A handful of hotel owner and operators with varying portions of their portfolios represented by independent properties convened for a panel during the recent ILES (Independent Lodging Executive Summit) in Las Vegas and assessed the current market for non-branded assets. “Traditionally branded hotels have been a great backstop in case the economy does turn. There’s been a lot of evidence that when we are in a downturn sometimes the branded properties slip less, but now I’m wondering if that’s going to happen this time around…The Internet is such a compelling conduit now for business in general and marketing. Independent properties have really come into their own, so everybody’s looking for a boutique kind of experience. I think the consumer is that much more apt to go in that direction,” said Mary Beth Cutshall, SVP, acquisitions & business development, Hospitality Ventures Management Group, who also cited the potential impact of Airbnb and other disruptors. Chris Green, COO, Chesapeake Hospitality, however, offered a word of caution. “In simple terms, there’s no free rides. If you think you can take a flag off a Hilton and save 13.5 percent [in fees] it’s not going to happen. Because you’re going to spend money on sales and marketing, you’re going to have increased labor, increased soft costs, as well as marketing and social media.” Jayson Seidman, founder/principal, Sandstone Hospitality Developments pointed out some other considerations as well. “One thing that’s important to realize here is we really need to focus on key count. If you’re at the 100-key count level that’s kind of my maximum threshold. If you start pushing into the 150’s or 250’s, even in the major cities, you have to start to getting pretty aggressive on the sales and marketing, as well as with bookings and the OTAs,” he said. Get the full story at Hotel Interactive