InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has launched a new upscale conversion brand called Voco, with several Principal hotels set to join the portfolio.
The brand will allow owners the flexibility to interpret the brand's bright and bold honey yellow and petrol blue colour scheme in a way that is sympathetic to their properties, while the existing name of hotels will be able to be retained alongside the use of the Voco name and signage.
IHG intends Voco, meaning ‘to invite' or to ‘come together' in Latin, to combine the informality and charm of independent properties with the quality and reassurance of a global brand.
Properties will be in a similar upscale bracket to IHG's Crowne Plaza brand but will have more focus on the leisure market, designed for guests looking for a more relaxed property.
Following the £858m acquisition of Principal by French company Foncière des Régions, now known as Covivio, from the US-based Starwood Capital Group, operator IHG announced plans to split the portfolio between three brands, "a number" of which will become Voco.
The Principal hotels in London and Manchester are set to join IHG's Kimpton brand, along with one of the two Principal hotels in Edinburgh, which is most likely to be the property in Charlotte Square. The Principal Edinburgh George Street may then once again become an InterContinental hotel, having been sold by IHG in 2005.
With two Principal hotels in Glasgow (Grand Central and Blythswood Square), it is expected one will join InterContinental, while the other will become a Kimpton. The fate of the other hotels in the Principal portfolio in Birmingham (currently under development), Leeds, York, Cardiff and Oxford are yet to be decided, potentially leaving them open to Voco branding. It is unknown what will be the fate of two additional hotels acquired by Covivio from Starwood - De Vere Oxford Thames and De Vere Wotton House, which were previously part of Principal's sister brand De Vere.
Globally, IHG is targeting 200 Voco hotels over the next 10 years, with its first signing already confirmed in Australia, the 388-bedroom Watermark Hotel & Spa Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise. The property is shortly to be acquired by IHG's long-standing partner, SB&G, and will open under the Voco flag in late 2018.
Voco will focus primarily on conversion opportunities and will strengthen IHG's offer in the £30b upscale segment, which is expected to grow by a further £15b by 2025.
The brand's food and beverage offer will follow a ‘global and local' theme, with bars offering pre-batched cocktails in order to offer uniform quality across properties, alongside local beverages.
The properties will also have an eco-focus, with duvets and pillows featuring recycled polyester instead of down, and large dispenser bathroom amenities instead of single-use products.
Keith Barr, chief executive of IHG, said: "We've talked about the significant growth opportunity we see for IHG in upscale and Voco will help us deliver against this. We'll work with owners of attractive properties, who appreciate the power and expertise that a global business can bring to the table.
"Guests will be able to enjoy the appeal of a more individual hotel, alongside the reassurance of a name above the door that they trust. The versatility of the brand, means a Voco hotel can retain and celebrate all of the elements that make that existing hotel successful."