Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide debuted Tribute Portfolio today -- its first brand launch in nine years.
Dave Marr, Starwood's senior VP-brand management, said some hotels will be converted from existing buildings and others will be ground-up projects. The hotels will be independently owned and each will retain its individual look and feel. Yet they will have access to Starwood's loyalty program, technology and infrastructure, global sales force and branding and marketing expertise. Tribute's expansion will begin in North America and Europe, with plans to open 100 four-star hotels by 2020.
Tribute's tagline is "stay independent," and the brand aims to attract both leisure and business travelers. Mr. Marr said millennials are a big part of the brand's demographic aim, as well as corporate retreaters, wedding anniversary celebrants and urban vacationers. Tribute's marketing is kicking off with a social rollout; social media influencers visited a Tribute hotel in South Beach to snap pictures and share them with followers on Twitter, Instagram and other platforms.
The company also bought full-sized ads in The Wall Street Journal and USA Today to alert the financial and hotel community of the Tribute launch. The overall brand strategy is complex, Mr. Marr said, because each hotel will require a specific narrative.
"We're going to continue to spend money to make sure we're making people aware of the launch," Mr. Marr said.
The announcement comes after a big change earlier this year. In February, chief executive officer Frits van Paasschen resigned from the company. A press release said the company was looking to "accelerate Starwood's growth, improve performance and sharpen our focus on operational excellence."
Starwood owns 1,200 hotels in 100 countries and was the first travel company to use Instagram's carousel ads.