Ambassador Hotel may align with Autograph Collection by Marriott

WICHITA — Wichita’s Ambassador Hotel, which has struggled since opening in January, may become part of the growing Autograph Collection by Marriott.

“I’m looking into soft brands,” says Paul Coury, chairman of Tulsa-based Coury Group.

The soft brand trend allows boutique hotels to retain their independence but align themselves with the power of a large chain.

Coury won’t confirm if he’s working on a deal for the Ambassador to become part of the Autograph Collection.

He does say, though, “If we were to do anything, it’s a good fit for what we do.”

Coury says a soft brand would allow the Ambassador to keep its name and individual style “but still maintain certain standards.”

“We’re not where we originally hoped to be by now,” he says.

“I don’t think we did as good of a job as we needed to to get the major demand generators exposed to our product.”

He’s referring to groups and businesses that can commit to annual contracts with hotels, often at the start of each new year.

“We’re getting ready to burn through 2013 pretty quick,” Coury says. “Once January rolls around, based on the feedback we’ve been receiving … we’ll reach the original projections.”

There are several hurdles, he says.

“Sometimes things don’t go the way you project,” Coury says. “I made some mistakes. I misread the market on some things.”

He says the Ambassador is having to change people’s patterns, too.

“People have got to get used to coming to downtown proper,” Coury says. “You know, Old Town’s different than downtown.”

He says a bright spot at the hotel has been Siena Tuscan Steakhouse, which has exceeded his expectations.

“The restaurant is really doing phenomenal.”

Finances are an issue in general, though.

“It’s no secret … it’s been tight over there,” Coury says. “We’ve got a very nice facility, and it costs money to operate it. You have to watch your dollars, but you can’t cut back on service.”

He says he has no regrets about opening in Wichita, though.

“It’ll be fine. It’s going to be a great property for us, and it fits well into the market we’re trying to develop.”

He also has Ambassador hotels in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Kansas City along with a fifth in the works in an unnamed city. Coury says the one in Kansas City just received AAA’s Four Diamond rating. He expects Wichita’s Ambassador to be rated soon as well.

“We hope to achieve the same Four Diamond rating there,” Coury says.

“I think by next year people will clearly see us for what we set out to be, and that’s the top boutique hotel in the city.”