SAN FRANCISCO—Allison Reid, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants’ new chief development officer for the Americas region, doesn’t have a traditional development background—and that’s an asset she plans to use to grow the brand in up-and-coming markets.
“From a development standpoint, I offer a different experience than most of my predecessors and competitors,” she explained. “I came up through property-level operations and finance organizations. For the past 20 years, I worked at the corporate level with roles in branding, operations, finance, real estate investment, investor relations, owner relations, franchising and development—all of which gives me a strong 360-degree view of the lodging space.”
Having worked for Interstate Hotels & Resorts and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Reid is well acquainted with the industry. “The upper-upscale and luxury segments… have evolved over the past 30 years and today include everything from specialty select-service, boutique and uber-luxury—terms that didn’t even exist when I began my career,” she said, adding that boutique/lifestyle resonates with her. “The elevated design, experiential offerings and guest-centric service is an extension of how I try to live my own life. Kimpton has always been a leader in this space, and as a former competitor I know the value it brings to its owners, developers, customers, clients and employees.
“When deciding what the next chapter of my career was going to be I was committed to focusing on the things I enjoyed the most: developing strong relationships, but also spending more time grooming deal executives, participating on evolving brands and markets,” she said. “I wanted to focus on the quality of my participation as opposed to the quantity of things I’ve done.”
For Reid, Kimpton has three major differentiators: authenticity, nimbleness and F&B. Her immediate plans are to complete a successful onboarding phase—getting to know the operations and brand team, visiting and listening to existing owners and developers—but, she added, “From day one, the goal is to close deals. The best way to do that is to focus on making sure everyone on the team understands the economics of each deal and the owner/development investment proposition.”
She added, “If Kimpton can effectively convey the brand’s culture and purpose, demonstrate the investment analysis and explain how the brand plugs into IHG’s powerful distribution system, the sky is the limit. Like today’s customer, owners and developers don’t have to be sold on the Kimpton guest experience, so it’s my job to make sure the investment thesis is clearly explained. This year’s goals include closing deals, building out a pipeline for 2018 and outlining a robust three-to-five-year growth plan.”
Kimpton currently has 59 hotels and 77 restaurants and bars in the U.S., Caribbean and Netherlands, with 18 signed projects in the global pipeline and many more in the discussion phase.
As for the future, Reid noted that Kimpton’s growth strategy has always been “thoughtful.” She said, “The best thing about leading Kimpton’s development efforts is that it’s a brand that can be a successful investment in many primary, secondary and even some tertiary markets. One of the best parts of the job is working with owners and developers that have vision for a new market. You get to see the transformation of markets and buildings. There’s nothing better than working on a transformative project… There’s high demand for up-and-coming cities around the country from urban hubs to coastal retreats. One white space is in secondary markets, which are hungry for a boutique product. By entering this space early on, we’re able to satisfy the demand and contribute to the city’s tourism efforts.
“It’s an exciting time in the market,” she continued. “Developers are literally transforming cities and neighborhoods throughout the world, providing creative and interesting spaces for guests, local residents and associates. Tempe, AZ, is a great example. It’s home to ASU and is also an emerging tech hub with Fortune 500 offices relocating to the area. It was before my time, but Kimpton signed a deal in this market. It will be exciting to bring Tempe its first modern, boutique hotel.”
Reid noted that the industry has become crowded, with many brands looking to offer boutique, authentic experiences. “I know firsthand that building a brand isn’t easy. The great thing about Kimpton is that it’s a proven success in many cities and many markets. It has survived many market cycles. It has a loyal following of not only guests, but owner/developers and associates. I will take that over a new entry any day of the week,” she said. HB