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The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Starwood Hotels and Resorts is launching Tribute, a second “soft” brand of independent hotels to follow its Luxury Resorts brand that in 1994 pioneered the practice of bringing independent properties under the umbrella of a larger hotel brand to ease booking and enhance loyalty.
Tribute has more in common with new brands from rivals, including Autograph from Marriott and Curio from Hilton. These brands can take advantage of the loyalty programs that earn guests loyalty points alongside sister brands like Westin (Starwood), Ritz-Carlton (Marriott), or Doubletree (Hilton).
They also give consumers a reason to book directly from the parent brand rather than from online travel agencies (OTAs) such as Booking.com or Expedia, and independent properties can expect significantly more support from the major brands than from the OTAs.
According to the Journal, the first property in the Tribute quiver is the Royal Palm South Beach in Miami. Curiously, the Royal Palm was recently sold, renovated, and added to Starwood’s Luxury Collection beginning in mid-March.
Tribute’s premise is that it will be at a price point slightly less than Starwood’s Luxury Collection; the millennial feeder product to complement the boomer Luxury Collection imprint.
Soft brands like Tribute, Curio, and Autograph are still independent, but a step beyond independent hotel groups such as Relais & Châteaux, Small Luxury Hotels, or Leading Hotels of the World which specialize in marketing more than loyalty.
Starwood will hold a press conference later this morning, after which more details will be published about Tribute here.