Deep dive with Arlett Hoff, director development, SV Hotel

Swiss-based SV Group’s hotel arm, SV Hotel, is intending to triple its Stay KooooK extended stay brand, so THP News caught up with the division’s development director to get the lowdown on the plan.

Arlett Hoff outlined the company’s own brand strategy as well as how the firm manages hotels for major groups such as Marriott International and Hyatt Hotels Corporation.

What does SV Group’s current hotel project pipeline look like?

SV Hotel’s project pipeline is constantly growing and evolving. Currently we have six hotels actively under construction with the vast majority (four) of those branded as Stay KooooK, our extended stay lifestyle brand. Within the next two years we will have added prime locations in Leipzig, Hamburg and Munich in Germany and Geneva in Switzerland to our portfolio. This means a tripling of the current Stay KooooK portfolio, and we are just at the beginning. On an ongoing basis we evaluate leads and opportunities in very exciting micro-locations for our Stay KooooK brand as well as our franchised select-service lifestyle portfolio.

What countries or regions are you looking at to further expand your own Stay KooooK brand?

For the moment we want to get more traction in the DACH region and therefore concentrate our efforts on primary and secondary (maybe even tertiary) cities in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. In the next few years we are envisaging to enter Europe beyond the DACH markets.  

Do you tend to prefer conversions or newbuild sites for hotel projects?

Both have their opportunities and challenges. In the current market environment there are barely any greenfield developments so the focus clearly is on conversions. We have developed our Stay KooooK brand even before covid with that in mind – it is an extremely space efficient concept that allows us to optimise the buildable/rentable space which impacts rent positively.

What prospects do you see for development in the extended stay sector going forwards?

In my view that is one of the sectors that will absolutely blossom in the next five years. It is just a win-win: very attractive from a guest perspective as it offers a unique and rounded guest experience (not only for long stay guests by the way) and also attractive to owners as it has proven to be the most crisis- resilient hospitality format.

What criteria do you use to choose suppliers for each hotel project?

As with any brand we have certain brand requirements for Stay KooooK; particularly in regards to FF&E. Decision making is based on the following criteria (in no particular order): price, design, quality (made in Europe not China!), experience in the hotel sector, references and other similar projects, past collaboration success stories, speed of communication and flexibility, repair/guarantees policy. Last but not least, sustainability is an ever growing consideration.

You operate hotels for several Marriott brands as well as Hyatt Centric, how do you choose which sites to take on?

This is a case by case decision for each project. We run detailed market analysis and business plans that underpin a sustainable partnership with the owner. We generally tend to gravitate towards city centre locations rather than suburban/fringe or airport locations. For Stay KooooK we are looking for about 60-80 units and fit very well into the upper floors of a building, for example, nicely complementing a retail usage on the ground floor. We also have a track record of successfully operating dual brands like our Moxy and Stay KooooK combo in Bern.

How do you decide when to renovate the franchise hotels in your portfolio?

As part of the management board I am involved in making those decisions. In hotels you tend to fully renovate every 7-10 years and in between just general upkeep and maintenance. Ultimately that decision is driven by guest feedback and the state of the property. 

Are you considering taking on the franchise for any other hotel brands?

At the moment we are happy with our current partners. We do operate on a long term partnership basis and hence for us this is a decision that will not be taken/evaluated each year but of course we keep an open eye and want to keep our fingers on the pulse of the market. Ultimately, we want to grow and expand considerably.

Which hotel segments do you think have the most potential for expansion?

I do believe that the segments we are focusing on – lifestyle, select-service and extended stay are amongst the fastest growing post-pandemic. The key to success in my view is giving a choice to the guest to fully customise and tailor their journey – for example Stay KooooK is fully digitalised on the front and back end with our own technical solution called ‘like Magic’. However, we also have a host onsite for human interaction so the guest can choose their preferred interaction way. 

How do you see SV Hotel progressing over the next few years?

Our aim is to have 100-150 Stay KooooK properties within the next 10 years. The European market definitely shows a substantial potential that we want to make the most of. Equally, we want to further expand with our franchised hotels. There are indeed very exciting times ahead.