Choice Hotels International development executive Brian Quinn said the company has found its sweet spot in midscale and upper midscale with guests wanting to travel more while staying on a budget.
BRUNSWICK, Ohio—All brands across the Choice Hotels International brand family are important and have a purpose, but hotels in the midscale and upper-midscale segments are currently enjoying business from guests who want to travel, ranging from Gen Z to baby boomers, according to a Choice development executive.
During a grand-opening event for a Comfort Suites in Brunswick, Ohio, Brian Quinn, VP and head of development for new-construction brands, sat down with Hotel News Now to discuss growth in North America across Choice’s portfolio of brands.
Quinn said there are two filters that make his company uniquely positioned in midscale and upper midscale: a good economy and high travel aspirations among Gen Z to boomers.
“Unemployment is low, fuel prices are dropping … interest rates are ticking up, but from a historical standpoint, it’s historically low. So those are a great platform,” he said. “The next filter I would think about is the aspiration to travel is incredibly high … Gen Z and (millennial) folks value travel and experiences. At the same time, the boomers have sort of healed from the real estate crash and topped off their 401ks, and they have an incredible aspiration to travel, too.”
Price value is important to customers in these demographics, which is why Choice’s sweet spot is currently midscale and upper midscale.
“We’re in incredible demand in the midscale and upper-midscale space, that’s why you continue to see the innovation (and why) we thought it was so important to keep Comfort relevant to do the big investment and ask our franchisees to spend that money and continue to advance that with products like this with the new signage,” Quinn said.
Another way Choice is catering to guests on a budget with travel aspirations is by creating different experiences by positioning its Sleep Inn and MainStay Suites brands in dual-brand properties, which Quinn said was driven by franchisees and “the marketplace.”
“You want to be able to have both experiences in one,” he said. “You want to be able to toggle back and forth between an extended-stay experience and a transient experience, and it creates the efficiency that the developers need because of some of the other pressures that are out there against the business.”
Quinn said Choice operates with the same goals across its brand portfolio in terms of guest service.
The company’s “true north there is we need to deliver products like the Comfort Suites of Brunswick on brand and on strategy,” Quinn said, “and what that means is delivering what the guest wants, which is the free Wi-Fi and the hot breakfast and the modern signage.”
Robert Schlabach, managing partner of Brunswick Hospitality, which developed the Comfort Suites in Brunswick, owns 18 Choice hotels across the Comfort, MainStay, Sleep Inn and Ascend brands.
Schlabach’s company has a unique way of building hotels, which Quinn said has received good feedback because “(Schlabach’s) group and his development players (are able) to bring (hotels) to market in, call it five to eight months instead of five to fifteen months.”
“We do construct our buildings differently from about any other developer that’s out there,” Schlabach said. “We use an ICF form for exterior walls, which is an insulated concrete form, … which speeds the construction time probably up to about two months.”
He said the process saves on time and money.
“The exterior wall is a four-step process to get to the end product versus a nine-step on wood framing,” he said. “That saves us on our construction time and cost. Our low-voltage, our LED lighting, the size of electric service, the (mechanicals, electrical and plumbing) from an engineering standpoint, are about a 50% reduction compared to a standard hotel project. So we save on our operating costs and we save on our construction costs because of the size of our MEPs and how the building is engineered.”
The upscale space
Choice is seeing growing demand for hotels in the midscale and upper-midscale space, but the company is “always looking to put the right product in the right location in the right situation,” which is why executives with the company saw a need for products in the upscale space, Cambria and Ascend, according to Quinn.
“If you think about Cambria and Ascend in the upscale space, Cambria we are absolutely focused on city center and urban and key gateway cities because we know if we get those hubs covered, if we get great execution there, it will drive distribution. And those urban city center gateway guests want a more upscale experience, they want the food and beverage, they want the meeting space,” he said.
Quinn added that Ascend gives franchisees with independent hotels the opportunity to “plug into the powerful tools Choice offers” while keeping the personality of the hotel.