La Quinta pins growth on design, experience, employees
La Quinta pins growth on design, experience, employees
28 MARCH 2017 8:38 AM

La Quinta Holdings is repositioning its properties upwards through the proliferation of the new Del Sol design for its hotels and improved amenities, but company officials expect long-term growth to come from improved guest experience and employee engagement.

DALLAS—Officials with La Quinta Holdings outlined three tenets they see fueling the growth of their company during the first day of their annual brand conference in Dallas Monday: design, guest experience and employee engagement.

While company officials, including President and CEO Keith Cline, did not mention anything about a proposal announced in January to possibly spin off the company’s owned assets, the company was successful in selling 19 hotels in 2016 for a total of 31 over the past two years.

As of the end of 2016, La Quinta owned 321 properties with 566 franchised hotels and one more joint-venture property.

Cline and several other La Quinta executives said the company has to focus on driving revenue in part by approving the positioning of its properties through a combination of renovations and improved amenities. They said the improvements will help several properties drive better rate and compete more directly with upper-midscale products in key markets that they are currently more positioned as midscale properties.

“With the appropriate capital, we can reposition (hotels) upwards, capturing occupancy and share measured against a new, higher-quality competitive set,” Cline said.

He said so far the company’s repositioning program has been a rousing success.

“To say I’m encouraged by the early results would be an understatement,” Cline said, while noting revenue per available room of recently renovated hotels has jumped 14%.

La Quinta officials said they’re confident their Del Sol design, introduced in 2014, will help propel growth going forward.

The concept includes redesigned exteriors, public spaces and guestrooms.

Krishna Paliwal, SVP of design and development, said the company “has clearly come a long way” in terms of design with the Del Sol concept.

“It’s a beautiful combination of modern building elements and geometric shapes.

So far there are 15 hotels open that employ the new concept with 50 company-owned properties under renovation and 100 franchised properties under renovation. La Quinta currently has 240 properties in the pipeline that will also feature the Del Sol concept, Paliwal said.

Guest experience
While all of the company’s properties can’t immediately be switched to the Del Sol design, company officials are hopeful that some of the concepts included in that design will be carried over to all of their properties sooner rather than later. These efforts are part of a new initiative from the company to improve the guest experience that they’ve dubbed LQUp.

Jeff Palla, SVP of franchise operations, noted that could include some design tweaks, like changing exteriors to match the Del Sol colors. But most of the improvements will come via improved amenities, including an expanded breakfast, new guestroom furniture like improved beds with better outlet access, bathroom improvements, 24-hour coffee areas and the adoption of the new “great room” concept for the lobby that includes a pod-style front desk.

“What’s important for the future success of the brand is to drive consistency,” Palla said. “It will help (properties) have a competitive edge to gain market share.”

Employee engagement
One of the main objectives of the 2017 La Quinta Conference is the relaunch of the company’s “Here for You” program, originally created in 2011 as an initiative to spur better interactions with guests. The linchpin of the relaunched version of the program is a great focus on improving the experience for employees as well as guests.

Cline said he hopes establishing trust and open communications with staff will be a top priority for his company’s general managers, and he believes it could be a key differentiator for La Quinta.

“If organizations have a strong values-based culture and place high value on their people, then they typically significantly outperform their peers,” he said. “It comes down to creating an environment of openness and trust. And that trust creates alignment.”

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