Skift Take

Sonesta is relatively unknown, so adding more sub-brands will require more than a little marketing.

Hotel company Sonesta said on Tuesday it would launch a new brand, Sonesta Essential, and offer a just-added brand, The James, to developers.

The eighth-largest hotel company in the U.S. is taking a page out of the playbook of the giant hotel groups. Hoteliers continue to pack the virtual shelves of online travel agency storefronts with an ever-expanding variety of brands to compete for visibility.

Sonesta Essential is a brand where developers provide a clean room and a comfortable bed but few amenities or services beyond the basics. It enters the crowded but often profitable limited-service segment. The segment also includes its Sonesta Select brand, which is at a higher price point, has a different aesthetic, and competes with Courtyard by Marriott, Hyatt Place, Hilton Garden Inn, and Four Points by Sheraton.

The James Hotels is an upscale urban brand created by Denihan Hospitality Group, with a property run by Highgate in New York City. Sonesta acquired the intellectual property of the James Hotel brand in April 2022, and it said on Tuesday it planned to scale the brand up. It will play in the luxury lifestyle segment — meaning it will have ample amenities and services, plus a notable investment in the hotel bars and restaurants to make them locally popular.

Sonesta International Hotels Corp Hotel Brands

Sonesta BrandsRLH Brands
Sonesta ES SuitesKnights Inn
Sonesta Hotels & ResortsHotel RL
Sonesta Posadas Del IncaRed Lion Hotels
Sonesta SelectRed Lion Inn & Suites
Sonesta Simply SuitesSignature Inn
The Royal SonestaGuestHouse Extended Stay
Sonesta EssentialAmericas Best Value Inn
The JamesCanadas Best Value Inn

Sonesta Essential and The James will join seven other brands in the Sonesta-branded family, which includes the resort brand The Royal Sonesta and the extended-stay brand Sonesta ES Suites. Parent company Sonesta International Hotels Corp now has 8 hotel brands with Sonesta in the name and eight RLH Brands that came through an acquisition of RLH Group in 2021.

Sonesta has “limited name recognition,” said Rony Zeidan, founder and chief creative officer of RO New York, an ad agency that will run campaigns for the company this year.

One ad will feature veteran actor Judy Greer, who has played enough roles to be recognizable but hasn’t achieved widespread name recognition — as a kind of “famous yet nameless” metaphor for Sonesta.

Mysteriously, the ad doesn’t yet show the Essential brand when displaying the brand family at its end.

Greer previously played in ads for Hilton Garden Inn right before the pandemic began.

Sonesta International Hotels Corp. has expanded in the past five years from only about 80 properties to about 1,200 properties totaling 100,000 guest rooms. Service Properties Trust, or SVC, owns roughly a third of the company. Franchising is a key part of its game plan.

UPDATE: Article corrected for misspelling the Sonesta Essential brand as Essentials on the second reference.

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Tags: brands, future of lodging, hotel brands, sonesta

Photo credit: The Certo! bar at a Sonesta property in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Source: Sonesta.

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