February 21, 2008 in Business

Valley’s Pheasant Hill Inn gets a new, local brand

By The Spokesman-Review

Formerly a Best Western, the 104-room hotel across from Valley Hospital and Medical Center has a new name: Pheasant Hill Inn & Suites Magnuson Grand Hotel.

The change reflects a switch to a new hotel brand offered by Spokane-based independent group Magnuson Hotels. Founded five years ago to help independent hotels attract reservations, the company last fall began offering its own branding.

Recently remodeled Pheasant Hill is the first regional hotel to adopt the new moniker, and its operators aim to improve its market position through the move.

“We certainly wanted to align ourselves with quality people who can help us in the areas of access to the global distribution system, access to the alternative distribution systems … but also that brain trust in terms of running a good operation,” said Christine Cochran, Pheasant Hill director of operations.

Magnuson Hotels hopes that offering brands will drive business, allowing hotels to tell consumers and travel agents they’re backed by the company’s standards for quality, said Thomas Magnuson, principal and CEO. About 100 hotels are in the process of switching, he said.

“I think this is the fastest-growing brand launch in hotel history,” he said. “Hotel owners can receive complete brand power and results for less than half the cost of a franchise affiliation.”

Privately held Magnuson Hotels serves about 620 hotels across the U.S. and Canada through its branding and other services designed to slash costs and increase revenues for independent hotels, including giving them access to the electronic global booking system used by franchises and big chains. It also offers low-cost employee health insurance and access to commercial lending.

Instead of charging hotel owners a percentage of their gross revenue under the traditional franchise model, Magnuson Hotels charges hotels a portion of reservations made through the company’s worldwide system. Owners who’ve adopted the brand get a semiannual reward.

“Each six months, a Magnuson-branded hotel receives a cash rebate from the reservation fees paid,” Magnuson said. “So the higher their reservation revenue climbs, the larger the payback.”

The company seeks to serve 1,000 affiliates within about a year, he said.

Many new hotels in the state have branding associated with them, but a couple of existing hotels also recently became independent, said Jan Simon, president and CEO of the Washington State Hotel & Lodging Association.

“For some hotel owner-operators, it gives them the best of all worlds,” she said of Magnuson Hotels. “What it really underscores is the wide variety and multitude of iterations in the lodging industry right now.”

Pheasant Hill owners Bud and Kathy Gabriel, of Portland, spent more than $1 million remodeling the hotel over the last two years, Cochran said.

Minimum standards set by some chains can prevent hotel operators from offering amenities, she said. Magnuson Hotels allows more freedom.

“We had issues with that,” Cochran said. “We didn’t just want to satisfy our guests, we want to wow our guests.”

Magnuson Hotels offers three quality levels of branding, from economy “M-Star” hotels to upscale “Magnuson Grand” hotels. Designations are based on rates, ratings and amenities.

Hotels in Tennessee, Maine and Pennsylvania also have adopted the brand, he said.

“This hotel ranks very highly in all those area,” Magnuson said of Pheasant Hill. “It’s extra special that a hotel this nice can be identified right here in our hometown.”

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email