How Many Times Can A Hotel Rebrand In Two Years?

Filed Under: Hotels, Marriott

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)

  1. “San Diego is a tough hotel market.”

    Yes, for crappy properties. There is a serious shortage of decent hotels. This one has to compete against the two big (and mediocre) Westins nearby, both of which will discount heavily when they have empty rooms (as low as $113 last week).

  2. Stayed at a new hotel in downtown SD called the Pendry recently and had a lovely stay and the property was buzzing. Maybe they are trying to piggyback off the success of that hotel?

  3. I stayed in this hotel in Oct 2016 and was actually told the intent was to be an Autograph Collection hotel in the long run. Not sure why it was a renaissance from the beginning; it was definitely the worse and least on-brand Renaissance I’ve ever seen.

    Not sure I would go back unless the renovation touched every room. Outdated furniture and a weird schoolroom vibe made for a suboptimal setting for a work trip.

  4. I stayed in this hotel in Oct 2016 and was actually told the intent was to be an Autograph Collection hotel in the long run. Not sure why it was a renaissance from the beginning; it was definitely the worse and least on-brand Renaissance I’ve ever seen.

    Not sure I would go back unless the renovation touched every room. Outdated furniture and a weird schoolroom vibe made for a suboptimal setting for a work trip.

  5. I prefer a Kimpton property when in downtown. Siting in the heart of gas lamp is a plus.

    Agree, that size is nowhere close to a boutique hotel.

  6. Not certain about fees these days, but in past Marriott franchise presentations I attended, fees were pitched as lower to be part of Autograph Collection than a major brand like Marriott or Renaissance.

  7. I stayed here in September 2016. The service was very bad and inconsistent for a Marriott property, particularly one that had been a Starwood. The benefits for platinums were weak. The pool was pathetic, perhaps one of the worst rooftop pools I have ever seen.

    The Westgate is much, much better. Amazing pool. Great service. Classic decor. Just no points.

  8. The location of the Renaissance is five blocks too west and 2 blocks north of Broadway, putting it in a sketchy area. I have avoided it for that reason. I prefer the Courtyard (while not all that great physically) or something more in the gas light district.

    The location is going to be a negative for many people. At night the streets in that area are empty and dark. I view the Westgate to be the farthest west and north I want to be.

    I don’t think rebranding is going to do much – it won’t solve the location issue.

  9. @brodie – the Kimpton is hardly in the heart of the gas light district, it is not even in the gas light district. Agree – close enough – one half block north of Broadway – with Broadway being the boundary which runs between 4 and 6th Avenues, then south down to the rail road tracks.

    But I do think both the Kimpton and Courtyard are great locations – right on the bus route from the airport and right at the edge of the gas light district.

  10. there are 2 kimptons. Solamar is in the heart of gas light across from The Landry where I am staying this February. Interested in checking it out.

  11. I staid at this Hotel for an entire week, when it was still the W.
    There were so many issues, like I never had in any Starwood Hotel ever.
    Internet WiFi in my room did not work, neither could I connect to a connection in their business centre. I actually had to drive to a nearby McDonalds to get emails sent.
    Management could not fix the problem over the week, but offered me 16,000 Starpoints as compensation. There also were problems with cleaning and plumbing.
    I agree with what was said about the empty and dark neighborhood. Once I needed to get something out of my car at night, I felt uneasy to walk the deserted street and parking lot.

  12. If this 258-room hideaway doesn’t jive with your concept of the Autograph Collection’s boutique spirit, then don’t even visit the Autograph Collection’s 3,500 room monstrosity at Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas!

  13. @Randy calls it perfectly. The location is terrible and that’s not going to change. It’s in a sketchy part of downtown that’s too far from Gaslamp which isn’t even that great a location anyway. As much publicity as Gas Lamp gets, there’s really nothing great about it unless you’re really into drunken college kids, sailors, and Marines Thursday-Saturday/Sunday nights and fairly mediocre dining experiences. Oh, and LOTS of homeless. It has all the charm of old Las Vegas but none of the gambling.

    Little Italy needs to get one of these hotels. And while Gaslamp and downtown are close-ish to Little Italy by decently long walk or short Uber/taxi, it’s not the same. Additionally, the hotels need to be less concentrated. Right now it’s Gaslamp and downtown which aren’t awesome neighborhoods, Hotel Circle off the 8 where there’s NOTHING walkable, or the family-oriented ones on Harbour Island. None of those are really convenient to anything without a car.

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