Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville's Hotel Football in Manchester has joined Marriott International's Tribute Portfolio soft brand for independent hotels.
Under the franchise agreement Singaporean businessman Peter Lim and former Manchester United players Neville, Giggs, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Philip Neville will remain the majority owners of the 133-bedroom hotel. Their management company, GG Hospitality, will continue to manage and operate the property.
The property will become the second under Tribute Portfolio in the UK, joining the Great Northern hotel in London's King's Cross and will now have the full title of Hotel Football, part of the Tribute Portfolio. The Tribute Portfolio is described as a collection of independent boutique hotels with character that are rooted in their local community.
Speaking to The Caterer, Winston J Zahra, chief executive of GG Hospitality (pictured right alongside Mark James, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville), said: "We were looking to soft brand the property, obviously the Hotel Football brand itself is a very strong brand and very well-established in Manchester over the last four years. But, because we're an independent hotel, we were looking for a much larger hotel group to work closely with and collaborate with, but with a soft brand.
"The Tribute brand allows you to keep your own identity and continue to operate in your own way. The big thing for us was that we are fully in control of what we deliver, and because Hotel Football is such as specific brand that was important to us.
"Tribute was perfect for us because we have Marriott behind us, we keep our brand, and we have full access to the Marriott system. We have a lot of respect for many other brands out there, but the chemistry with Marriott, the discussions with Marriott, fitted exactly where we wanted to get. The fact that they've now signed with Manchester United is an added bonus. It fits even more perfectly."
Marriott and Manchester United also signed a multi-year marketing partnership last week, giving the 120 million members of Marriott's Bonvoy loyalty programme exclusive opportunities to bid for "once-in-a-lifetime" football experiences.
"We were only aware of that after we had agreed," said Zahra. "Obviously that is a great collaboration as well as it fits perfectly with our strategy and I'm sure it will be very good for us and very good for Marriott and the club as well, we're all on the same page as far as this is concerned."
AccorHotels has also announced a similar partnership between its ‘lifestyle loyalty programme' ALL (Accor Live Limitless) and Paris Saint-Germain Football Club.
Zahra joined the group nearly a year ago to grow GG Hospitality's brands, which include Hotel Football, Café Football, GG Events and Catering, as well as the soon-to-be-launched Stock Exchange MCR hotel, the 41-bedroom boutique hotel set to open in Manchester's Grade-II-listed former stock exchange building this summer, with a particular focus on rolling out the Hotel Football brand in the UK and internationally.
He confirmed the plan is still to expand the Hotel Football brand although "it's still early days" and that the group's Stock Exchange hotel in Manchester is "still on track".
With regards to whether other Hotel Footballs would be Marriott-branded, he said: "We have the potential to do that, it will very much depend on where they are located and what other properties Marriott may have in the vicinity of those locations."
John Licence, vice president, premium and select brands Europe, Marriott International, said: "We are delighted to welcome Hotel Football as the first Tribute Portfolio property in Manchester. With its playful character and bold identity, the hotel and its buzzing social spaces are a true reflection of Tribute Portfolio's stay with character ethos."Get The Caterer every week on your smartphone, tablet, or even in good old-fashioned hard copy (or all three!).