HCW’s Rick Huffman cites Caesars Entertainment’s guest loyalty program and understanding of customers as chief reasons why his company decided to build the first Caesars Republic-branded hotel.
LOS ANGELES—Caesars Entertainment’s first non-gaming hotel brand in the United States provides owners, developers and management companies the opportunity to tap into more than 57 million previously unavailable, extraordinarily valuable assets, according to the president of the company developing the first Caesars Republic-branded property.
Rick Huffman, CEO of Branson, Missouri-based HCW, said at the Caesars Republic launch event, held in conjunction with last week’s Americas Lodging Investment Summit, that Caesars’ Total Rewards guest loyalty program was a big reason the company decided to go all-in on the brand by owning and developing the first one in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“Caesars is an appeal, obviously. … That brand name has been out there a little while, right?” Huffman said. “Fifty-seven million repeat customers is pretty darn strong, and the culture—the people—we’ve had a fantastic relationship with the folks at Caesars putting this deal together.”
Caesars Entertainment’s 114-property pipeline includes between 30 and 40 Caesars Republic deals, said Marco Roca, Caesars Entertainment’s president of global development and chief development officer.
“This is most likely going to be our growth platform,” Roca said. “It’s hard to find assets that fit into the Caesars Palace mold with the villas and the greater resort type feel at the high end, so we expect to only do one or two Caesars Palace properties a year, whereas Caesars Republic is all about being localized and experiential.”
The approach to localization resonates with developers and brand representatives alike.
“They’ve allowed us to express a brand that sometimes you don’t get with (other major hotel companies),” Huffman said. “Caesars understands what the customer wants.”
“No two hotels under the Caesars Republic brand will be exactly alike,” said Veronica Golin, VP of brand and customer experience for Caesars Entertainment. “All of them are inspired by local traditions … everything from the décor to the culinary offerings. Caesars Republic taps into the pulse of each city, amplifying the culture and energy.”
Localized themes will permeate the accommodations, public space, entertainment and culinary offerings, according to Roca.
“We went very loose in terms of the actual design standards because we want to be flexible to the location,” he said. “New Orleans should feel like New Orleans, Paris should feel like Paris, New York should feel like New York—and even within New York, SoHo’s different from Times Square.”
The timing of the brand launch and an opening of land in Scottsdale provided the perfect scenario for HCW, Huffman said.
Macerich, a real-estate investment trust based in Santa Monica, California, owns the Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall and recently received zoning approval to go high-rise, according to Huffman, who added that he was quick to make a call to the company’s executives to secure the hotel site.
“This is ground up,” he said. “Once we get started in June, it will be 17 months (to complete the project). We can build all year round. We build all over the country, and believe me, Phoenix is the best place to build.
“This project is going to be in area with strong convention business, strong wedding business. It’s an 11-story building with an 8,000-square-foot rooftop bar, a great restaurant on the ground floor. … There’s a lot of great things about this hotel,” Huffman said.
Aimbridge Hospitality will manage the Caesars Republic Scottsdale.
“We co-manage our properties with Aimbridge,” Huffman said. “Aimbridge manages about 10 other hotels for us right now. We usually run the front side of the house—sales and what have you—and Aimbridge runs all of our human resources, accounting, national group sales. … It’s a great marriage with Aimbridge. We’ve had a great relationship with them. They manage over 700 hotels nationwide—they know what they’re doing.”
The Caesars Republic name appeals to owners, developers and consumers, according to the executives.
“It’s very unique. I like the name,” Huffman said. “It crosses all lines with that name. We can reach people from 20 years old to 90 years old.”
“This brand represents a new kind of lifestyle and hotel experience,” Golin said. “It’s disruptive, it’s bold, it’s sexy, it’s cool … sometimes it might even be a little dangerous.”
The brand is the next generation of Caesars Entertainment’s Cromwell brand, according to Roca.
“We started looking at Cromwell originally, and it wasn’t really resonating with everyone,” he said. “We found that Caesars Republic captured the essence of what we wanted to be. ‘Republic’ being the shareable, experiential place … the birth ground of something new and exciting. What used to be Cromwell has now morphed into a more desirable name that has the Caesars name associated with it.”
Cromwell’s 20% unaided brand recognition needed beefed up given that Caesars has 88% unaided brand recognition, according to Roca.
“Caesars Republic just seemed like the logical next step for us,” he said.
The Caesars Republic brand will fall in the upper-upscale segment with a focus on localized experiences, Roca said.
“We are completely committed and in fact putting it into our license agreement that we will never fall below a four-star, upper-upscale rating, so we’re going to be very cautious about what we accept into the brand,” he said. “We’re going to manage brand standards very carefully.”
Not all Caesars Republic properties will be new construction.
“It’s a great conversion brand; it’s a great brand to reposition to for other assets that need a new infusion of dynamism and all of the local flavor as well as the entertainment factor through music and shows as well as culinary delights and celebrity chefs,” Roca said.
Huffman said he “absolutely” sees doing other Caesars Republic projects.
“We love our partnership with Caesars—we are looking at several other locations and hopefully will be able to announce them soon,” he said.
Caesars Entertainment will cast its net wide for expansion opportunities, but expects to catch quality over quantity, Roca said.
“Because we’re a gaming company, we’re very careful on who we do business with, so we’re going to be very selective on the property level and on the ownership groups,” he said.