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independent hotels

Why Are More Owners Choosing Independence Over Brands?

March 22, 2016


Independent hotels are riding a peak of prosperity. A recent Lodging Magazine article by STR showed that independent properties were universally outpacing their brand competitors in 2015.

Although the majority of the country’s lodging industry is dominated by well-known chains, independents are attracting more and more travelers who want remarkable, locally-inspired and authentic experiences. And, travelers aren’t the only ones who are favoring unbranded hotels. Owners and investors are showing an increased interest in boutique properties and independent hotels.

We chatted with Patrick Goddard, President and COO of Trust Hospitality, whose extensive hospitality management portfolio includes boutique gem, Hotel Mela in New York City and the new luxury stunner, Zemi Beach in Anguilla, to find out why independent hotels are such appealing assets for owners:

1. Cost Savings, Less Hurdles

The value proposition of independent properties is undoubtedly alluring. Owners will find more nimble operations, lower management fees and more flexible contract terms. “Generally, independents can be executed for less money and with less roadblocks,” Goddard said. “However, it is dependent on the target demographic, the market and the composition of the supply. Plus, owners will have more flexible sale options that are unencumbered by a brand or franchise contract.”

2. Freedom and Flexibility

Owners and operators of boutique hotels have control and freedom to think outside the box, test different tools and exercise creative solutions. “Independent hotels are more fun, cheaper and allow you more flexibility,” Goddard states. “However, it makes management more complex and there is more ‘grey’, instead of black and white.” In comparison, chains are easier to manage because your success relies on following a manual that has already been tested and proven.

3. The Customized Approach

Rather than cookie-cutter templates that franchisees are beholden to, independent properties rely on strategies and plans custom-tailored to their specific property, market and destination. “Hospitality is still both art and science. Just because independent hotels have more interesting art, doesn’t mean we ignore the science,” Goddard pointed out. “In fact the science of independents is more disciplined because much of it needs to be rewritten for each hotel, versus following a template.” This personalized approach is well received by modern travelers, who prefer unconventional experiences over those that are mass-produced.

4. Lifestyle Experience versus Loyalty Programs

One of the major differences between franchise and independent properties is that chains have large sales and distribution systems, and coveted loyalty programs, which undoubtedly give chains an edge depending on the positioning, location and product. Without those in place, boutique brands instead have to put their efforts in creating a provocative brand and lifestyle. Goddard calls it “a holistic process involving interior design, F&B concepts, entertainment, music, and integration of the community.” It’s that distinct brand and lifestyle that creates demand, combined with innovative marketing campaigns. The good news for independent owners is that their marketing budget actually goes towards their own hotel, compared to big brands, whose owners pay hefty fees to finance the marketing of the overall chain.

5. Profits Are Driven by Product Perception

Goddard explains that in the end, the perception of your boutique hotel will drive its rate and its success. “Today’s traveler values product perception very highly and will pay a premium for a well-planned hotel with a well-articulated brand strategy and story.” If a hotel’s story is well told, executed creatively, and shared widely, it can “achieve higher than market rate over its comp set.” While chain hotels often have more resources for marketing implementation and outreach, they usually face an uphill battle in trying to stand out in a crowded “sea of sameness.”

As traveler preferences have progressed over the last several years, guests are showing their desire for boutique hotels and local experiences, while revealing a declining interest in reliable and predictable experiences associated with “big box” chains. Rather than investing in a major branded hotel, owners are turning to boutique and independent properties as profitable assets that deliver more control, less contractual hassles, more of an ability to express themselves and often, more ROI.

About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit:

Tambourine Recommends: Independent Lodging Congress, Oct. 21-23 in NYC

June 19, 2015

There are many conferences and industry events every year worthy of your consideration, including the Independent Lodging Congress, which takes place October 21-23 in New York City at The High Line Hotel. Now in its third year, Independent Lodging Congress is sort of like the Woodstock ’99 of hotel conferences (except with less rioting and looting). Independent Lodging Congress is an annual gathering where people who are passionate about hotels and hospitality discuss how they can make lodging assets more creative, adventurous, and welcoming to their guests.

