Starwood’s New Tribute Portfolio Independent Hotel Brand

Filed Under: Hotels, Starwood Preferred Guest

Starwood today announced their latest hotel brand, called Tribute Portfolio Hotels & Resorts.

Tribute Portfolio will be Starwood’s 10th brand and second collection of independent hotels, after The Luxury Collection.


What makes Tribute Portfolio different? Well, the brand has the motto “Stay Independent,” and the goal is that the Portfolio will consist of independent hotels which don’t otherwise fall under one of the other SPG “umbrellas.”

This is something I’m really excited about as a Starwood loyalist. I love the elite perks, points, and consistent experience I get when staying at a Starwood property, but I like staying at something that feels a bit more “local.” The way I see it, Tribute will combine the best of both worlds, giving me the elite perks and points I’m addicted to, while allowing me to stay at an “independent” hotel.

Tribute Portfolio will be focused on four star hotels, so is intended to be a slightly more mid-range portfolio than The Luxury Collection.

So far five Tribute locations have been announced. The first Tribute property will be the Royal Palm South Beach Miami.

Royal Palm South Beach Miami, a Tribute Portfolio property

Royal Palm South Beach Miami, a Tribute Portfolio property

That will be followed by new hotels in Asheville, North Carolina, Nashville, Tennessee, Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina. Those are pretty strategic markets, given that they’re all cities which offer a lot of local flair.

Savannah’s first Tribute Portfolio property, set to open in 2016

By 2020, Starwood hopes to have 100 Tribute Portfolio properties (although the brands will under the Marriott umbrella as of August 2018). The focus will initially be on having properties in North America and Europe, though that’s expected to grow globally over the years. Starwood doesn’t plan to rebrand any existing SPG hotels as Portfolio properties, but rather hopes to acquire new hotels with the brand. This includes existing hotels as well as new builds.

Here’s what Starwood’s CEO had to say about the new Tribute Portfolio:

“With Starwood’s history of brand innovation, design leadership and our leading global high-end footprint, we believe Tribute Portfolio will be an exciting solution for hotel owners of distinct properties who wish to maintain their independent spirit, yet benefit from Starwood’s powerful distribution, loyalty and sales platforms,” said Adam Aron, Starwood’s Chief Executive Officer.  “Our mission with Tribute Portfolio is very simple: bring great hotels in great destinations to our loyal SPG members, who make up nearly half of all Starwood stays.”

Aron continued, “We recognize that independent hotels also attract guests who are not already affiliated with SPG. Tribute Portfolio will provide a clear opportunity for us to grow our SPG member base and deliver more loyal guests across all of our Starwood hotels worldwide.”

I think this brand is absolutely brilliant. Let me explain:

Hotels aren’t really selling to consumers

There are lots of misconceptions about how the major hotel chains operate. A lot of people assume Hilton, Hyatt, Starwood, etc., all own their hotels. That’s simply not the case. A vast majority of the hotels are owned by separate investment companies or franchisees, and the major hotel brands simply have management contracts for the hotels. They basically get a percent of the revenue in exchange for managing, marketing, and selling the hotels using their “proven” methods.

There are too many hotel brands

The 10 largest hotel chains have over 100 brands. I “do” airline and hotel loyalty programs for a living, and I can’t keep up with the brands anymore.

I couldn’t tell you the difference between a Hyatt Place or a Hyatt House. Or the difference between a Candlewood Suites or Staybridge Suites. And I don’t even know what Even Hotels are. And Canopy and Curio — what are those? And Autograph, Edition, amd Moxy… huh?


But ultimately the major hotel chains don’t directly have so many brands because they think it’s what consumers want, but rather because that’s how they can market to hoteliers. “Hey, you should totally build a hotel we can manage under our new brand. It’s totally different than anything else we have as of now.” Because after all, when you already have a few hotels in a city, the way to get someone to “buy” into your brand is to create a new one which promises to be unique.

That’s why Tribute Portfolio is brilliant

The above is precisely why I’m excited about Tribute Portfolio. Starwood is basically telling hotels “we like you just the way you are, but we think you can sell more rooms at higher costs if you join our brand.”

And as a consumer I’m excited about the prospect of staying at something which feels like an independent hotel while getting room upgrades, late check-out, complimentary breakfast, Starpoints, elite qualifying stay/night credits, etc.

Royal Palm South Beach Miami, a Tribute Portfolio property

The way I see it, we don’t need more “cookie cutter” chains, but rather a collection of independent hotels where we can still expect somewhat of a consistent elite experience.

Nice (but predictable) cookie cutter Westin

As Starwood’s SVP of Brand Management explains:

“Nearly 50% of upper upscale hotels in the U.S. are independent, and likewise, 60% of four star hotels globally are not affiliated with a brand flag. This provides Starwood with a vast landscape to grow Tribute Portfolio,” said Dave Marr, Senior Vice President of Brand Management, North America and Global Brand Leader for Tribute Portfolio.  “In speaking with many owners, it is clear that they welcome the opportunity to partner with Starwood to enhance the performance of their independent hotels. They are attracted to the benefits that will come from the power of SPG and our high-end Starwood sales customers coupled with the flexibility of minimal brand specific standards.”

Starwood Tribute bottom line

This is the first hotel brand in a while that I’m really excited about. As far as I’m concerned we don’t need more “themed” hotel brands, but rather need more independent hotels where we can still earn points and get some level of consistency in terms of elite benefits, etc.

This is a win-win for us points loyalists and the brands. There’s no arguing that belonging to a global hotel portfolio drives up room rates long term, which is good for the hotels and management companies. And at the same time, as a consumer I’m willing to pay a premium for staying at a chain hotel where I receive perks in exchange for my loyalty.

