KIRKLAND, WA—Noble House Hotels & Resorts only acquires about two to four properties a year. The company refers to this as “controlled growth,” a strategy that has worked for Noble House, letting each property still maintain its unique charm.
Originally founded as Pacific Seaboard Group in 1979, the Seattle-based company owns and manages boutique luxury resorts throughout the country, with properties in California; Washington; Wyoming; Colorado; Texas; Florida and abroad with a location in Rossland, BC, Canada, with more than 21 assets and plans to expand.
“One of the biggest strengths of the portfolio is our locations,” said Sean Mullen, president of acquisitions, Noble House Hotels & Resorts. “Two-thirds of the collection are in desirable, waterfront locations, as well as being at the doorstep to national parks, deep in the heart of wine country and slope-side at world-class ski resorts in North America. These locations have allowed the portfolio to stay competitive over decades and compete within their respective markets.”
While each property has that impossible-to-replicate-type feel, that’s just what happens to be the common thread between all Noble House properties: strength and character. A diverse portfolio surely gives Noble House an edge, and according to Mullen, seeking unexpected opportunities is a focus for the company.
“Most hotel companies would not look at a train. However, we were able to research and see The Napa Valley Wine Train for its history and potential moving forward. This asset is exactly a reflection of what we can do very well—providing an outstanding guest experience with incredible food and beverage, all in a unique setting of riding a train through wine country,” he said.
Noble House currently has six properties in different stages of construction and pre-opening, and while the company has focused mostly on resorts, it’s seeing more and more opportunities in city centers.
For 2019, Noble House is working to build a greater presence in the Northeast, specifically, as it represents one of its largest customer bases. The company is actively looking at properties in markets like New York, New England and in the South in Nashville, TN; Charleston, SC; and in Texas. Mullen said that Noble House also has several mountain resorts in mind for the coming year, a market that produces year-round demand.
“Our current plan is to continue to enlarge our relationships with our current financial partners and to develop opportunities within these key markets. We look at each asset as a long-term play and put extra emphasis on ensuring we are in alignment with our capital partners. Through this network, we expect to curate some new hotels in these areas of North America,” Mullen said.
With luxury guests wanting local, authentic hotel stays, Mullen believes these markets can truly deliver boutique experiences.
Another trend that Noble House continues to monitor in this space, Mullen said, is major flags buying management companies and brands to expand or even capture the boutique luxury segment.
“This is causing guests to conduct more research on the hotel as well as ownership groups to rethink their operating company—ideally pushing the few remaining companies like Noble House Hotels & Resorts to the forefront,” he said.
Mullen explained that this sparks concern specifically with capital partners that have expressed issues with increases in fees due to the large flags, loss of ability to interact with key decision-makers as well as being a partner focused on the individual asset.
Noble House’s mantra of controlled growth remains true here as the company avoids the clutter of too many brands and ventures, confusing customers and spreading management too thin.
“I continue to read guest satisfaction and marketing reports that show very mixed reviews to flags having this new division,” Mullen said. “The good news is the trend shows even more conviction and research by the traveling segment for hotel and resort experiences with years of history and results.”
Mullen said he’s noticing hotel guests becoming disappointed with big companies’ entry into the segment, not delivering the genuine experience they promise.
“By remaining very selective with our expansion, focusing on the individual hotel and not the parent company, and retaining experienced associates in the segment, we are able to remain an outstanding value and resource for hotel owners,” he said.
Timing seems to be key for Noble House given its expansion strategy—a strategy that requires patience but also a focused work ethic. Mullen marked the importance of doing the “right thing,” something the company extends to all members of its team.
“While that may seem like a hardcore value, our associates enjoy the empowerment to make decisions at the right time based on the situation versus having to look at a large manual and then getting layers of approval—today’s associates are looking for a place where they feel like they are contributing to the company’s vision by making important choices,” Mullen said. “For the right deal, we are fortunate to have a team of leaders who are focused on the correct situation and not having to add another brand or another hotel simply to make a stock price increase.”
This approach has proven to be a success for Noble House, as the company produced record revenue, RevPAR and profitability at all of its stabilized assets last year, Mullen said.
“While profitability has several headwinds, we were able to be out ahead of the issues, fulfill the plan and achieve the EBITDA,” he said.
In 2018, the company opened a new-build ski resort located on Red Mountain in British Columbia, filling a hole in the area’s ski resort offerings.
Noble House also focused on refreshes last year, completing phase three of construction at Kona Kai Resort & Spa on Shelter Island in San Diego. Renovations also shaped up as Florida properties completed Hurricane Irma restorations. Ocean Key Resort & Spa in Key West relaunched its Sunset Pier, and LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort in Naples finalized phase two of a multi-year planned renovation that moved along despite the storm.
Whether it’s revamping spaces or strengthening its growth and industry relationships, Noble House has plans to continue its mindful approach and thoughtful expansion.
“We have continued to evolve with new operating contracts,” Mullen said. “These relationships were fostered over decades waiting for the right timing and opportunities. While the strategic plan of phase two for expansion was put into place in 2009, the continued expansion is gratifying to see come to fruition.” HB