Davidson launches Pivot as its lifestyle hub
05 FEBRUARY 2016 7:33 AM
With an eye on growing its portfolio of lifestyle hotels, Davidson Hotels & Resorts unveiled its Pivot division. Albert Smith will lead the effort to serve the company’s existing institutional-oriented client base and open new doors.
LOS ANGELES—Sharing a successful story with guests requires specific storytelling skills, so John Belden figures it’s time to expand the creativity in the Davidson Hotels & Resorts management portfolio by launching a division specifically geared to providing unique experiences to hotel customers and owners.
The company announced the launch of its Pivot lifestyle hotel division during the Americas Lodging Investment Summit. Albert Smith, the newly appointed SVP of the division, said during an interview at the conference that personality is a key component of the properties and employees Pivot wants to attract.
“One of our core values is celebrating our inner weird,” said Smith, who previously worked for SBE, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and Viceroy Hotels and Resorts. “We want our employees to feel that level of empowerment.
“Pivot isn’t a fledgling lifestyle company,” he added. “We’re already attracting some of the top talent out there who really want to be a part of this.”
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Hiring employees who can tell the story at the property level is essential to the success of any lifestyle hotel, according to Smith.
“It has to have forward design, be intuitive and have non-transaction, heartfelt service,” he said. “You have to provide an experience with distinctive F&B and a spa where applicable.”
Belden, president & CEO of Atlanta-based Davidson, said lifestyle hotels require more extraordinary operational and marketing approaches than traditional hotels.
“Albert and the world he’s grown up in live outside the box,” he said. “What an elegant way for us to launch a lifestyle division by giving it its own story. It’s more innate and muscle memory for them to give the customer an experience.”
The new lifestyle division helps the company home in on specific hotels to manage, Belden said. Davidson’s historical brand-centric approach will help it grow the Pivot division because it understands both sides of the brand/independent issue.
“Clients are starting to invest more in that space, and lenders have gotten far more comfortable lending toward lifestyle hotels … unbranded hotels,” Belden said. “Everybody seems to be embracing that market.”
Soft brands and independents play roles
The emergence of soft brands from major hotel companies provides more opportunity to offer hybrid opportunities to owners seeking a distribution platform without the tight handcuffs of specific brand standards, according to Belden.
“We could have done it all under the Davidson umbrella and called it a day, but if our customers expect us to be in the storytelling business and provide experiences, and our owners expect us to tell the story to create financial gains, why not tell that story as a division?” he said.
The Pivot division will “incubate outside Davidson” to allow an unbridled thought process, according to Belden.
The division launched with three properties in its portfolio:
- A conversion project in Coral Gables, Florida, that will be rebrand the Westin Colonnade to the Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide’s Tribute soft brand in October. It is owned by Pebblebrook Hotel Trust.
- The independent Hotel Zephyr in San Francisco that converted from the Radisson brand after a $32-million renovation in June 2015. Smith and Belden described the hotel as “shipyard chic; slightly kitschy, slightly sophisticated.” It is owned by Pebblebrook.
- The independent Valley River Inn in Eugene, Oregon, that the duo described as “quirky, Bohemian and weird in all the right ways.” It is owned by Rockbridge.
|The Westin Colonnade in Coral Gables, Florida, includes a luxurious rotunda that will become part of Starwood’s Tribute portfolio in October. The property is among the first in the Pivot lifestyle division for management company Davidson Hotels & Resorts. (Photo: Davidson Hotels & Resorts)|
Three other properties are in the pipeline. The company plans to have “somewhere around 25 properties” in the division within the next three years, Smith said.
“We’re looking for ways to create storytelling opportunities or unique, one-of-a-kind hotels in order to provide reasons for people who want to come stay with us,” Belden said.
Davidson’s overall portfolio includes 39 hotels comprising approximately 12,300 guestrooms and 1.4 million square feet of meeting space.
Belden said the division will help serve Davidson’s existing client base that is looking to branch out into lifestyle hotels. Clients include seven of the eight largest real estate investment trusts in the U.S. and blue-chip private equity firms.
“The soft brands are the exclamation point at the end of the sentence for investors,” Belden said. “Once the segment was legitimized by consumers, investors want to be a part of it. The consumer and investor are going to play there for a long time. It made sense for us to do this.”
The name of the new division wasn’t difficult to establish, according to the CEO.
“We wanted it to be a verb, something that connotes action and is experiential,” Belden said. “We’re really pivoting … it’s a different experience, it’s a different delivery.”