In November 2015 — almost two years ago to the day — I wrote about how the W San Diego was rebranding as the Renaissance San Diego. It was interesting to see this, given that the hotel decided to rebrand from a Starwood to a Marriott around the same time that Marriott announced their takeover of Starwood – with the final program being rolled out on August 18th, 2018.
It’s not unusual to see hotels rebrand. Sometimes they rebrand for good reason, because a particular brand just isn’t a good fit. Other times I think the owners of hotels are looking for a scapegoat when they’re not doing well, and the easiest party to blame is the one managing the hotel (keep in mind that for the most part the major hotel chains just have management contracts for the properties, which are independently owned by investors).
In the case of this particular hotel, San Diego is a tough hotel market. While it’s popular in summer and with conventions, other than it seems like better hotels have a hard time getting away with charging much of a premium.
As it turns out, it seems the owners of the Renaissance San Diego weren’t happy having the hotel be branded as a Renaissance, as they’ve rebranded yet again. In mid-October the Renaissance San Diego got rebranded as a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel, less than two years after it was a W. The Autograph Collection property is now called Hotel Republic San Diego. For those of you not familiar with Autograph Collection, it’s intended to be a collection of boutique hotels that are unique in design.
Maybe it’s just me, but I personally wouldn’t consider a 258 room hotel to be especially boutique, but I guess they don’t have particularly restrictive standards in terms of what they’re allowed to market as boutique.
The hotel is 15 years old and is undergoing a $9.5 million renovation of the rooms and public areas. Here’s the explanation of why the hotel was supposedly converted into an Autograph Collection, per the San Diego Union Tribune:
Rockpoint Group, which owns the hotel, decided to move it under the Autograph brand because the collection offers operators of Marriott-branded properties more flexibility in putting their own localized stamp on both the service and design, explained Amanda Altree, senior director of brand marketing for the Autograph Collection.
“They took a look at San Diego and found there wasn’t a strong boutique experience and something less conventional in the downtown area, and they wanted this to be a more localized offering that was more stylized,” Altree said. “This gave them added flexibility to dial up the kind of interior they wanted, and with the completion of the courthouse nearby they saw a way to set themselves apart.”
“When they went to Renaissance, the intention was always to turn this over to Autograph but that process takes time so you couldn’t immediately go to Autograph,” said hotel general manager Malia Empron.
I’m a little bit skeptical of that last statement. I read quite a bit about the hotel when it was rebranded as a Renaissance, and don’t recall anything about them eventually wanting to convert it into an Autograph Collection property. Typically when they have plans like that, they make it clear upfront. The concept of that as such isn’t uncommon — for example, the former Trump Toronto is presently a Starwood Luxury Collection hotel, and once it’s renovated it will be a St. Regis. Still, I wonder if that’s really the case here.
Regardless, I’d consider this to be a pretty interesting development, to see a hotel converted from a W to a Renaissance to an Autograph Collection in less than two years. I also take issue with a 250+ room hotel being branded as boutique.
(Tip of the hat to stvr)