The independent luxury hotels that form part of the Autograph Collection are making a mark on the accommodations landscape for their distinctive feel and singular character. We reached out to Kip Vreeland, brand vice president for Autograph Collection at Marriott International, to find out what makes them different and what agents should know about this recently launched collection.
Sarah Muñoz: How did this collection come about?
Kip Vreeland: Autograph Collection was created to increase the value we provide to our stakeholders…from owners and franchise partners, and our customers around the world. Autograph Collection allows Marriott International to further demonstrate our innovative culture to provide additional lodging options for our Marriott Rewards Members, while growing our distribution through new and unique lodging options.
SM: How do you choose which hotels become part of the Autograph Collection?
KV: The hotels that are candidates for the collection must be in the upper-upscale or luxury lodging tier. They need to have high-quality elements to their product and service. They also need to have a defined guest experience that differentiates them from their competitors. Finally, they need to be safe, as determined by Marriott’s Fire and Life Safety standards.
SM: What makes them distinctive and “worthy” of being part of this brand?
KV: Great question! Unique, distinct, and independent are three descriptors of our hotels. This is most obvious through the brand of the hotel, and how the interior design and operations teams of the hotel activate that theme. There are several touch points through the guest journey (check in, key packet, menu options, etc.) that we ask the hotel to support their distinctive classification. In some cases, it may be how they pull through the historic nature of a hotel. In others, it’s the art concept that flows from all parts of the hotel. In still others, it’s the trendy and design theme of the hotel that makes them unique. Autograph Collection team does not dictate or mandate a certain theme.
SM: Are there now some common amenities and / or benefits that are common to the properties?
KV: The only common elements would be related to the Marriott Rewards members and their benefits. And in some cases, there is even flexibility in those items, such as the in-room amenity that our Platinum guests receive. Otherwise, the thread that runs through these hotels is product quality, service quality, and safety.
SM: Are there any new properties coming up in 2012?
KV: Absolutely! The Collection today has 26 hotels open and operating. We will finish the year with at least one more hotel, and another three are lined up for January. We anticipate that with the expansion of the Collection in Europe now well underway, and our next move to Asia, that we will finish 2012 with close to 60 hotels.
SM: What should travel agents know about selling and booking these hotels?
KV: Travel agents should know that the Autograph Collection uses the “AK” chain code, which also falls under the “EM” code for Marriott. They should know that these hotels can offer their clients an exciting new option for their travel needs for business, leisure, or group business. The food and beverage offerings are outstanding, as are the various experiences that the hotels offer. From cooking classes (Mansion on Forsyth Park, Savannah), to ATV tours (Kessler Canyon, Debeque, CO), to exciting art expositions (The Henry, Dearborn MI, Asheville Grand Bohemian, Asheville, NC), there is always something new at Autograph Collection hotels, and they can be confident that the service and product levels will be of a very high quality. Otherwise, they would not be in our Collection. And, of course, their clients would get all of the benefits of our Marriott Rewards program, including the earning of points with their stays, and the ability to redeem their points at our hotels.
For more information, visit autographhotels.com.