Nashville’s first Tribute Portfolio property, set to open in 2016

What do you think about Starwood’s new Tribute Portfolio?

  1. It’s funny, I always feel like SPG’s brand concepts are pretty straightforward while Marriott’s, and to a lesser degree Hilton’s, are horribly confusing, but I’m not sure if that’s just because I spend more time at SPG properties or not.

  2. I’d prefer SPG focused on executing the services and benefits they claim to provide to us Platinum 50s and 75s before adding a bunch more hotels into a system that doesn’t seem to scale properly. At least in my experience.

    Welcome, have you ever stayed with us before? Why yes I have. Four times. Check your reservation systems.

    Welcome, thanks so much for being SPG Gold. Thanks, except I’m Platinum.

    And on and on and on.

  3. I have liked this more ‘independent’ brand idea that the chains are taking on – makes a hotel feel less corporate to me.

    It’s funny too, as the first chain to really embrace a 3-4* independent brand was Choice Hotels with their Ascend Collection. Not a company I would’ve expected to be an innovator in this regard.

  4. 1) This feels a bit like Marriott’s Autograph brand.
    2) I’m mostly a Marriott person, and I guess the consistency of their chain is mostly what I like about them. I worry that an un-brand brand might not work as well, at least for me.

  5. I am particularly giddy to know what will occur in Charleston.

    The article at:


    “In 2017, Tribute Portfolio will debut in the Historic District of Charleston, South Carolina, with a 100 guestroom hotel featuring a rooftop pool and bar, signature restaurant, and 11,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor meeting and event space.”

    Rooftop pools are rare in Charleston, and the Market Pavillion Hotel may fit the above desciption. If this is so, it would be a fantastic coup.

  6. I agree that this is a good concept, but it is essentially a copycat of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, so it’s not necessarily a “brilliant” or even innovative move on SPG’s part. That said, having stayed at a couple Autograph Collection hotels, I’m excited to have more major hotel chains use this concept. The first time I stayed at an Autograph Collection hotel (booked by my company), I didn’t even realize it was a Marriott until after I checked in.

  7. @ chasgoose — It very well could be, though as someone that only stays at Marriotts as a last resort, guess I wouldn’t be the one to know. 😀

  8. @ Justin — I believe it will be a new build, and the only info I have is what jfhscott notes above.

  9. Market Pavillion in Charleston as Starwood would be fab. And I think this new proposition sounds very good. I love the Luxury Collection due to the individuality of its hotels. Ben, you need to check out their Haciendas in Mexico. Seriously.

  10. wish these brand had come with a signature comfortable bed as a brand standard. I love unique hotels, but I like being able to predict a comfortable bed. This was an easy opportunity for Starwood that was missed.

  11. @Lucky — The Tribute Portfolio concept is more or less identical to Hilton’s Curio: a collection of independent, 4- or 5-star hotels that have nothing in common but the central reservation system and loyalty program. Or, as others have mentioned, Marriott’s Autograph Collection. I realize you’re partial to SPG, but there’s nothing really new or innovate being announced here.

  12. Ben,

    You are behind the 8-ball here… This concept is at least five years old – Marriott (Autograph) and Hilton (Curio) already have it. Hell, Starwood already does it with the Luxury Collection. This is an attempt by Starwood to catch up to its peers in size (it’s much smaller). Good idea but not unique and probably doesn’t even merit a post

  13. Starwood Hotels opened its first Luxury Collection branded hotel in 1994 and launched its W brand in 1998

    BOTH of these were leading and innovative concepts in the hospitality industry that were far beyond their time.

    As time goes by people copy and perfect others ideas, hence, Autograph Collection coming into the picture in the late 2000’s. AC by Marriott and Curio by Hilton are both company’s attempts at copying Starwood’s ultra successful “trendy-boutique” hotels and “independent-luxury 5 star” hotels.

    I know some people like to be ultra critical and snobby when comparing hotel companies but lets get our history right before we bring our arrogance to the table.

    The only thing that AC and Curio did differently than Starwood’s Luxury Collection is bring the idea from 5 star to 4 star. Since they have a wide range of hotels and Starwood is a mid-luxury to high luxury hotel company

    This announcement is Starwood’s way of saying. We listened to our customers and we now have 5 star independents under our portfolio and 4 star independent hotels too!

    This is great news and I am so happy to get more options!

  14. @ Tony — Not disagreeing there at all. To clarify, my point is simply that I’m not a big Hilton or Marriott fan, so I’m *personally* excited about Starwood introducing such a brand, since it’s one of the two programs I’m most loyal to.

  15. Lucky, since you do convert all points to cash have you ever considered AirBnB in cities like Singapore where using points or cash for Hyatt may not make sense? thanks

  16. >And I don’t even know what Even Hotels are.

    I guess you could say… that you literally can’t even.

  17. @Bryan — While I’ll concede that Starwood’s properties are probably more upscale on average than Hilton or Marriot’s, Starwood is by no means “a mid-luxury to high luxury hotel company.” Several of its brands are midscale and lower: aLoft, element, Sheraton, and the especially poor Four Points.

  18. I love what Starwood is doing, but they’re going to have to ensure SPG members see the same benefits at the “non-traditional” properties. I stayed at the Royal Palm two weeks ago and they couldn’t care less that I was a Platinum 100 guest. (Of
    course, the Westin I’m in right now couldn’t care less, either, so maybe that’s just becoming par for the course for SPG.)

  19. @ Michaeal
    You sum up the reason I no longer stay with SPG
    Overpriced hotels, lousy promotions, over priced redemption.
    Cash and points is more expensive than revenue frequently
    And inconsistent or non existent recognition @ many a hotel who couldn’t care less about its guests

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