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The Knoxville Cumberland House Hotel Maintains its Local Brand
 Despite a Four Points by Sheraton Affiliation

By Carly Harrington, The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Dec. 20, 2007 - When her friends, family or clients need a hotel to stay in Knoxville, Kitty Cornett knows exactly the place.

Tucked back on the edge of downtown and adjacent to the Knoxville Convention Center and the University of Tennessee, the Four Points by Sheraton Cumberland House Hotel is what she calls "a hidden gem."

"I can't say enough good things," Cornett said. "Everyone always calls and thanks me for my recommendation."

It's been one year since the seven-story boutique hotel at 1109 White Ave., affiliated itself with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., the corporation that owns Sheraton hotels.

Originally billed as "Knoxville's Hotel" when it opened in 2005 because it was not part of a chain, Cumberland House has been able to capitalize on the Starwood name, particularly with corporate travelers.

"It has created a brand awareness outside the Knoxville area, which provides some comfort level to try us out," general manager Brent Scarbro said.

Total room revenues have increased 40 percent year over year, which Scarbro attributes to a strong sales force that's been "pounding the pavement" coupled with the Four Points brand.

Cumberland House has access to Starwood's national reservation system, which allows customers to earn points for discounts that can be used at all of the company's properties.

Nevertheless, Gary Prosterman, the hotel's developer and managing partner, admits that there's still some confusion.

Despite the affiliation, the hotel's original ownership -- Prosterman, FedEx founder Fred Smith and former UT football quarterback Peyton Manning -- has not changed.

"It's a challenge to maintain a local brand when you have a national affiliation. But we're still Knoxville's boutique high-level hotel, and now there's tangible evidence that's working for us," Prosterman said.

The hotel was recently rated No. 1 in North America in guest satisfaction among all Four Points hotels.

"We've brought in a national brand and general manager to execute our vision, and happily that's happening," he said.

As a boutique hotel, Cumberland House provides high-touch service that includes extra personalized services and additional staff members, who are in frequent contact with and offering special services to guests, Prosterman said.

One such service is a "pillow library." If a customer doesn't like the pillows in the room, they can choose from a number of different types of pillows offered by the hotel.

"We're still the Cumberland House. That was important to us," Prosterman said. "We have a lot of regular loyal guests, and to them, it will always be the Cumberland House."


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