I heap loads of criticism on IHG for their poor treatment of elites respective to their peers, but IHG’s purchase of Kimpton and their subsequent investment in the brand is one of the best decisions the brand has made.
Kimpton Acquired by IHG
At the end of 2014, IHG acquired Kimpton Hotels to build, “the largest boutique hotel business.” At the time, the move was welcomed by IHG elites and loathed by Kimpton loyalists. The question at the time was how true to their values the brand could remain inside of such a huge hospitality machine. Their loyalty program, Karma, has remained in place running parallel to IHG Reward Club.
Kimpton is a Brand IHG Couldn’t Build
Kimpton built their lifestyle brand from the ground up. IHG tried to replicate a similar brand ethos, though in new locations and not in existing classic hotels with their Indigo line. Curio from Hilton and Unbound from Hyatt reflect that this is a market trend. The problem is that Kimpton and similar hotels (Ace comes to mind) has a particular strength in that they know their market and are not trying to play to the masses.
Kimpton had (has) secret words at checkin for added perks. They open up the minifridge and build bars and restaurants customers want to frequent even when they are not staying at the property. This isn’t just another hotel bar.
Continual Investment Improves Kimpton
IHG purchased 18 properties from Starwood Capital which should not be confused with Starwood Hotels & Resorts (purchased by Marriott). This small line of premium boutique (that doesn’t mean small) hotels was a great fit for the brand. Last week my family stayed at the Principal Manchester, soon to be Kimpton Manchester and it embodied what Kimpton Hotels are – quirky, classic, and premium.
Kimpton perhaps could have added to their 70+ hotels with the same acquisition but if so, it would have been an expansion so large that it is unlikely growth could have remained at such a fast clip.
While 18 hotels added to the brand is not an insignificant investment for a company the size of IHG, it is a fraction of what they are capable of offering to the brand. If those hotels perform well (the Principal Manchester was certainly impressive) it will give IHG reason to add to their portfolio further and that makes Kimpton stronger than they could have been as an independent chain.
Is It Enough to Make IHG Great?
No, IHG is too large and has too few properties that touch the level of Kimpton (even with the inclusion of some premium Intercontinental Hotels) of their 5,000+ properties. However, it does give IHG aspirational properties that were few and far between prior to the acquisition. If you must stay in Holiday Inns and Holiday Inn Express hotels across America at least there is something to look forward to at the end.
What do you think? Does Kimpton make IHG a better brand? Has Kimpton benefited from the merger or was it worse for the brand?