Can’t Make This Up: W Hotel Dubai Rebranding As V Hotel Dubai

Within the past month it has been announced that Starwood is losing management contracts for four of their hotels in Dubai, including their two St. Regis properties, one W property, and one Westin property. All of these hotels were owned by the Al Habtoor Group, which apparently hasn’t been pleased with the performance of the hotels:

Those last three hotels are all part of one mega development in Al Habtoor City, so with this change, Starwood is losing a lot of hotel rooms at once.

When this announcement was made, the chairman of Al Habtoor Group said the following:

“We maintain a strong and friendly relationship with Marriott International. This decision marks the start of a new era for Habtoor Hospitality as we focus more on strengthening our own brands and expanding our hotel-management portfolio.”

This led me to believe that they were going to start managing these hotels directly, rather than simply switching management contracts to another international brand. As it turns out, that’s not the case.

Hilton is taking over three Starwood hotels in Dubai

The Al Habtoor Group and Hilton have just announced a big new partnership for three Dubai hotels. As of August 1, 2018, the three hotels in Al Habtoor City will all be managed by Hilton:

  • The St. Regis Al Habtoor City becomes the Habtoor Palace, LXR Hotels & Resorts
  • The W Hotel Al Habtoor City becomes the V Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton
  • The Westin Al Habtoor City becomes the Hilton Al Habtoor City


St. Regis Dubai, soon to be LXR Dubai

Currently Al Habtoor Group owns hotels that are managed by several international brands, including Hilton, IHG, Marriott, and more. For example, Hilton already manages several properties owned by Al Habtoor Group, including the Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah, the Hilton London Wembley, the Hilton Beirut Habtoor Grand, and the Hilton Beirut Metropolitan Palace.

Hilton’s surprising branding choices

Perhaps what’s most interesting here is the brands that Hilton chose for these new properties.

First of all, Hilton is relaunching the LXR brand. This was first launched in 2005, consisting largely of former Wyndham properties. However, in the meantime the hotels have all been rebranded as Conrads, Curios, and Waldorf Astorias, but now Hilton is launching this brand again. That’s a bit puzzling.

Even more interesting is that Hilton is launching “V Hotels” within their Curio Collection of hotels. Are you kidding me?! Are they seriously buying a W and turning it into a V? Really?!? Do they actually think that this is creative and hip, or are they doing this to minimize renovation costs, so they can just cut all the “W” signs in half?

You may think “oh, it’s a coincidence,” or something, but keep in mind that there was a 2010 lawsuit between Hilton and Starwood, where Starwood accused Hilton executives of stealing confidential documents related to the W brand.

As part of the settlement, Hilton had to pay $75 million in cash, Starwood was entitled to $75 million in hotel-management contracts, and Hilton had to agree not to launch a competing lifestyle brand within two years.

Now, several years later, they’re launching… V.

Bottom line

It goes without saying that this is a big win for Hilton and a big loss for Marriott. It’s also interesting to see the branding that Hilton chose for these hotels — they’re relaunching one brand that was started in 2005 but where all hotels have since been rebranded, and then they’re creating a portfolio within Curio Collection, that I’m sure is in no way intended to resemble W… none whatsoever.

(Tip of the hat to Vineet)

Comments

  1. Nope, there’s no way this is legal. Nevermind the fact that W is often called “double V” in some languages instead of “double U.” This is…a dumb move…

  2. A bad hotel is a bad hotel no matter who manages it. Why does Habtoor think they’re going to do any better under the Hilton umbrella than Marriott?

  3. This sounds like some desperation on Hilton’s part to win the hotel management contract. I can imagine Hilton coming in with an initial pitch on the redevelopment requirements, Habtoor saying that rebranding cost too much, and then the Hilton team thinking “how on earth do we minimize signage changes, etc.”. Almost sounds like someone randomly through out the ridiculous idea of keeping half of the W…and then somehow that actually became the idea.

    In Dubai I much prefer the Park Hyatt though. A bit outside the main scene but feels like an oasis vs. some massive tower.

  4. Do you suppose Hilton will try to operate it according to the same standards (look/feel) as Starwood, essentially doing the same thing they were sued for — stealing the branding and operations manual for W from Starwood?

  5. I can’t imagine this would fly for very long and would be VERY surprised if Hilton took the decision to launch “V” as a chain. Aside from the almost certain lawsuit, I wonder if they seriously think they could poach W customers? While they are not to my taste personally, W seems to have a pretty loyal following and I can’t imagine many people would see such a lame rip-off and choose that instead in a given city. A “V” brand would have to compete purely on price.

    This is likely to be a unique circumstance in a city now without a W hotel, where the property wants to maintain whatever existing customer base they have. It’s still an idiotic idea.

  6. I’m a millennial and don’t like the W brand to much. I feel they try to hard to be edgy and cool. I would say my overall favorite SPG brand is Le Meridien in additional to the less “old school” St Regis properties.

  7. This is so stupid it’s hilarious! I personally wouldn’t consider staying at any of these hotels just because of the lame name copy.

  8. I’d love to know the Ivy League brains trust that came up with this.

    Habtoor Palace, LXR Hotels & Resorts – is a mouthful. Wouldn’t Waldorf be the natural choice, especially due to the “classic” styling?

