IHG launches new upscale ‘conversion brand’ voco – but what is a ‘conversion brand’?

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IHG has announced a new upscale brand which will join its hotel portfolio later this year: voco.

The word voco is latin and means to invite, to call together. The hotels are intended to ‘combine familiar comforts, with the indulgences of a hotel’.

Standard-wise voco hotels will be comparable to IHG’s Crowne Plaza brand and there are plans to have voco city centre hotels as well as resorts.  It is likely that some of the UK Principal Hotel sites that IHG recently bought will be converted into voco.

Here is the voco website.

voco is a conversion brand

Let me explain what that means ….

Voco hotels

Most hotel brands come with a very long checklist of standards.  Whether it is to do with minimum room sizes, 24 hour room service, the size of the beds, the provision of desks, the provision of a coffee maker, the requirement for showers to be ‘power showers’ etc, there is a long list of boxes which must be ticked.

‘Conversion brands’ do not need to tick any boxes.  As long as they meet a general quality standard, they are ‘in’.  There is also often no requirement to sign up to timetabled refurbishments.  This makes them attractive to hotel owners who want to switch from their current brand.

IHG's new upscale hotel brand, voco

Karin Sheppard, managing director of IHG Europe said about voco that the “Upscale segment of the hotel industry is a $40 billion opportunity and is set to grow by another $20 billion by 2025. It is one which we see the chance to extend through a conversion brand.”

As a conversion brand no two voco hotels will be the same. There is a list of requirements (including a bar), but no fixed brand standards.  In the US, conversion brands are popular with hotels with external air conditioning units – you couldn’t become a Hilton if you had those, but you could become a DoubleTree.  Stucco ceilings in rooms are also generally a ‘no no’.

IHG's new upscale hotel brand, voco

Voco is comparable with Hilton’s DoubleTree brand where every guest knows that they can expect to receive a chocolate chip cookie at check in, but that’s about it.

Hotels that join the voco brand will only receive a small makeover including adding the recognisable voco colour and fabric scheme.  Guests will receive a local welcome treat which will often be a yellow macaroon.

The voco website advertises its hotels as ‘reliable enough to depend on, but different enough to be fun’.

All hotels will have to comply with the three hallmarks (come on in, me time and voco life) and its mascots (finch, owl and flamingo) – click to enlarge:

Voco hotel principals

The first voco hotel will be the Watermark Hotel and Spa Gold Coast in Australia later this year. IHG is striving to open around 200 hotels in the next 10 years, with the UK ex-Principal Hotel sites making up some of the early ones.

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  1. What’s the difference between voco and indigo brands – both seem to have the same concept and roughly the CP equivalent in service?

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