Starwood To Partner With Design Hotels — Here’s Why This Is Awesome!

Starwood has been in takeover mode for most of the year, a trend which seemed to start earlier in the year, when CEO Frits van Paasschen resigned. There have been lots of rumors swirling around as to who could acquire Starwood, with the front runners now being either Chinese investors or possibly even Hyatt.

That hasn’t stopped Starwood from continuing their independent growth, though. In April, Starwood announced their new Tribute Portfolio brand, which is intended to be a collection of independent hotels. By the end of the year, the brand should have a handful of hotels operating.


I really love the concept in theory, as it’s great to be able to earn and redeem points and take advantage of elite benefits while also staying at a non-cookie cutter property. In other words, you don’t have to sacrifice a unique/authentic experience in order to earn points.

Well, during Starwood’s third quarter earnings call they announced that they plan to announce their 11th hotel brand in the coming weeks. In the coming weeks Starwood plans to announce a marketing partnership with Design Hotels.

Via Hotel News Now:

Starwood officials also said during the call that they have plans to announce a new brand at some point in “a few weeks.”

“We expect to finalize actions in November that consumers will see an 11th Starwood brand through a marketing partnership with Design Hotels,” Aron said. “This will fill a special niche in Starwood’s portfolio, incorporating a handpicked collection of independently owned smaller properties committed to individuality, progressive design and cultural authenticity.”

Aron specifically mentioned some of Design’s properties: The Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City, the Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel in Iceland and the C-Hotel in Lake Como, Italy.

When I first read this, my reaction was “another hotel brand? Really?!” But then I actually went to the Design Hotels website, which changed my opinion in a heartbeat. I think I’m in love.

As it stands, Design Hotels has almost 300 hotels around the world, and they’re all extremely stylish and local.


The best part is that there’s a huge variance in the rates that they charge. There are some which go for $100 per night, and some which go for over $1,000 per night.

But there’s one thing they all have in common — they all look like unique hotels which I’d actually want to stay at.

From a hotel located in the Icelandic countryside


To a gorgeous resort in Indonesia


To a beautiful ski resort in Austria


To a contemporary city hotel in Shanghai


To the well known Gramercy Park Hotel in New York


…Design Hotels really seems to have it all.

While I had heard of some of the individual hotels belonging to Design Hotels, I had never heard of the group as such. And since discovering the collection for the first time a few hours ago, I’m literally finding myself browsing every hotel belonging to the group, and sort of salivating at a majority of them. They’re gorgeous.

This could be a brilliant tie up with Starwood. What makes it interesting is that it sounds like Starwood and Design Hotels would be entering a “marketing partnership.” That sounds somewhat different than the full management contracts Starwood has for most of their hotels.

If this all pans out, it’s my hope that these hotels will all fully participate in the Starwood Preferred Guest program, including the ability to earn and redeem Starpoints, as well as take advantage of elite benefits. That would be incredible.

Bottom line

Here’s to hoping this partnership comes to fruition, and isn’t delayed or reconsidered as a result of Starwood’s aspirations of being taken over (that has to be sort of worrisome to Design Hotels).

I’d be thrilled if this happened, as Design Hotels has some awesome properties, and I do love being able to combine my love of loyalty programs with my love of non-cookie cutter hotels. This would truly be the best of both worlds, as it wouldn’t be a brand which slowly grows, but rather we’d have access to nearly 300 new hotels overnight.

It’s also a huge win-win for Design Hotels, as they’ll get access to an audience which may not have previously considered staying with them. I certainly hadn’t heard of the group as a whole, so I imagine this would get them a lot of new exposure.

What do you make of the potential for Design Hotels to join as a Starwood brand? Which Design Hotel property looks most interesting to you?


  1. Best news of the year when it comes to hotels.

    Been meaning to try the The Vine in Madeira.

    With the Hotel Lone Starwood would now have access to 2 great seaside hotels in Croatia.

    Was really sad when I had to cancel a trip that included Hospes Amérigo in Alicante a few years back.

    The Almyra in Cyprus looks interesting.

    For a cheap way to earn stay credits and a city break in Europe Sense Hotel Sofia in Bulgaria comes to mind. Aegean fly there so could be combined with easy to get *A Gold.

    The Roomers Loft in Frankfurt looks kind of cool.

    One of the funny thing if this comes true is that The Thief in Oslo would now been in both Choice and Starwood, surely that would be kind of unique?

  2. I’m skeptical that all properties currently involved in the Design Hotels marketing partnership are going to join SPG. There is a big difference (in cost) between belonging to a marketing partnership vs. having to participate in a loyalty program where property owners will have to award points for revenue stays, as well as have to accept award reservations. Some smaller properties may see a benefit if they are able to increase their ADRs as a result, but I can’t see some of the higher profile properties (like the Gramercy Park Hotel) justify the cost of joining SPG.

  3. Any idea how long it might take for the Design Hotels to be available via points (assuming they do become available)?

  4. This is great news. I actually have an upcoming reservation for 3 nights at the Park Hotel in Tokyo, a great Design Hotel. From my experience, though in booking a premium corner king room, it was less expensive to book directly with the property than on the Design Hotel Web site.

