Bode and Drift Hotel Brands see group travel as a trend with legs

Skift grip

Small groups, such as weddings, want to mingle, but most hotels don’t make it easy. Meanwhile, vacation rentals often lack professional hospitality services. So many group travelers are looking for better accommodation options.

Sean O’Neill

TMC Hospitality has a theory about traveling to the United States. He estimates that more people are traveling in groups – for meetings, team meetings and destination weddings – than before. But he also feels that today’s typical hotel lacks the amenities to meet the needs of these travelers.

Since 2019, TMC Hospitality has invented, invested in, developed and operated two hotel brands to serve this audience of group travelers: the midscale Predict and the “four star” Derivative.

“They largely cater to what we call ‘social group travellers’, which are groups of three or more people traveling with family, friends or colleagues who want the professional services, amenities and decorating a lifestyle hotel.” said Phillip Bates, Managing Partner of TMC Group and CEO of Bode. “We have multi-bedroom units with living rooms, balconies, or fire pits where people can relax and have coffee or dinner together.”

The Bode and Drift brands are capitalizing on a trend that Skift has identified as The great mergeror the blending of many aspects of people’s lives in a way that seems to endure even as the pandemic recedes.

In search of “destination markets”

TMC Hospitality has chosen markets that tend to attract group travellers. Bode is open in Nashville and Chatanooga. Drift is in San Jose del Cabo and Santa Barbara, with those opening soon in Palm Springs and Nashville. The company said it aims to expand to “30 to 40 markets” and currently manages “over $200 million in projects.”

“We built two data tools to help us quantify and track hot pockets to invest in for hospitality products to accommodate travelers from social groups,” Bates said.

“Nashville is a great example,” Bates said. “A lot of bands go there, like bachelor parties and bachelor parties, because of the local music scene and the food and drink scene. Santa Barbara attracts a lot of weddings and people who attend tennis tournaments and all kinds of festivals.

The company is studying markets such as Savannah; Charleston, South Carolina; Greenville, South Carolina; Atlanta; San Diego; Austin; Los Angeles; and several cities in Florida.

Services for groups

Both brands aim to serve group travelers, but Drift has an upscale element.

“We had a handful of guests at Bode who wanted a more sophisticated design and a more tactile offering, so we created Drift,” Bates said. “A Drift can have a pantry stocked with the finest gourmet produce from local grocery stores, bakeries and wine shops.”

The properties offer activities to promote social ties. Some groups pay extra for private dinners held in the unit, on or near the property. Some hire yoga instructors to lead group workshops.

“If you take surfing lessons as an example, we’re not doing the traditional activity that’s generically led by someone,” Bates said. “Our philosophy is to provide the signs and equipment along with a map of where the breaks are, and then let the group figure it out for themselves.”

The brands aim for the vibe of visiting a wealthy relative’s country home filled with food and supplies, rather than like a cruise ship with generic activities with strangers.

When groups plan trips, someone usually gets stuck being the planner and paying the bills. TMC is working on creating a digital tool to help reduce customer pain when collecting money from multiple guests.

Technological tools for hotel growth

TMC Hospitality uses a range of technologies to help grow its brands.

To help with distribution, the company markets Drift and Bode as brands on Airbnb and other vacation rental booking services and traditional online travel agencies.

The company says it keeps commission costs low by driving many direct bookings, in part by optimizing its website, pay-per-click ads, social media ads, and other marketing activities. .

It also uses standard software to streamline processes.

“We look at both the entire customer journey and the entire employee journey and see where the pain points and inefficiencies lie,” Bates said. “We’re going to buy off-the-shelf software, but some tools don’t exist for what we want to do, so we have a team of six full-time developers and a project architect who is refining our technology stack for functions. such as revenue, management, sales and marketing, accounting, distribution and, most importantly, streamlining the on-site processes that our employees face.”

Currently, TMC Hospitality does not franchise. He is heavily involved in the development and management of properties to ensure he hires people who are trained to provide more tactile services to groups – and that the formula works overall. He has been the developer or has co-developed with a local partner for his projects so far.

Bode and Drift bet on group travel at a time when major hotel brands are still catching up transparent way to book connected rooms and provide lifestyle decor and services — and at a time when professional property managers are increasingly operating vacation rentals.

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