When Hotels Change Operators: A San Francisco Story

Planners find themselves facing a thorny issue when they’ve got an RFP out to a hotel for an upcoming group event, they’re in active negotiation with the hotel or even have a signed contract on that piece of business, and the hotel suddenly changes its name and/or management company.

Patio dining at Hotel Zelos, now managed by Benchmark Hospitality International.

Patio dining at Hotel Zelos, now managed by Benchmark Hospitality International.

These days, there is ever-greater likelihood of planners experiencing this for themselves, given the strong lodging industry rebound, with hotels being bought and sold for record prices. That often leads to changing management companies and, with increasing frequency, the name on the door.

A case in point has been playing out the past few months in San Francisco, a top U.S. meetings destination, with the seven luxury boutique properties that had been operated by the Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group for years. Founded in San Francisco and based there, Kimpton has been a well-known and respected operator in the city, its portfolio stretching from Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf. Nationwide, Kimpton managed 62 hotels, accounting for 11,300 rooms, in 28 U.S. cities.

When Kimpton was sold to InterContinental Hotels Group in the first quarter of this year for $430 million, owners of the hotels had the option of finding a new operator. Owners of five of the seven San Francisco hotels opted to do exactly that.

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A touch of whimsy on arrival at The Marker Hotel, now managed by Destination Hotels & Resorts.

The Hotel Monaco became The Marker Hotel, now managed by Destination Hotels & Resorts. The Hotel Palomar became Hotel Zelos, managed by Benchmark Hospitality International. Both “Monaco” and “Palomar” are Kimpton sub-brands, necessitating a name change now that the hotels are no longer affiliated with Kimpton.

The Argonaut Hotel and The Tuscan are now managed by Noble House Hotels & Resorts, while Hotel Serrano is operated by Access Hotels & Resorts. The Buchanan hotel and the Sir Francis Drake, meanwhile, remain part of the Kimpton portfolio.

Where then does that leave planners with either an RFP or signed contract under their arms? First off, they’ll want to reach out to the hotel in question to establish a relationship with the new sales manager (or to confirm that the existing sales manager has been retained by the new operator). Next: confirm that agreed-upon dates, prices, meeting room specs, food and beverage arrangements, VIP requests, comp rooms, billing procedures and so on are all still in place and being honored.

Under the previous operator, the hotels featured certain amenities and Kimpton-wide programs like the popular evening wine hour. If those have gone away or been cut back, planners need to know about it up front, so they and their attendees are not surprised down the road. Similarly, if renovations are planned by the new operator and the work could create any kind of disruption while the group is in-house, planners need to be in the loop on that as well.

Lastly, regarding attendees, if the hotel has a new name, planners will want to communicate that piece of information as soon as possible.

 

Photo credits: Courtesy of Hotel Zelos, The Marker Hotel

Bruce Serlen

Bruce Serlen

Bruce Serlen is a veteran travel writer, based in New Jersey, who has written extensively on meetings management and hotel operations. Most recently, he was executive editor at Hotel Business.

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