In an increasingly competitive field of third-party managers, Davidson Hotels & Resorts is focused on managing unique properties that many other operators don’t.
LOS ANGELES—Davidson Hotels & Resorts executives definitely view their company as prioritizing quality over quantity.
Increasingly, Davidson’s portfolio is made up of unique properties, either independent hotels or those that are not the typical fare for third-party operators, President Thom Geshay said.
For example, one of Davidson's newest properties is the Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel, which is slated to open in June in Omaha, Nebraska.*
“Good performance and execution has allowed us to grow that great trust, not only with our owners and investors but with the brands,” he said.
The ability to work with uniquely positioned independents and brands like Kimpton, Thompson and now Margaritaville is the direct result of a long-term strategy to move away from just traditionally branded hotels.
“Obviously, we could all see the trends, and everybody was moving toward that space,” he said. “So 10 years ago, there was Viceroy and Kimpton and a handful of inner-city, independent operators, but we weren’t in that business. … We spent about a year and a half researching who does it right and who doesn’t do it right and sought counsel from a lot of people we trust in that space.”
That work has paid dividends in terms of reshaping Davidson’s portfolio, with Geshay noting growth of brands like Margaritaville as a success story. Davidson currently has two Margaritaville properties open and operating, starting with the Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida, and the recently opened Margaritaville Hotel Nashville.
The company has five more Margaritaville projects in the works, including the first West Coast property for the brand in San Diego, Geshay said.
“That brand expresses itself so well, and it’s really a true lifestyle brand,” he said.
Lifestyle and independent properties are the focus of Pivot Hotels & Resorts, Davidson’s division that focuses more squarely on those unique hotels and resorts.
He said he enjoys working on Margaritaville properties because it takes a different tact to lifestyle than most other brands operating in that space.
“When you think of a lifestyle hotel, and you think of something cool, fun and interesting, you think of the Thompsons. of the world of SLS and things like that,” he said. “Because the definition of lifestyle is usually the cool, boutique, local sort of property that you have to create your own story.”
Each of those properties “take a lot of work” and have to be “put together and assembled in a way for it to be successful,” he said. But at Margaritaville, the core idea of the brand is itself a promise of “lifestyle.”
“It’s island escapism,” he said. “That’s really what they’re selling. It’s toes in the sand. It’s flip flops. It’s a cold drink in your hand. That is something that resonates with everybody.”
Geshay said his company has gravitated to unique properties even when that uniqueness comes with some operational challenges. The perfect example of that, he said, is the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island,* which while technically part of Michigan, sits off the coast of Lake Huron. That property joined Davidson’s portfolio in October.
“It’s the longest continually operating hotel in the U.S. at 133 years, and it is the most special place probably on the planet,” he said.
That specialness extends to how guests and goods are brought to the property.
“No motor vehicles are allowed,” he said. “The only modes of transportation are horses or bicycles. All the goods we have coming in there from the daily food delivers to the luggage from every guest has to come in by boat to the harbor then up the hill by horse.”
*Correction, 19 February 2020: This story has been updated to remove a line about Kimpton franchising and correct the name of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.