19-The Brand is Worth More than the Land

The modern hotel industry is really two separate businesses. The first business includes companies that have the hotel brand names. These companies manage and operate hotels. These companies include InterContinental Hotels Group, Starwood, Wyndham and Marriott. The second group are companies that are owners of the hotel properties. Most of these are REITs.

In a deteriorating market, the hotel operators, the first group of companies, perform better than the hotel owners because they have lower leverage and higher margins. These operating companies also have higher operating margins over an extended period of time.

At one time, the operators both owned and operated hotels. Most of them concluded, in the late 80s and early 90s, that they made far more money managing a brand than they did owning the land. They sold off the ownership of the hotels to people who would add a great deal of leverage in order to get an attractive return.

In any normal market, it is better to be the brand owner with the customer than to be the holder of other assets. The company closest to the consumer’s mind usually makes the best return on investment.

Posted 5/8/08

Update:

Through several acquisitions at different price points and organic growth, Marriott has become the world’s largest hotel company in 2021, with 1.4 million rooms. Other brands familiar to western consumers include Hilton, at number three, IHC at number four and Wyndham at number five. All of these companies now follow the same cost approach of managing a brand while letting other people own most of the assets.  A successful cost management approach in an industry is copied by all industry leaders over time. The only really sustainable cost advantage in an industry usually comes from superior Economies of Scale.

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THE SOURCES FOR STRATEGYSTREET.COM: For over 30 years we observed the evolution of more than 100 industries, many hostile.  We put their facts into frameworks applicable to all industries and found patterns.  Strategystreet.com describes the inductive results of these thousands of observations and their patterns.