When attempting to grow the brand affinity of a group of small-size hotels with customers, having a rewards partner like Marriott doesn’t hurt.

Design Hotels oversees the digital distribution and marketing for a collection of 316 independently owned boutique hotels around the world. Marriott also owns 74 percent of the company by way of its Starwood acquisition in 2016 — which is publicly traded in Germany.

Former Marriott senior executive Peter Cole has been at the helm of Design Hotels since December, citing a need for a new challenge after more than two decades at the world’s largest hotel group. Most recently, Cole was managing director of business integration at Marriott, where he led a longer than expected integration of Starwood Hotels.

“I spent a lot of time understanding hospitality and building relationships at Marriott,” said Cole. “That experience allowed me to leverage this leadership role and work in a completely different way.”

That’s because Design Hotels is not a chain, Cole added. Design Hotels also banks on unique architectural concepts to attract guests. These include converted hotel monasteries, lodgings that play up a city’s local art scene, and old-fashioned hotels located outside of traditional urban markets.

Design Hotels Loyalty Agreement

When Starwood first acquired a 50 percent stake in Design Hotels in 2011, the company allowed SPG rewards members to earn and redeem points at any Design Hotels property. The option is now extended to Marriott Bonvoy members. Both companies will launch a joint television ad this summer highlighting the partnership.

Cole’s greatest early challenge as CEO is to introduce new tools that can help hoteliers leverage the Marriott Bonvoy partnership more easily, but also grow brand awareness outside of the chain’s network. Only 125 of Design Hotels’ total property partners have entered into a loyalty agreement with Marriott, he said.

“We are independently run, and for us leveraging distribution through Marriott is only part of the story,” said Cole. “We look to figure out how to best represent our hotels by connecting them with the right online travel agents and featuring them in design focused publications to play up different concepts.”

Design Hotels revenue eclipsed 24.5 million euros in 2018, up 7 percent over the year prior, according to financials.

Photo Credit: King-size bedroom at Tsingpu Tulou Retreat in the Fujian Province of southeastern China, a popular boutique hotel in Design Hotels portfolio. Design Hotels