HB Exclusive: Sonesta makes lifestyle brand The James available for franchising

Sonesta International Hotels Corporation has expanded its global development strategy to include The James brand as part of the Sonesta Franchise portfolio in the U.S. and in Latin America, offering franchisees a high-end lifestyle option in top urban and resort destination markets.

The rights to The James brand were added to the Sonesta portfolio of hotels when the company purchased four hotels in April 2022 in its return to New York City.

“We have pretty clean lines up and down the food chain, from economy to upper-upscale, and there were two or three places where there was some whitespace—boutique, lifestyle, sensitivity to F&B,” Brian Quinn, chief development officer, Sonesta, told Hotel Business. “Having a product that inhabited that has really taken hold out in the industry…That was one of the identified spaces that we knew as we built out this system and were conscious of where the consumer was going, that The James would be a great fit.”

Currently, The James Nomad, New York (which features Scarpetta Restaurant and The Seville), is the prototype for future properties under its license agreement. Sonesta will reflag two of The Royal Sonesta properties from its managed portfolio later this year to The James brand—The Royal Sonesta Chicago River North and The Royal Sonesta Washington DC Dupont Circle.

“The James is a lifestyle brand that provides guests with a unique hospitality experience based on high quality services and amenities supported by a timeless design,” said Elizabeth Harlow, chief marketing and brand officer, Sonesta. “The James’ ambiance is locally inspired, influenced by each hotel’s local community to provide each traveler with a memorable guest experience. The James’ hallmark is its commitment to creating an emotional connection with each guest.”

The James brand caters to both visitors and local guests, offering a unique experience at each property. With destination worthy beverage and food, each hotel will partner with restaurateurs, transforming each restaurant into a destination.

Quinn is confident that The James will do well as a franchised brand for a variety of reasons.

“One is the consumer wants it,” he said. “We know that the consumer is interested in art, music and F&B at a higher sensitivity to the experiential component. Everyone is striving for something unique and The James brand owned a piece of that, will continue to own a piece of that…We know that our travelers across the system also want to experience that type of product. Sometimes it’s an aspirational stay for some of our existing guests and for other guests, it’s a complementary stay.”

The chief development officer said that The James is ideal for major urban markets.

“They’re going to be urban, they’re going to be major markets,” he said. “That is where the product plays and that’s going to be our initial strategy. You do have to stay open to see how it is received by the consumer and the development community. I have been in the industry quite a while and I have been incredibly impressed to see how even secondary and even some tertiary markets have absorbed some of the different concepts that are out there in the competitive landscape.”