Boutique Hotel Group Finds It's Niche in University Towns

BoutiqueHotel
Travel News 13 Jul 2017

WHILE THERE IS INCREASING CONSOLIDATION IN THE HOTEL INDUSTRY, SOME BRANDS ARE GOING ANOTHER WAY. GRADUATE HOTELS IS GEARING THEIR PRODUCT SPECIFICALLY TO CATER FOR UNIVERSITY COMMUNITIES, FROM ACADEMIC STAFF TO STUDENTS, ALUMNI TO VISITORS.


Although their first two properties in Tempe Arizona and Athens Georgia only opened in 2014, their expansion plans are nothing if not ambitious.  ‘We’re open in six markets today. We’re opening four more properties this year so we’ll be up to 10 hotels by the end of this year. … We’ll have 15 hotels or close to it by the end of 2018. We really set a goal of getting to 20 hotels by the end of 2020’ said Graduate Hotels President Tim Franzen.

As great deals in the heart of large metropolitan areas become harder and harder to find, and competition in the hotel industry intensifies, Graduate started looking at secondary markets.  Specifically, university towns that frequently experienced room shortages during big football weekends, conferences, graduations and so on. These communities also seemed to be more resistant to recession than others, making investment all the more attractive.

But rather than simply offering a ‘normal’ hotel experience in these places, Graduate aims their product directly at academic travelers.  As Franzen observes ‘I think what makes us particularly unique or special is really the depth and subtlety of our storytelling. All of the interior design comes from in-house, and we have our own staff of interior designers headed. They do a tremendous job and spend a lot of time and care researching these communities and the university, and really telling the story of those community and universities, of their culture, through very subtle interior design methods’.

For instance, their newly opened Berkeley location is modeled on the sensibilities of Indiana Jones, a fictional Berkeley staff-member. ‘What would his pied a terre look like? What if he threw you the keys and said, "Have fun in Berkeley?" It wouldn’t be one design aesthetic. It would be fascinating bits and pieces. Lived-in and warm. Worldly and global’ says Ben Weprin, founder of Graduate.

With a new development planned for Roosevelt Island to accompany the new Cornell Tech campus, and more than 70 locations around the United States identified as possible expansion opportunities, the college near you could soon boast its own bespoke Graduate hotel.