CEOs share insights into growth plans, philosophies
CEOs share insights into growth plans, philosophies
21 DECEMBER 2017 9:20 AM

Throughout the year, Hotel News Now sat down for one-on-one video interviews with hotel company CEOs, who opened up about their plans for growth in 2017 and beyond, as well as what motivates them as leaders.

GLOBAL REPORT—A hotel company CEO has to monitor the pulse of the industry, as well as that of the company and the markets in which it operates, to make the big decisions about where, when and how to grow.

Each quarter, those executives typically take part in earnings calls and answer questions from analysts to outline and sometimes justify those decisions, based on what they’re seeing in the industry and markets.

For a little more depth into the mindsets of CEOs, Hotel News Now caught up with several this year at conferences and other industry events, and sat down with them for one-on-one video interviews. Here are 10 of the top insights from those video interviews:

Speaking with HNN’s Sean McCracken in January at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit in Los Angeles, SBE Entertainment Group Chairman and CEO Sam Nazarian said his company’s focus for 2017 was on leveraging its new combined strength following its acquisition of Morgans Hotel Group. He also saw opportunities ahead for expanding the company’s loyalty program. “We’re not a discount house, and we don’t want our derivative of a discount,” he said. “We’re an aspirational house. We’d like our loyalty program to be just like that.”

Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson told HNN’s Stephanie Ricca, also at ALIS, that his company was looking to continue its breakneck growth pace this year. “Opportunities are really driven by the growth of the global middle class. We have hundreds of millions of people who, for the first time, have the resources to see the world …,” he said. A key driver of that growth is innovation, he added. “Our guests want more variety, more local experiences … more things that are shareworthy,” he said. “That pace of change is as fast as we’ve ever seen it.”

Wyndham Hotel Group CEO Geoff Ballotti also touted his company’s fast-paced growth in an interview with HNN’s Ricca at the Lodging Conference in November. “The industry is going to continue to consolidate,” he said. “Size has never mattered more when it comes to what a larger system can provide to its franchisees in terms of distribution, of … lowering distribution costs, in terms of technology, in terms of driving more revenue and at the same time driving down costs.”

While he had little to say about rumors that his own company is a target for acquisition, InterContinental Hotels Group CEO Keith Barr told HNN’s Jeff Higley last month that he thinks “consolidation will continue,” and IHG could be involved if the right opportunity presents itself. “We’re constantly looking how to grow the company intelligently,” he said. Barr also talked about the potential for IHG to add more brands to its portfolio. “My focus will be scaling up our existing brands in the markets where we believe we can attain the scale,” he said.

La Quinta Holdings President and CEO Keith Cline spoke to HNN’s McCracken in February about the motivation behind a plan to spinoff a new real estate investment trust called CorePoint Lodging, which was formally announced in July. “Most of our hotels are upper midscale. We’re also in the midscale space,” he said. “To have a REIT investment out (there) that is solely focused on that space, initially, is interesting because customers are migrating there because of the price-value proposition … and investors are migrating there from a development standpoint because of the cash-on-cash returns.”

Vision Hospitality Group President and CEO Mitch Patel told HNN’s Bryan Wroten at the Hunter Hotel Conference in Atlanta in April that concerns of an impending downturn would not dissuade his company from pursuing new development. The reason, he said, is that Vision Hospitality takes a long-term view of investment. “We do know the storm is coming,” he said. “What we don’t know is when and how bad it’s going to be. We always say this: We have a very strong brick house.”

Hotel companies must be nimble to face whatever is around the next curve, AccorHotels CEO Sébastien Bazin told HNN’s Ricca during an on-stage interview at the South American Hotel Investment Conference in September in Buenos Aires, Argentina. “In today’s world, either you change or you will be changed,” he said. “So either you act and then you make some hard decisions and take some risk … (or) somebody is going to be acting for you—that’s somebody called, Expedia, Airbnb, Google, Amazon, Facebook.”

There’s more to being a hotel company CEO than just growth and profit margins. As Hyatt Hotels Corporation President and CEO Mark Hoplamazian told HNN’s Ricca during an interview in September at the company’s newly built headquarters in Chicago: “The power of understanding cannot be underestimated, and we’re focused on making sure we’re helping to enhance that for the benefit of our colleagues and our guests, and elevating the opportunities to understand others.”

For Viceroy Hotel Group CEO Bill Walshe, success begins with a strong corporate and leadership culture. “It’s about giving the confidence to our colleagues to allow their humanity to be expressed in the interaction with guests,” he said during an on-stage interview with HNN’s Ricca at SAHIC in September. “We will never be a hotel company that scripts individuals. … We want spontaneity, we want it to be natural, and we want it to be real. We want conversations to happen. Life should be a series of conversations, not presentations.”

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