Nearly one year into his new position, First Hospitality Group President David Duncan gave his take on tri-branded hotels, modular construction and why the Midwestern United States is full of opportunity.
ATLANTA—The last 12 months have brought change to the Rosemont, Illinois-based First Hospitality Group, but it’s all been change representing momentum and opportunity, said company President David Duncan.
Duncan joined the company in May 2018, following a period as CFO of investment and management company JC Resorts, which focuses on luxury resort and golf properties in Southern California.* Prior to that he was president of New York City-based Denihan Hospitality Group.
Now based in Chicago, Duncan came to First Hospitality Group as the company was in the midst of some major projects.
“We have great momentum in projects we’ve been working on and we continue to build … positive investor sentiment, opening new hotels that are really interesting,” he said.
Two of those “really interesting” recent openings, according to Duncan, were the August opening of Hilton’s first tri-branded hotel and the October opening of the first Marriott International hotel in Wisconsin to be built using modular construction.
The tri-brand, including a Hilton Garden Inn, a Hampton Inn by Hilton and a Home2 Suites by Hilton, is connected to Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center and has 466 keys across 23 stories, all managed by FHG.
The Wisconsin project, the 108-room Fairfield Inn & Suites Kenosha Pleasant Prairie, was a joint-venture development with FHG as a development partner.
Duncan spoke on video with Hotel News Now during a break at the Hunter Hotel Conference about the ramp-up period for these hotels, plus the future of these development types for FHG:
FHG’s portfolio includes 45 hotels and 6,742** guestrooms open representing 14 brands. The company manages full-service and select-service hotels that are both branded and independent.
The company’s Midwestern footprint is what ties it together, Duncan said, and it’s a geographic advantage he’s happy about.
He pointed to the national trend of “people of all ages … returning to the urban core,” he said. “And that urban core doesn’t just mean Manhattan. That urban core can be Chicago, it can be Cleveland or Dayton or any of these other (Midwestern) cities.”
Watch Duncan talk more about the demand drivers of secondary cities and FHG’s focus on making local markets exciting:
Strong culture and efficient operations are keys to operating in today’s labor-tight environment, Duncan said.
“We try to take a step back and (ask) how do you make the employment experience better for the people?” he said. “We really try to focus on the culture and the company as a whole, and (at) the local hotels, people need to enjoy what they’re doing to bring a little more life to work.”
Then it’s all about efficiency and measurement, as he explains here:
Overall, Duncan said he’s excited about the future.
“We have this really positive, happy momentum with investors,” he said. … “And I really look forward to leveraging that … because we have a great platform. We’ve been successful for 30 years, generating really high returns.”
* Correction, 10 April 2019: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect description of JC Resorts.
** Correction, 10 April 2019: An earlier version of this story included incorrect property and guestroom counts.