    V Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton. I find Curio Collection by Hilton too staid and not that interesting to begin with. Now let’s append “V Hotel” to it – what a mess! The irony is that the W brand was striking at the time it was created by being so simple and yet so clear in terms of what it stood for. Perhaps V stands for Very confused.

  9. In the topic of name rip off and lazy branding, check out the “Wisney World” project launched last month in Cambodia….if it ever takes off.

  10. This specific hotel name is V Hotel. Is it a part of the Curio Collection.

    All Curio collection hotels are “hotel name, Curio collection by Hilton”

    There is nothing in the press release that suggests V is going to be full fledged Hilton brand.

    Could the following actual hotel name be more unique? Yes. However V is not a seperate Hilton hotel family brand.

  11. “Are they seriously buying a W and turning it into a V? Really?!?”

    Nobody is buying anything, Al Habtoor is just changing management contracts and rebranding the property.

  12. I was thinking the same as Franklyn. What makes you think there’s going to be some sort of “V Hotels” brand within Curio? None of the information you’ve shared suggests that to be the case.

  13. Dubai doesn’t need half of those hotel rooms. They’re all empty. I haven’t seen any city at this size with that amount of branded hotel chains.

  14. Somebody please tell these empty suits / executives that the whole ‘W Hotel’ concept peaked at the same time that myspace did. The market has moved on.

  15. Please stop hyperventilating over nothing. Hilton just scored a big coup and is rubbing it in for the $75M cash settlement. By rebranding this “W” as “V”, the message is clear: “Ahead of W”. 🙂

    Someone forgot to inform the Al Habtoor Group that Hilton has a “weak” loyalty program and that they should have stuck with Marriott, which will have a better program “in mere weeks.” LOL. Hilton, the company that is synonymous with ‘hospitality’, strikes again and natives are agitating. You’d think they’d know better now how formidable and competitive Hilton has been under their current handpicked CEO, Chris Nassetta. Marriott may be bigger after acquiring the failed Starwood franchise but it is not better, by any stretch of the imagination.

  16. Now I’m hoping that Delta starts a new “crossover rewards” type of partnership with Hilton since they lost Starwood to United.

  17. Just quick clarification

    The new agreement is a franchise agreement not a management contract, so Habtoor is doing everything themselves now with Hilton just providing the branding, marketing and distribution.

    No doubt the constraint of franchising affected the choice of brands. Starwood for instance, did not allow certain brands to be franchised (you can’t franchise a W for instance, so they have stricter brand controls) and this for certainly part of the reason the Marriott breakup happened.

    In terms of distribution ability, of course Marriott is stronger and has a stronger loyalty program. Hilton is weaker in these aspects but to counter it has fewer downsides in terms of cannibalisation (these 3 properties were sort of middle of the pack in Marriott’s Dubai footprint but are easily some of the best in Hilton’s – top 5 for sure).

    The biggest factor (which will be a downside) of course is that bulk of the bookings (especially in a complex of this size) do not come from direct channels but from OTAs and GDS etc. There, price, brand and location are king and whilst location stays the same, the brands have been swapped out for MUCH weaker ones.

    Hilton, at a stretch matches Westin’s brand equity (they’re similar enough -ish) though a missed opportunity for Hilton to launch their Hilton+ brand they’ve identified as a white space.

    V does not have nearly the cachet or the name recognition of W, this will be brutal. Infact, if anything, there is already confusion with the Five hotel group (which has a great lifestyle property on the Palm and uses V as it’s logo).

    Habtoor Palace, LXR (right now using Waldorf backend) does not have anywhere near St Regis brand equity and recognition.

    It’s a struggle to see why a regular joe would ever pick a V over a known W or Habtoor Palace which looks like a random brand to them over a St Regis. No one recognises W or Habtoor Palace as Hilton brands.

    Interesting data point: Ever since the breakup, Habtoor Polo Resort ADR has crashed by nearly 50%.

  18. Forgot to state this:
    On the upside for Habtoor, franchising comes with lower associated fees. So if they can run these well, they generate more money. The hotel market is going to get way way more crowded though and will continuously add supply for forseeable future.

    That gives owners one of two basic strategies: Try to fill as many rooms and keep occupancies up and let rates crash and make money on volume. OR accept the low occupancies as the new market reality in medium term and try to control operating and acquisition costs (reflagging to pay lower fees would be part of this strategy).

  19. LOL. I just love the constant reverse Darwinism in these forums. SPG was the strongest program, and yet, it is no more today, and Hilton, the “weak” one, just is stepping all over what was prime SPG land in Dubai.

    The demise of the strongest? There is no such thing. Inferior entities that cannot compete disappear. RiP SPG. 🙁

  20. @Vineet thanks for bringing a gun to DCS’ knife fight!

    Looks like Hilton picked up half empty properties that don’t want to comply to any brand standards. But since it’s more of a budget-heavy chain, they leapt at the opportunity to get in business with some quality properties. If they were worth hanging on to Marriott wouldn’t have let them get away!

  21. LOL. Grasping at straws, as Hilton again and again comes up with slick and winning moves that make any attempts to disparage the company or its loyalty program fall flat, crash and burn…

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