which it considers "forward thinking creatives," developing hotels that are not only great places to stay, but a greater place to stay an extra night.
Wali sees opportunity in smaller-scale properties that provide a more handcrafted or curated approach to design, operation and experience. "As a truly independent company, we are able to remain nimble and focus our time and energy on customizing the guest experience to create something surprising that reflect the personality of the destinations we develop in – even when we have more than one hotel in a given market," says Wali. Provenance Hotels' core concept is not providing a consistent building, but rather seeking consistency in creating a specific human place that is energizing to the creative soul.