ATLANTA—IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) has revealed that the first three locations for its upscale Voco brand in the U.S. will be New York City; St. Augustine, FL; and Columbia, MO.
“Voco Hotels is one of our highest-potential, most flexible brands for owners, with diverse projects and markets ranging from the 470-room Voco Dubai to the newly announced 50-room Franklin Hotel in Manhattan,” said Julienne Smith, SVP, development, Americas, IHG. “As the Voco brand makes its debut in the Americas, it is generating terrific momentum with our initial three signings illustrating how strongly it resonates with owners seeking to enhance the originality of an existing property or develop a new hotel, while also tapping into IHG’s powerful global network and enterprise offerings.”
The first three voco Hotels projects in the Americas are in distinct destinations:
• Voco The Franklin Hotel (New York City): Located in a prime location on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the hotel has served travelers from around the world for a century and is within walking distance of many well-known attractions, including Central Park, Museum Mile and the shops on Madison Avenue. The hotel is owned by Andrew and Stephen “Chip” Weiss Jr. of Flintlock Construction and will be managed by Aimbridge Hospitality.
• Voco Historic St. Augustine (Florida): A part of the community surrounding what is commonly known as the Nation’s Oldest City, this hotel is just three years old and sits between the beaches of St. Augustine and the Historic District. The hotel is owned by Axis Income Fund, LLC.
• Voco The Tiger Hotel (Columbia, MO): One of the tallest and most recognizable buildings in Columbia, this landmark hotel, which opened in 1928, is in the heart of downtown and is adjacent to the University of Missouri campus. The hotel is owned by Glyn Laverick of Columbia Hotel Investments, Inc.
“Offering a unique guest experience in a prime location, our property is known as the place where upscale modern meets historic architecture for uniquely relaxing sojourns, meetings and weddings,” said Laverick. “We’ve made significant investments in The Tiger Hotel in recent years, resulting in consistently high reviews from guests, and we believe partnering with IHG and the Voco brand is a great opportunity to further elevate the guest experience and amplify the hotel’s reputation to travelers from around the world.”
All three are set to open as Voco properties in early 2021.
The COVID-19 crisis delayed the announcement, noted Smith. “We had planned to announce the entry of Voco [in U.S.] at both the Hunter Hotel Conference and the NYU Conference earlier this year,” she said, “but because of the impact of COVID and the resulting impact on our conferences, we did a soft launch to our franchise partners and perspective franchisees who are interested in converting into our system.”
There are 12 open Voco hotels, 80% of which are conversions. The brand’s current development pipeline of 28 new properties will take it into 19 countries over the next five years, and Voco Hotels remains on track to continue to grow in attractive urban and leisure locations across the world.
“My partners in EMEA [Europe, Middle East and Asia] and Greater China are finding opportunities to build new, and we have a handful more to announce when this quarter closes,” said Smith.
On the challenges of adding to the pipeline during this time of crisis, Smith said, “Luckily, many of our conversations were in place pre-COVID. The challenges post-COVID is many of our hoteliers are focused on keeping their portfolio above water. Not everyone is focused on the pipeline; they’re focused on keeping their existing estate afloat, which is a challenge given the current travel environment. We, across the industry, also have less resources to plug into. It’s no secret that, probably six weeks ago or so, we reduced our staff by 10%. Just a couple of weeks ago, we welcomed back a number of employees that were on furloughs. To get hotels picked and correctly processed through negotiations with less people is a challenge.”