Late last month Ashley Ewing Parrott, who was named a Boutique Design 18 honoree in 2019, announced the launch of Ashley Ewing Parrott Consulting, a full-service consulting agency for full- and limited-service hotel properties worldwide. With nearly a decade of hospitality industry experience, Parrott most recently served as director of brand management for Marriott International’s Tribute Portfolio, where she applied a consistent creative brand marketing and management approach to boutique properties across five continents. Boutique Design recently connected with Parrott to discuss why it was the right time to venture out on her own, what types of clients she’ll be working with, and more.
Tell us about your new consulting venture.
It is a boutique hospitality firm that is focused on collaboration and teamwork.The consultancy focuses on rallying multidisciplinary teams as passionate contributors while balancing budget, design, brand, and guest experience. My goal is to re-imagine the way hospitality projects are developed and operated by leveraging a proven but flexible process. I provide development and conversion consulting services as well as pre- and post-opening brand strategy, sales and marketing support for full- and limited-service properties across the globe.
Why was now the right time to venture out on your own?
Like so many of my colleagues in the hospitality industry, the last five months were filled with uncertainty. When our company’s furlough was announced I sprang into action reaching out to a few contacts with active projects underway to inquire about contract work. Never been one to sit still, I needed to fill my time and supplement lost income. As the first months passed, my contract work continued, and I allowed myself to dream a little bit. I have always wanted to start my own consultancy. When furlough was ultimately extended through October, a voluntary severance package was made available. I loved my job with Tribute Portfolio and Marriott International, but this seemed like a sign that the time was right. Fellow entrepreneurs have said that it is never easy to take the leap into business ownership, and I know that some people would consider my timing to be absolutely crazy, but I believe that I have something valuable to offer owners and developers during this difficult time.
What types of clients will you be working with/are you interested to work with, and what services do you offer?
As director of brand management for Tribute Portfolio, I saw firsthand the effects of COVID-19 on hotels’ ability to effectively execute brand management and marketing strategies, particularly given the vast number of layoffs and furloughs within the industry. Messaging and brand positioning will be more important than ever before. Perception is everything. I intend to fill a void in the hospitality consulting marketplace by partnering with hotels on an array of much-needed services that will benefit them well beyond this pandemic, including strategic brand and marketing consulting, guest experience evaluations, PIP assessments, interior and exterior styling, and more.
There is an opportunity to offer the investment community a collaborative, cost-conscious, and holistic approach to hotel development and operations. I view the process of conversions, renovations, new construction, and openings with a bit of a different perspective. Through my experiences working both on-property and above-property, as well as at Marriott International’s corporate headquarters, I understand the lodging industry from all angles and look forward to offering owners and developers access to the knowledge that I have acquired to protect their budget while creating future award-winning properties.
What advice do you have for any potential clients in this current difficult market and time?
As cliché as it may sound, this too shall pass.The hospitality industry has weathered storms in the past, most recently 9/11, 2008’s Great Recession, and now COVID-19. The recovery will likely be slower, but we will recover. For projects currently under construction, value engineering wherever possible will be so important. If it is not already, this must become a team effort. By including all disciplines in the VE analysis and allowing each party to bring a list of cost cutting suggestions to the table, ownership is ultimately more likely to make decisions that reduce overall costs without sacrificing design integrity.
For the moment, the best thing open hotels can do is assess the current damage to their 2020 and 2021 goals, adjust their forecasts accordingly, and begin drafting their sales and marketing strategies for the recovery. It will be difficult to shift dollars into a marketing campaign when revenue is down so significantly, but know that what you are able to invest into awareness, whether through social media, email marketing or updates to your vanity site, will pay off in the future. You are now in the business of rebuilding your guest’s confidence in travel.
Photo: Kinley, Cincinnati Downtown, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, where Parrott was the project manager for every aspect of the hotel, from hiring the architecture firm and interior designer to securing the location and floorplans.