Skift Take

Standard chief executive Amber Asher is one of the smartest people in hotels. But The Standard International has so much going on it, we wonder if the company can manage it all.

Series: Early Check-In

Early Check-In

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Standard International, the hotel company behind The Standard Hotels and The Peri Hotel — and a majority owner of Bunkhouse House Groupis taking on a lot these days to meet CEO Amber Asher‘s aggressive expansion plans.

In 2019, the company had 14 hotels with about 1,500 keys. By the end of 2023, it aims to have 25 hotels and about 2,500 keys across three brands. That’s a growth of about two-thirds.

  • The company began 23 years ago when impresario Andre Balazs debuted The Standard near the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood in Los Angeles with the help of backing from stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz.
  • The brand, with an upside-down logo, helped popularize the branded boutique hotel trend, and has since grown to multiple locations.
  • Balazs stepped back from the company in 2017.
  • The company has been majority owned by Sansiri, a Bangkok-based luxury real estate firm, since 2017, when it took a 30 percent stake, increased to about 59 percent in 2019. [UPDATE: This article originally said Sansiri was a majority owner from 2019.]

I spoke with Asher for an update. The Standard has a growth pipeline internationally and in the Americas.

  • Currently open are: Thailand’s Standard Hua Hin and Standard Bangkok. Mahanakhon; Spain’s Standard Ibizia; and the U.S.’s two New York properties and a Miami Beach property; one in London; one in the Maldives.
  • The pipeline includes The Standard to open next year in Singapore across from the Shangri La. Properties are under development in Austin, Brooklyn, Mexico, Brussels, Dublin, Lisbon, and Dubai. There’s a new project in Pattaya, Thailand. A team is doing business development work in Latin America.

Branded residential hospitality has been a hot topic for everyone from Marriott to Montage.

  • The Standard Residences as a standalone property without a hotel is in progress in midtown Miami.
  • In Lisbon, new residences will be connected to the hotel there, and more than 60 percent is already sold.

The company’s Bunkhouse brand, where motels and hotels range from about 20 to 90 rooms, is also growing.

  • Nine open Bunkhouses are mainly in Texas, but also California and Mexico.
  • Next year one will debut in Louisville, Kentucky, by May, and one in Mexico City by end of the year. In early 2024, Bunkhouse will open two new properties in Houston. Others are due to come eventually to Fort Worth, Texas. [CORRECTION: Article has been updated for 2024 Bunkhouse openings.]
  • The parent company would like to bring Bunkhouse to cities like London, Brooklyn, and Bangkok.
  • “We’ve been able to do quick conversions and create a high-touch lifestyle feel with higher margins based on our model that works well in these locations,” Asher said
  • “We’re going to bring all the Bunkhouses under one umbrella website,” Asher said. “That will give us an opportunity to build our customer base and also introduce Bunkhouse loyalists to the brand more easily.”
  • “Bunkhouse grew quite a bit during the pandemic because many of our existing owners saw how nimble and agile the model was and what great operators and team members we had in our corporate office,” Asher said. “We’ve gotten multiple additional properties. That speaks to the quality of our teams and how we can do conversions in short periods.”

The Peri Hotel debuted in 2020 with two properties in Thailand’s Hua Hin and Khao Yai and another on the way to appear in Bangkok in 2024.

Standard International is particularly interested in finding partners for new projects in the U.S. and Latin America, especially a Standard in Mexico City.

  • “We really want to make our owners, developers, and capital partners proud beyond just profitability, even though that’s crucial,” Asher said. “Our four U.S. properties, for instance, are doing better than they ever have from both a top-line and profitability perspective thanks to streamlined processes we’ve improved. But we’ve done multiple openings, and we’ve seen our partners’ faces light up when they see what they’ve helped create.”

The company is also working on a technology project.

  • The Standard had tried to create a HotelTonight-style independent hotel aggregator mobile app called One Night, but the project was a pandemic victim.
  • A soon-to-be-announced “technology project” is in the works.

Thailand has been a big growth hub for the company, thanks to owner Sansiri.

  • It has a team of about 40 people in a corporate office in Bangkok working to advance the company’s three brands regionally.
  • They’ve explored new destinations like Chang Mai, Bali, and the Maldives. [CORRECTION: This story originally, mistakenly said Shanghai was a possible location.]

It’s daring for Standard International to take on so many challenges at once. The most intimidating goal may be its effort to scale up the lifestyle, boutique hotel concept to a half dozen countries very quickly.

  • Operationalizing the process to ensure the quality stays true requires staying attuned to local needs and the latest trends. The whole thing could go haywire.
  • “It’s not drag-and-drop,” Asher said. “Guests who know us in New York will recognize us wholeheartedly at our properties in Ibiza and in Bangkok, but they’ll see a different design, different nightlife programming, and the food might be different.”
  • “We talk to communities of creatives before we go into a destination to find out what they need and how to bring relevant new offerings,” Asher said. “We’ve done the research to connect the threads among our audiences and collaborators there. For instance, we’ve brought a Mexican-inspired restaurant to the top of the Standard London and the Standard Bangkok.”

Story was updated with two corrections after publication. Sorry. I can be reached at [email protected] or via LinkedIn for feedback.


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Tags: boutique hotels, bunkhouse, bunkhouse group, Early Check-In, future of lodging, lifestyle hotels, standard international, the standard

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