With a focus on urban gateways and Latin America, CDO Brian
Quinn said “we are going to get after it pretty quickly.”
Newsmaker Sonesta International Hotels Corp. is starting to offer details on its plans for The James brand, the latest arrow added to its growing quiver after acquiring the intellectual property for the lifestyle concept from New York City-based Denihan
Hospitality Group in April 2022.
Chief Development Officer Brian Quinn said Sonesta took a
few months to truly wrap its arm around the brand and the best potential positioning, which it will franchise as well as
manage in the U.S. and Latin America, using the licensed The James
Nomad, New York, as its prototype. There will be an increasing emphasis on
beverage programming and timeless design, according to Quinn, who estimated conversion costs
in the range of $60-70,000 per key.
“One thing I have that my competitors don’t is market
availability,” Quinn boasted. “In addition, you can access our executives and I have a
capital partner (Service Properties Trust) that’s invested.”
The brand will get its first flags beyond New York in Chicago and
Washington, D.C., where there are duplicate Royal Sonesta hotels to be
converted. Service Properties Trust (SVC) has also suggested it wants to have marquee
asset in Los Angeles and Miami. So, those are the two specific markets Sonesta is
watching closely for James opportunities, according to Quinn.
Sonesta also expects to grow in Latin America via its master
franchise agreement with Colombia-based GHL Hoteles and it has brought in a
development person to spearhead efforts in Mexico and the Caribbean. “Mexico is
on everybody’s radar and travel calendar because it took a different approach
to COVID,” Quinn added. “They’re trying to get the safety and security concerns
under control, and they continue to make headway.”
It was September 2021 when Sonesta Franchising debuted in
the U.S. with 14 brands and a complete platform of franchise services, hotel
operations and franchise support. The company went from less than 100 hotels at
the beginning of the pandemic to nearly 300 before it acquired RLH Corp. in
early 2021. Today, it has more than 1,200 properties totaling 100,000 guest
rooms across 16 brands in eight countries.
The James brand came into the portfolio in 2022 when SVC
acquired the IP as well as four other hotels in New York City from Denihan.
Quinn added that in true SVC fashion, the plan is to try to
grow The James without much hesitation, adding that new deals should be
announced in 60 to 90 days.
“We are going to get after it pretty quickly,” Quinn said.
“We believe it’s our obligation to take out some of these major markets where
the franchise and partner community will build out the Sonesta spokes and the
extensions, and we were able to even demonstrate that with the James in Chicago
While the brand is likely best suited for major markets and destinations, Quinn thinks it might have deeper potential. “It’s also been interesting for me to watch the secondary markets where people
are starting to demand some of those lifestyle choices... The confluence with
sports, entertainment and culture – I think will drive demand for The James
from some interesting places. So, it’s going to be exciting to see where it
For now, The James brand will be a conversion play due to
challenging macro-economics, but Quinn added that “the worm will turn, and
somebody will get a great piece of land in a great market where the boutique
and lifestyle concept will work.”