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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Comments

  1. the real harry1 says:

    voco
    AN IHG® HOTEL
    Fawlty Towers

  2. Doesn’t sound very upscale!

    “Standard-wise voco hotels will be comparable to IHG’s Crowne Plaza brand” Well the last 2 Crowne Plazas I’ve stayed at have been pretty dreadful. I’ve completely given up on IHG now. Rubbish treatment for its top tier members and rubbish hotels.

    • Terry says:

      Crowne Plaza LA Harbor was a bit tatty also. The Club Lounge was permanently closed, with the room being used to store tables & chairs.

    • Lady London says:

      So far so cheesy

      Sounds a bit like IBIS Styles. The one in Blackpool was really pushing the (lack of) hotel standards.

  3. IHG related, I was looking at options for a stay in Amsterdam and a new IHG hotel showed up: QO hotel. Not sure if this is a new brand within the group or just a one off collaboration. It seems to have mixed reviews. Anyone stayed there?

    • A reader told me he was staying there a while back. Hopefully he sees this and chimes in. I am also curious.

    • Scallder says:

      That would be me. It’s by no means in the centre but it was a 2/3 minute walk to Spaklerweg Metro station which is 10/11 minutes into Centraal. The vibe they’ve gone for is industrial-chic. But the gym space hasn’t opened yet so just beware of that. The night I was there seemed hugely expensive in the whole city so ended up paying €275 (inc tax) which I thought was considerably overpriced (even though work paid for it). Would be happy paying about €200 a night but no more. Rooms are good and bed is comfy, toiletries are nice but in large bottles so no take aways.

      The hotel does however have a very nice cocktail bar on the 21st floor with some lovely views towards the centre of the city and as a Platinum I got a free drink there as welcome gift.

      Btw breakfast is a la carte unless you ask for breakfast at check in which is then for a fixed fee and unlimited. My colleague was offered this upon check in but I wasn’t which I thought was pretty poor (Although may be just from new staff as it only opened a couple of months ago).

      • Scallder says:

        Actually on re-reading that would knock it down to €150 a night given the location…

  4. Nigel says:

    Sounds like a brand to be avoided like the plague! These solo (so low!) standards can only serve to bring down the image of the IHG which has some pretty dire brands already. Principal Hayley hotels were all pretty dire and often very very dated conference based hotels.. IHG are going to have to pour millions into them to make them respectable and as for this latest venture, well, simply having properties in your portfolio is not a good business model if they are freelance loss makers.

    • David says:

      You’ve obviously not been in the old Palace (Manchester) or Russell (Bloomsbury) recently then. Both utterly stunning.

      • Is Russell now run by IHG? As InterCon or Crowne Plaza?

        • It is a Principal Hotel, and IHG is in the process of buying Principal. Likely to be rebranded a Kimpton or voco afterwards. Some other Principals may become IC’s (Manchester?).

  5. Alex W says:

    Presumably free breakfast for IHG elite members is too much to ask at this brand?

  6. Andrew25 says:

    O/T. Has anyone stayed at the Intercontinental Time Square? I plan to stay there next April.on a 5 day break with the wife and 15 year old daughter. Another hotel under consideration is the Crowne Plazza.

    • Peter K says:

      It may not be an IC by next year. They are trying to leave the brand.

    • Tony Cross says:

      I have but this was a good few years back, not long after it opened. I liked the location as it was away from the madness of Times Square and there were a couple of nice neighbourhood eateries just along the way.

      Check in was very efficient, but the downside was the bar. It was a bit too pretentious for its own good, to the extent that as a guest there on business I wasn’t dressed the part & felt ignored by the wait staff as a result.

    • Don’t forget the resort fees recently added to IC TS ….
      https://www.headforpoints.com/2018/05/10/intercontinental-times-square-new-york-resort-fee/

    • Nicky says:

      I stayed there 2 years ago and to be honest would never stay there again. The room was dirty, I could have knitted a jumper from the amount of hair and muck around the outside base of the shower and the list goes on. Forget about saying anything to management as they are not interested. I realise others will rave about the hotel but I would try the Intercontinental Berkeley instead, or if you want a really nice, small, friendly hotel I would recommend either of the Fitzpatrick hotels

      • I’m with you. Great disappointment of a place. Bed factory. No public space to speak of. Lav backed up when I was there. V unpleasant. Front desk staff not particularly gracious either. I’d try one of the Kimptons.

