HB Exclusive: White Lodging exits suburban hotel markets

White Lodging recently closed on an agreement with HHM to sell 25 suburban management contracts. The transaction, combined with planned individual suburban hotel sales, supports the company’s multi-year strategy to exit suburban markets altogether. This transformation focuses the company’s resources across a concentrated urban portfolio with more complex hotels that deliver memorable and elevated guest experiences.

“We’re concentrating our portfolio on our highest value, long-term assets; and ones that we, frankly, have the most fun with,” Jean-Luc Barone, CEO, hospitality management, White Lodging told Hotel Business exclusively. “These experiential properties also align with our strengths—from design to build, to branding, to service execution. While we’re still recovering from COVID, we have high confidence in the sustained demand for leisure, group and corporate travel in the urban markets we operate in.”

Bruce White, founder/chairman, White Lodging, added, “This strategic portfolio shift further defines our position in the industry and reinforces our focus on urban luxury and lifestyle hotels with independent destination restaurants,” said. “In a sea of commodity hotel properties and expanding management portfolios, we are positioned to create the highest level of guest experiences and an environment where associates thrive. Our interest is to develop the best associates, while building the best hotel, restaurant and bar concepts in every market we operate in.”

In addition to continued development of premium-brand urban properties in core markets, White Lodging is investing in the creation of industry-leading career development and training programs, as well as enhancing its relationship with Purdue University.

“At the same time we are investing in our associates, our opportunity and capacity for new hotel development is targeted and robust,” said Ken Barrett, president, White Lodging. “We expect to continue to build the very best lifestyle hotels that offer exceptional food, beverage and service experiences.”

White Lodging’s core markets include Indianapolis, Austin, Louisville, Chicago, Denver, San Antonio, Nashville and Charlotte.

Enhanced associate training, development and mentorship
Following this transaction, White Lodging is making a significant investment in revising its training, development and mentorship programs to better align with a modern post-pandemic workforce dominated by Millennials and Generation Z.

The company’s revised portfolio is tailored to support clearer career paths for associates. With multiple hotels in concentrated urban markets, associates can build a diverse hospitality career across a variety of premium brands without relocating or changing companies.

The company continues to enhance its relationship with Purdue University with a shared desire to develop future hospitalitarians. This includes the recent transition of The Union Club Hotel at Purdue into the first student-run Autograph Collection hotel. The luxury hotel acts as a hands-on learning laboratory for Purdue hospitality students who spend time working and learning about hotel and restaurant operations while earning college credits.

Earlier this year, Purdue renamed the hospitality program the White Lodging – J.W. Marriott, Jr. School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, bringing industry leaders together to reinforce that hospitality is a career, not just a job, for those with the spirit to serve.

In 2021, White Lodging opened four new premium brand urban hotels and nine locally relevant food and beverage concepts, including the JW Marriott Charlotte, Canopy San Antonio Riverwalk, Austin Marriott Downtown at the convention center and the Moxy Austin University. The JW Marriott Charlotte, Canopy San Antonio Riverwalk and Austin Marriott Downtown all finished 2021 ranked number one or two in their respective markets, according to Tripadvisor.

For more on White Lodging’s strategy and the exclusive interview with Jean-Luc Barone, see the March Hotel Business cover story.