  5. Are you kidding me? I would never stay in one 😉
    I will never break my loyalty with 4 Points by Sheraton the greatest collection of unique luxury hotels in the world.
    No one can beat the luster of this brand 16 years after Starwood took them over
    Consistency and a great guest experience
    After 100 nights a year I love being told here’s your croissant and coffee for breakfast as a Platinum Plus
    Seriously though interesting development which could become null and void at some point if Starwood gets new owners.

  6. @dwonderment

    Don’t worry, I don’t think 4P have much overlapping property locations with Design Hotels. 😉

  7. Yeah seriously, can they just rid themselves of Sheraton / 4 Points? I can’t think of a dumpier, less-competitive set of hotel chains. Hopefully when Hyatt buys them out they just shut them all down or hand them to Wyndham to become Ramadas or something (which is what seems to happen to most of them anyway that somehow don’t meet the -low- standards of the brand.)

  8. @ Alpha
    Thanks for the good laugh!
    Can you believe Starwood spent millions upping the standards for 4 Points by Sheraton?
    Investment well spent!
    Yes indeed dump them all on Wyndham they can become premium Wyndham Grands

  9. I’ve used Design Hotels in the past to book hotels, and they have never disappointed. Fantastic service and communication from the team, and the featured properties always come through with the promised upgrades/bonus ‘features’, etc.

  10. Will reservations be made ​​through the starwoodhotels website or like happens now with the Las Vegas Cesars Hotel & Cassino? Any hint?

  11. The hotels in Athens are great. Semiramis in Kifissia neighborhood is awesome! Spent almost 4 months there in 2011. If only I’d earned points…

  12. If SPG can add the Gramercy Park and Crosby Street Hotels in NYC, I’ll be thrilled to have those very cool high service boutique properties available. I suspect both would be Category 6 or 7 in the current SPG, since both are high price point hotels in fantastic locations.

    The diversity of geographical locales covered plus price ranges will be a very nice boost for SPG (and Hyatt), particularly with another 190 hotels in Europe alone–where it is quite difficult to add hotel inventory, especially that stands out among the normal chain hotels.

  13. Such great news, I really hope we see this happen.

    I’ve used Design Hotels many times (and this year they’re giving a pretty generous 2,000 Miles & More award miles per booking, even for one night cheap stays), and the higher end hotels in their portfolio are seriously fabulous and so much more interesting than your typical SPG chain hotel.

  14. The aforementionned miles&more partnership already offers some kind of loyalty incentive for using Design Hotels, but other options would also be welcome.
    Plus some lesser known “mini” hotel chains like 25 Hours Hotels (Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, Vienna and Zurich) have also all their properties listed on Design Hotels. For me Design Hotels is the European pendant of Tablet Hotels, what do you think of them? Tablet Hotels for instance has the “mini” chain Mama Shelter (Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux, LA, Istanbul) listing all its properties on their site.

  15. @ Guilherme S — We’ll find out soon. I’d certainly hope you can book through Starwood’s website, which I suspect will be the case if this is a true “marketing partnership.”

  16. There is precedent for such Starwood marketing relationships.

    Starwood has a marketing relationship with ITC group (one of 4 luxury hospitality groups in India with scale) and ITC groups remain independently owned *and* managed whilst being sold and marketed by Starwood channels (in addition to their own) and participate fully in SPG. However, these are large palaces under the Luxury Collection banner. I doubt the smaller Design hotel boutiques will be able to justify even the 5% SPG participation cost let alone the cost of points per stay and dollar.

    What is even more confusing is the “11th brand” statement. They *just* launched Tribute Collection and it seems that launch was tailored and timed just as the domination agreement between Starwood and Design ended (to be subsequently replaced with a closer agreement that this article is about). The Design hotels are *exactly* a mix of Tribute and Luxury Collection definitions. Not sure what happens to TC if Design hotels become an entirely new brand. TC only has less than 5 properties still and if Design Hotels bolts out of the gate with ~300 then why would a new boutique property join Tribute Collection instead of the Design chain.

    I think what’s going to happen is not all Design Hotel brand will participate in SPG because they simply can’t. The marketing agreement probably means they will be sold on Starwood reservation channels and the ones that choose to also be part of SPG can possibly earn a LC or TC tag whereas the rest are classified as Design Partner Hotels or something.

    Also all this chatter about Hyatt, Chinese investors and Starwood has eclipsed the fact that Fairmont is also up for sale. If Starwood, Hyatt, Chinese and IHG are all openly hunting for M&A, sooner or later Fairmont will be snapped up. It is a much easier acquisition target and will fit nicely into any portfolio.

  17. Fingers crossed here too. Love love love a beautiful unique hotel! And I have a nice fat SPG account just waiting for inspiration.

  18. Exciting partnership. Lets hope that Elite benefits are included in the partnership, and that they are offered and executed consistently (i.e. not an opt-in/out arrangement)

  19. Ben,
    Do you think the SPG points can be use to book apartment style Design property? I am thinking the La Reserve Paris, where rooms starts at $2000 a night.

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