    • Sandra says:

      2 years ago. Good location, need a high floor & some rooms not very big. Staff on reception and in the bar were totally up themselves and not at all friendly in our experience – bar service particularly poor. Some good places around it for food though.

    • barry cutters says:

      iv been in the crowne Plaza a couple of times on reward stays and got upgraded corner TS view on both occasions. Breakfast vouchers are 10usd pp and well worth it.
      Its times square so obviously crazy and full of people. The staybridge suites are pretty good and you get a free drinks hour on weekdays. The holiday inn times square is also fine, but id be tempted by the new CP midtown. -i plan to try it in sept on my next visit.
      Iv stayed at one of the kimptons which was decent , but i think my favorite is the indigo Brooklyn. -realy nice location and quite hip.

    • Yorkieflyer says:

      Crowne Plaza HY36 I can recommend after our 3night stay in February. New with high quality rooms,limited public space but attractive bar and very good staff.

    • Brian says:

      Suggest you look at the Kimptons in New York. No more expensive than the IC (and possibly cheaper) and the Kimpton brand is nice.

  7. Peter K says:

    So basically you are guaranteed nothing except that you can earn and burn IHG points? Doesn’t appeal to me as you might as well go to an independent hotel and use hotels.com.

    • I disagree. Earning and burning with IHG accelerate you get a lot more value than the hotels.com effective 10% rebate. And that’s before credit card points earning and plat/spire bonus earning bonuses.

      • barry cutters says:

        Totally agree with Matt.
        the real benefit is its easy to earn, and great value to burn in the big citys. Last year i did a £1500 stay in NYC for 200k points.
        same for my trip in august this year when i will stay at the CP Z hotel miami. – its 300k for 5 nights. a similar hotel would have cost me £1500 plus.

        Not garunteed however i very often get an upgrade as a SE-A
        i dont need free breakfast – i can just go and buy it with the £1500 i saved on my hotel room thanks.

        • Genghis says:

          +1. Had a nice two night stay at IC Porto. Upgrade to Duplex Suite, nice chocs, cakes and drinks at bar. Not bad for free night with ihg cc and 45k points.

    • Peter K says:

      My point was that you are going to book a hotel where the only standard guaranteed is the points you’ll earn you might as well go for an independent hotel.
      If you want to earn IHG points, which I often do, I’d stay at a hotel where I have more of an idea of what I was getting, not one in the brand that is a bit of a loose cannon.

  8. Nicola walton says:

    OT but IHG related!
    I am trying to book a room through the app to complete my accelerate offer and keep getting a PIN error message. I have tried reloading the app and changing my Pin but to no avail! Any ideas what to do next? Thanks!

  9. the real harry1 says:

    O/T – wife & 2 kids (so 3 of them) travelling to Rome for a few days in August – any tips on decent budget-ish hotel that is central-ish plus will let 3 of them stay in the same room, wife won’t care about sharing double bed with daughter? TIA

    Currently Plat so could easily enrol on any of the Plat hotel status schemes if that helps her get free breakfast etc

  10. Mingus says:

    As childish as it is, I can’t help but point out that it is easy to misread “Come on in me time.” Having made this mistake the first time I read it, that is now the image that sticks.

  11. the real harry1 says:

    sorted, historic centre hotel, not a chain, reviews well
    In Rome City Centre
    Spanish Steps (1-minute walk)
    Trevi Fountain (14-minute walk)
    Colosseum (25-minute walk)
    St. Peter’s Basilica (30-minute walk)
    Piazza del Popolo (2-minute walk)
    Villa Borghese (5-minute walk)
    Piazza Navona (16-minute walk)
    National Gallery of Modern Art (17-minute walk)
    Pantheon (18-minute walk)
    Castel Sant’Angelo (19-minute walk)

  12. 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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