Ashley Ewing Parrott lives and breathes her job at Vision Hospitality Group. Like a new mother, Ashley dotes over The Edwin, Vision Hospitality’s new boutique hotel in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She pays attention to every detail as if the creation is a reflection of herself.
During an interview in the lobby of The Edwin about two weeks after its soft opening, Ashley excused herself to deal with the music streaming through the first floor speakers. Ashley heard at least two “bad words” in a song’s lyrics. Although volume was low, Ashley was so tuned in to the hotel’s activity, she picked up on the questionable muzak and acted to strike the song from The Edwin’s playlist.
“I have to pay attention,” she said.
Ashley, 33, heads Humanist Hospitality, a new division of Vision Hospitality Group that manages Vision’s branded lifestyle, soft-branded and independent hotels.
Ashley joined Vision Hospitality four years ago to lead the sales and marketing of its Moxy hotel in Denver, Colorado. Vision Hospitality Group manages the 170-room upper midscale hotel it developed in partnership with BMC Investments. It is the first ground-up construction of the Marriott International brand in the U.S.
By definition lifestyle hotels are branded properties and come with design and service standards so owners and managers don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
After the successful opening of the Moxy in November 2017, Ashley took on the challenge of The Edwin, a high-end full-service boutique hotel next to Chattanooga’s Bluff View Arts District. It was a first for the city, for Vision Hospitality and for Ashley.
Vision Hospitality broke ground for The Edwin in 2016. It is Vision Hospitality’s first boutique hotel and its first soft-branded property. With The Edwin, Vision Hospitality could develop its own standards in design and amenities, including its restaurant and bar. As with the Moxy, Ashley was responsible for The Edwin’s sales and marketing. She acquired her skills in sales when she worked for Marriott International before joining Vision Hospitality.
Any successful hotel owner or operator will tell you that pre-selling a hotel is vital for a project’s business health. Ashley figured the more she knew about The Edwin, the better she could sell it.
“I dove in head first,” she said. “As The Edwin was under development, I realized I needed to help wherever it was needed. Mitch let me sit in and learn everything I could.”
Ashley immersed herself in the project. Besides sales and marketing, she project managed the hotel’s interior design. She searched for and contracted with a branding agency; and she hired The Edwin’s sales and marketing team. Ashley knew she was given a unique opportunity to make a difference in her career as well as the future of Vision Hospitality, its employees and Chattanooga. Larger companies create silos and employees seldom cross into other divisions. “It’s incredibility important to me that I was given this opportunity. I am very, very grateful. I have learned so much over the past four years.”
Ashely married Strat Parrott in April 2016. Her husband is founder and president of Juncture, a branding company. Residents of Chattanooga, the couple has two cats and a dog – enough responsibility for now as they both strive to build their careers. She motions around The Edwin’s art-filled lobby. “This is my baby.”
The Edwin is a member of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, a soft brand for otherwise independent luxury and upper upscale hotels.
Ashley classifies herself as being part of both the Gen Y and millennial age and culture demographics. It gives her a fresh perspective on what today’s guests want in a hotel. “What the new generation of traveler is looking for is different; what we place value on is different. I think millennials get a hard rap. This generation is innovative, progressive, accepting and open-minded in a way that we have not seen from previous generations.”
The sales executive’s drive and success with The Edwin has led to her promotion as head of Humanist Hospitality, Vision Hospitality Group’s newly formed division that develops and manages its lifestyle and boutique hotels. Under Humanist, is the company’s proprietary brand, Kinley. Ashley said the company formed Kinley after it identified a gap in the boutique hotel sector. “When we started Kinley we wanted a brand that is very approachable in its price point.” Once Ashley got her hands on the brand development, Kinley has evolved into a community-focused offering that caters to travelers of all ages through locally inspired design and F&B concepts.
The first Kinley is to open this year in Cincinnati. The next one is under construction in Chattanooga’s south side. The goal is open Kinley hotels in eight to 10 secondary and tertiary cities. The properties probably will connect to a global distribution platform via a soft brand.
Humanist Hospitality also is overseeing the development of The Grady, an independent luxury boutique hotel that will open this year in Louisville, Kentucky.
Nicolas Graf, associate dean, clinical professor and chair of New York University’s Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality, will soon unveil the school’s new Hospitality Innovation Hub. Departure from the norms of doing business is key to the post-pandemic survival and success of the hospitality industry, says Graf. Companies that offer flexibility in thought and practice among employees will go a long way in leading the industry’s post-pandemic recovery. Episode 331 of Lodging Leaders explores what it will take for owners, operators and others invested in the industry to attract and retain bright young talent who can help build modern and sustainable hotel business models.
Bijal Patel, 31, is CEO of Coast Redwood Hospitality and the youngest chair of the California Hotel & Lodging Association. He’s made even more history at CHLA by agreeing to serve an unprecedented second term as the lodging industry emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. Patel is a third-generation hotelier. Being so steeped in hospitality at such a young age is not new for members of the Indian American hotelier community, but Patel fears the pandemic has drained the industry of emerging talent. Lodging Leaders spotlights Patel, who represents a leadership demographic that is fighting for the life of the hospitality industry as they watch their peers veer toward other career paths.