Here are some of the topics to be discussed at ILC: immersive travel, the devaluation of luxury, the popularity of small-footprint properties and guestrooms, cannabis tourism, innovative cuisine, authenticity in independence, the sharing economy, soft brands, hostels and much more.

(Please note: there will not be a panel on “Millennials,” and in fact, ILC will have a special swear jar at the conference just for people who use buzz words like “Millennials”—ILC is not a buzzword conference, so get all your “Millennials” and “ROIs” and “value-adds” out of your system now…)

The Conference will also host the INDIE Hotel Awards, which recognize innovation in four categories:

  • BEST DIGITAL MARKETING FOR AN INDEPENDENT HOTEL – If you’re someone who specializes in marketing or web design for independent hotels, this is the category for you! (Disclaimer: we are the sponsor of this award)
  • BEST OF THE BEST IN INDEPENDENT LODGING –This is the award for the best independent hotel—in the world!
  • BEST HOTEL BAR OR RESTAURANT. Any restaurant or bar operated in an independent hotel is eligible for this award.
  • INNOVATIVE HOSPITALITY DESIGN – This award goes to the design firm that makes an independent hotel one of a kind from a visual and design standpoint.

You can apply for an award for your own company or hotel, or you can nominate another hotel or company. Go to for details and application form.

About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit:

Surprise! 10 ways your hotel website is killing your business. Part 1

February 10, 2014


Surprise! Your Hotel Website may be Killing Your BusinessThink your website is “good enough?” Think again…

Would you buy three-year-old TVs for your rooms?

How about cheap lobby furniture that no one wanted to sit on?

If 1,000 people came into your store and 999 walked out without buying anything, would you rethink your merchandising?

The answers to these questions are obvious. But as strange as it may seem, some hoteliers remain blissfully unaware of their website’s negative impact on revenue.

And it’s a big problem: depending on the targeted ratio of group vs leisure bookings, the typical independent or boutique hotel website could represent more than 50% of the property’s expected revenue production.

Yet, far too many hoteliers still serve up an inferior, antiquated experience to potential and repeat guests. Remember, virtually ALL of your website traffic INTENDS (they rarely stumble into it) to find your site through natural search, paid search or links from other related sites. Then, 99%+ of those highly relevant visitors leave without converting… what does this tell you about your hotel’s website as a vital business asset?

Here’s a quick list of ten ways your hotel website may be insufficient and underperforming:

  1. You treat every website visitor the same:   Business travelers expect and need different treatment than couples seeking a romantic weekend getaway. You don’t treat them in the same way when they are on-property, why treat them the same way when they arrive at your site? Simple new technology allows you to personalize the arrival experience and engage with the most relevant message and offer.
  2.  You treat every booking engine visitor the same:   Once a website visitor performs an availability search and enters your booking environment, it’s even more important to customize their experience. Based on their previous clickstream behavior and demographics, the booking environment should adapt to their profile… preventing reservation abandonment, increasing your conversion and raising your actual ADR. Tambourine’s booking engine making great strides in this area, check it out.
  3.  You’ve never actually watched a human test it:   Amazing things happen when you ask unbiased users (no, not your spouse!) to actually sit down and try using/booking on your site. Check out for cheap, demographically-relevant testers.
  4. Your pricing is confusing:   Ever been in the checkout line when the cashier has to go verify a price? Or been told that the coupon you want to use is no longer available? Or worse yet, you actually buy a product only to learn that it was cheaper at another store. Visitors to your online booking environment expect fast, simple, smooth transactions. Travel consumers will surf away from your site at the smallest hint of pricing friction, lack of price parity or complexity. Your revenue management team can have a deeply profound impact on your web team’s results… make sure the booking environment is carefully monitored and frequently tested!
  5. You have no SEO foundation:   Competing with the OTAs and your compset for high Google rankings is hard enough without handicapping yourself from the get-go by failing to build the site on a best-practices SEO foundation. Your link structure, site map and microdata need to be carefully reviewed and crafted by real SEO practitioners.

Thanks for reading Part 1 of this 2 part series. We hope it was informative. Next week, we’ll tackle the next five reasons your hotel website is killing your business.

About Tambourine

Tambourine drives revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide using advanced marketing technology. The firm is celebrating its 30-year anniversary. For more information, visit

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