What is a Conversion Brand — and Why You Might Want to Avoid It

ccording to this recent announcement from Marriott International, Incorporated, the first Delta Hotels and Resorts branded property in the United States will open next month as the Delta Orlando Lake Buena Vista, to be operated under a franchise agreement by JHM Hotels.

The acquisition of Delta Hotels and Resorts by Marriott International, Incorporated for Canadian $168 million — or approximately $135 million in United States dollars — was announced back in January of 2015 to “propel Marriott to a leading position in Canada.” The acquisition was subsequently completed in April.

A resort-style swimming pool complete with a splash zone for kids and pirate ship, an activity room for children, fitness center, complimentary Wi-Fi access to the Internet, parking on site, and a restaurant and bar will be featured at the resort property — which has 241 rooms; and it will offer transportation to and from local attractions — including all of the theme parks at Walt Disney World.

Why is Delta Hotels and Resorts Being Introduced Into the United States?

I looked over the official press release from Marriott regarding the announcement; and I could figure out why Marriott is introducing Delta Hotels and Resorts into the United States. Is it because the “brand brings a rich history and an exciting range of properties to the Marriott portfolio and currently consists of 37 hotels and nearly 10,000 rooms”? Is “welcoming even more guests to the Delta experience” unique in some manner? Is it because it “offers a fresh approach to the guest experience, including intuitive designs and technology for both modern business and leisure travelers” that none of the other 18 brands in its portfolio are able to offer or provide? What is so different about the Delta Hotels and Resorts brand, anyway — other than that is is Canadian?

The official description of Delta Hotels and Resorts is that “Guests can discover the Delta difference with the brand’s 37 properties located across Canada. Delta properties offer comfortably familiar rooms, free Wi-Fi and convenient dining.”

I can understand wanting to keep the Delta name in Canada, where it is an established brand; but why introduce it into the United States — a country where one of the largest commercial airlines in the world which also has the Delta name is based? Will that not cause confusion?

Searching For an Answer — and Finding It

Ric Garrido of Loyalty Traveler is usually on the pulse of the hotel industry; but this article offered no insight as to why the Delta Hotels and Resorts brand is being introduced into the United States — especially into an existing building which is greater than 40 years old.

I then searched this discussion posted on FlyerTalk; and realized that I was not alone in how I felt. FlyerTalk member Horace expressed this thought very well, in my opinion:

So this will be the first Delta-branded hotel in the United States.

I understand why Marriott acquired Delta Hotels & Resorts. It gives Marriott a better presence in Canada. That’s good for the company (and good for Marriott Rewards members).

But does Marriott really need another full-service, “4-star” brand in the United States? There’s already Marriott (the “signature” brand), Renaissance (the sort-of-different-from-Marriott brand), and Autograph Collection (the brand for full-service hotels that have their own identities and personalities). Now, apparently, Marriott will roll out Delta Hotels in the United States in that tier. Actually, Gaylord is essentially in that tier too.

I realize Marriott International is in the business of franchising hotel brands. I suppose more brands mean more opportunities for Marriott to have hotels in the same geographic location.

But, at some point, all they’re doing is causing confusion among potential customers. Those of us who frequent this forum understand the fine distinctions between Marriott’s many brands. But how is the general public supposed to keep track of all of the brands of Marriott, Hilton, Starwood, Choice, Wyndham, and all the others?

I had absolutely no idea, Horace — but you provided a link to this article written by Craig Karmin of The Wall Street Journal. The article reports that the Delta Hotels and Resorts brand will compete with the DoubleTree brand by Hilton Worldwide as what is know as a conversion brand — which is a concept where owners of existing hotel properties are convinced to switch from one brand to another as a way of the parent company to expand its footprint, rather than construct a hotel property from the ground up.

Conversion brands also offer owners more leeway in terms of conforming their existing properties to the standards of a brand. Like the DoubleTree brand, the Delta Hotels and Resorts brand will offer greater flexibility and lower costs in terms of property improvements to stay in the brand system, according to the aforementioned article, which suggests that the conversion market is rather lucrative.

Summary

I have offered an argument which could support the assertion that Marriott International, Incorporated is growing too fast. Even though it is to give the perception that the brands are different hotel properties which can compete at the same location despite being owned by the same parent company, I believe that 19 brands are simply too many…

…but that is not stopping most of the other lodging companies from adding more brands to their portfolios in recent years.

I have stayed at hotels in the portfolio of brands of Hilton Worldwide and generally enjoy doing so; but the DoubleTree brand always had this inconsistent feel to me from hotel property to hotel property. It almost felt like a brand which was lost — as though it were the “stepchild” brand of Hilton Worldwide. I remember some years ago being upgraded to a presidential suite at a DoubleTree hotel property at no extra charge at an industrial town in Pennsylvania; and I remember that despite it being quite spacious, it still felt dreary and old. I also now think I know why the Hilton Fort Lee hotel property in New Jersey became the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Fort Lee – George Washington Bridge: because the owner probably did not want to upgrade the hotel property to the standards set forth by the Hilton brand; so the property could remain as is while saving the owner money without having to leave the Hilton brand portfolio.

Because the standards of Delta Hotels and Resorts will apparently be more relaxed that other brands of Marriott International, Incorporated, expect that chain of hotel properties to have a similar inconsistent and dated — perhaps even dreary — ambiance and feel to them; and that seem to be a sad thing to do to an established brand of hotels in Canada. Of course, not all hotel properties of conversion brands will feel that way, as some of them will feel just as modern and fresh as similar hotel properties under other brands.

If you prefer consistency and want to stay in a more modern hotel with more amenities and improved service, you may want to avoid conversion brands such as DoubleTree and — apparently — Delta Hotels and Resorts; and you may not save a significant enough amount of money staying in a conversion brand versus other brand concepts. This is a general statement which may vary from hotel property to hotel property; so do your research first before arriving at a final decision as to where to stay if you indeed have a choice.

Source: Marriott International, Incorporated.

2 thoughts on “What is a Conversion Brand — and Why You Might Want to Avoid It”

  1. HORACE says:

    FYI: I’m not the FT Horace.

    However, I do have some comments.

    I really have no problem with the relaxation of brand standards to add more hotels where I can earn/spend points at as I never make my hotel choices on $$ cost or brand standard alone.

    I always research my choices on TripAdvisor and FT and then make a decision with the information at hand.

    Although there may be some sub-standard DTs around, I generally won’t see them if my research is correct and so too, will be the introduction of Delta hotels — so I am happy that I have greater offerings to choose from, sort of like the introduction of the Autograph Collection, which Hilton copied with its Curio and Canopy brands, and SPG has done with it’s Tribute portfolio

    In addition, I am planning a trip to England next summer and I am amazed at the great DT conversions that Hilton has managed to access across the pond, and many for quite a small number of points, no less!

  2. Michael says:

    Brian, just found this article and think it’s very helpful to keep the points you make in mind. I just got burned by choosing to stay at the new Doubletree Times Square West in NYC. Couldn’t evaluate the hotel before booking b/c there were zero traveler-taken photos on Tripadvisor, but the management photos looked nice enough. Really a nasty place with TINY rooms w/ no furniture, amenities or soul. Felt like a Motel 6 in the sky. I think it was new construction, but your point stands that there’s clearly an ultra-loose brand standard at work here. I’ve been to other high-rise Doubletrees in NYC & Philly, so this junk quality was stunning. can’t believe that Hilton would put the same flag on such different hotels. I’m really going to do my homework before booking a Doubletree or Delta hotel going forward.

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