As InterContinental Hotels Group’s chief development officer of the Americas, Joel Eisemann oversees the company’s development and conversion activities. With attention to trends, IHG’s strong lifestyle segment is thriving. Eisemann sat down with LODGING to discuss the latest on Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, Hotel Indigo, and EVEN Hotels.
How is Kimpton tracking in its global expansion efforts? We continue to grow the Kimpton brand and add additional units. Just within 48 hours after we announced that we were acquiring Kimpton, I got so many calls from developers and people I knew interested in learning more about how they could be part of the Kimpton growth, and how the combination of IHG and Kimpton together was something they saw as a huge home run. We’re really looking forward to continuing to grow Kimpton, not just in the United States, which is really where Kimpton has been, but also internationally. We’re going to be opening the first Kimpton in the Caribbean, in Grand Cayman, later this year. And in January, we announced the signing of the first Kimpton outside of the Americas, in Amsterdam. So we’re really looking to broaden where we’re going, to London, Europe, and places like that.
Is the best way to get into Europe with a brand like Kimpton through adaptive reuse? I think it will be a combination of conversions of existing hotels and some adaptive reuse. Clearly, with Kimpton the goal is more urban in terms of location, with more support facilities and amenities within walking distance, and that tends to be, a lot of times, an adaptive reuse or a conversion. But that was really one of the great opportunities of us acquiring Kimpton, the opportunity to grow the brand internationally.
The lifestyle trend is driving a lot of hotel growth. Is development for the Hotel Indigo brand ramping up? We’ve had the Hotel Indigo brand for a number of years—it was a brand that we developed ourselves and launched—but 2015 was really a banner year in terms of growth of the brand and some really exciting projects. We opened the Hotel Indigo Lower East Side New York in November, and we opened a new property in downtown Atlanta, next to AmericasMart, that Portman Holdings converted from an older office building. They’re also doing a new-build Hotel Indigo in downtown Denver right near the historic train station. We have a Hotel Indigo that just opened in Savannah, developed and owned by Noble Investment Group. And we have a 350-room Hotel Indigo under construction in downtown L.A. that we expect to open in time for ALIS next year. What’s interesting about Hotel Indigo is it really is a true lifestyle boutique type of property. Each hotel has its own design. The owner has the ability to make the sense of place, and the unique features of the hotel so we don’t have a standard room design so there are unique features in terms of artwork and design and things like that with each hotel.
In terms of attracting developer interest, how do you differentiate Kimpton from Hotel Indigo? The first thing is to think about what product is already on the market. Sometimes, there might already be a Kimpton there, or sometimes there might already be a Hotel Indigo in the market, if the developer’s looking at it. Second is the rate potential in the market. Kimpton is positioned a little big higher than Hotel Indigo in some of the markets. Another thing we look at is, Kimpton is still 100 percent managed, whereas with Hotel Indigo, we are doing both management and franchising. The other thing it comes down to is food and beverage. Hotel Indigo is not as focused on a full food and beverage offering, whereas Kimpton has a big focus on restaurants.
Are you seeing more developer interest in EVEN Hotels now that the first few are open? We launched EVEN Hotels about two years ago, when the first two hotels opened in mid-2014, one in Norwalk, Conn., and the other in Rockville, Md. In November 2015, we opened our first EVEN in New York City at 35th and 8th, and we have one under construction over on 44th and 3rd, and another one under construction in Brooklyn. We did some of these hotels on our balance sheet to show our commitment and support of the brand, but any time you build hotels in some of these high profile, high barriers to entry markets, it takes a while to open. But we’re very enthused about the momentum and the number of developers and franchisees who are approaching us with really terrific projects and are interested in growing with the EVEN hotel brand.