Over the past decade, nearly every major hotel company has introduced a “soft brand” –– an associated collection of independent hotels that retain their unique branding and continue to make their own operating decisions. The shift toward the soft brand model has gained momentum as travelers increasingly demand unique experiences, owners and operators look to drive customer loyalty, and big hotel chains seek opportunities to consolidate the global independent hotel market.
But are soft brands a net positive for hotel owners? Some may argue that soft brand arrangements are advantageous for independent hotel owners who do not want to be constrained by the same strict standards as a “hard brand” (such as a Hilton or Wyndham Grand), but want to benefit from a larger hotel company’s sales, marketing, loyalty, and distribution networks. Despite the perceived benefits of joining a soft brand, there are a number of things to consider that make this a complex decision for a hotelier.