Hilton Loyalists Now Have Access to One of Our Favorite Boutique Hotel Brands

The only thing better than design-forward properties is design-forward properties that also enjoy the benefits of being part of a larger loyalty program.

The lobby area in the Graduate Palo Alto featuring a long wooden tables with chairs and a wall covered gallery-style in artwork

The Graduate Palo Alto opened in Northern California near Stanford University in December 2022.

David Mitchell/Graduate Hotels

Soon, you’ll be able to use your Hilton Honors points to book rooms at a collection of unique, design-forward hotels across the United States and the United Kingdom.

Hilton just announced plans to acquire Graduate Hotels, a portfolio of nearly three dozen highly curated boutique accommodations in university-anchored towns (like Minneapolis, Minnesota, home of the University of Minnesota, and State College, Pennsylvania, where Penn State is based).

Bringing Graduate Hotels into the fold “accelerates our expansion in the lifestyle space,” marrying the “much-loved brand” with Hilton’s ability to drive Graduate’s expansion, Chris Nassetta, president and CEO of Hilton, said in a press release. Nassetta added that “with thousands of colleges and universities around the world,” the Graduate brand could grow to up to 400 to 500 hotels globally.

Graduate Hotels, which opened its first two locations in Athens, Georgia, and Tempe, Arizona, in 2014, is known for subtly weaving the history, culture, and traditions of the local college or university into the design details of each hotel.

An ornately decorated guest room in the forthcoming Graduate Princeton hotel

The newest Graduate Hotel, Graduate Princeton, opens in spring 2024 near the New Jersey university.

Courtesy of Graduate Hotels

Graduate Nashville, for instance, features a lobby with custom black-and-gold star-printed rugs, a nod to Vanderbilt University’s school colors (and the Tennessee state flag), and 160 watercolor paintings of leaves, each depicting a type of tree found on the campus, which is a registered arboretum.

Similarly, the Graduate Chapel Hill’s reception desk looks like a scoreboard with 17 seconds left on the clock, recalling the moment Michael Jordan made the game-winning shot in the 1982 NCAA basketball championship against Georgetown.

Currently, Hilton comprises 19 hotel brands, ranging from Embassy Suites by Hilton to the Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts. The Graduate Hotels would fall within Hilton’s lifestyle portfolio, alongside brands such as Canopy, Curio, Motto, Tapestry, and Tempo, all of which were acquired within the past decade in response to a growing desire from travelers seeking more localized travel experiences, according to Hilton.

Ben Weprin, founder of Graduate Hotels, stated that he plans to keep the Graduate Hotels’ unique brand identity intact.

Graduate Hotels will open its 34th property, Graduate Princeton, in New Jersey sometime this spring, as well as Graduate Auburn, in Auburn, Alabama, in September.

Hilton said it plans to make Graduate Hotels bookable through its channels, including Hilton Honors, its rewards program, later this year (the deal is expected to close before the end of June).

In addition to the takeover of Graduate Hotels, Hilton recently announced partnerships with Small Luxury Hotels of the World, a platform of more than 500 independent luxury hotels, and AutoCamp, a U.S.-based glamping company known for its custom Airstreams and elevated safari-style tents. While the hotel giant isn’t acquiring those brands, in the coming months, travelers will be able to book stays at those properties through Hilton’s platforms, which will give Hilton Honors members exclusive members benefits, such as discounted rates, waived resort fees on reward stays, free Wi-Fi, room upgrades, spa discounts, and more.

Bailey Berg is a freelance travel writer and editor, who covers breaking news, trends, tips, transportation, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. She was formerly the associate travel news editor at Afar. Her work can also be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Points Guy, Atlas Obscura, Vice, Thrillist, Men’s Journal, Architectural Digest, Forbes, Lonely Planet, and beyond.
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