Choice Hotels International President and CEO Pat Pacious sat down with Hotel News Now at the Hunter Hotel Conference to discuss company growth, his outlook for the economy and the number of new brands in the industry.
ATLANTA—Choice Hotels International saw a year of record growth in 2018, and President and CEO Pat Pacious said it was the company’s “second-highest development year ever and the highest in a decade.”
“That’s 7,000 open and 1,000 hotels in our development pipeline,” he said.
Much of that growth is coming from Choice’s upscale brand, Cambria.
“We have 40 hotels open now and a pipeline of over 80 hotels,” he said. “Twenty three of those are under construction and we’ll break ground on 12 this year, so the momentum of the Cambria brand in the upscale (segment) is really exciting.”
The company has also seen a lot of growth in its midscale legacy brands Quality Inn, which turns 80 this year and is the brand Choice was formed from, and Comfort, its flagship brand. Pacious added that Choice’s newest brand Clarion Pointe, which was launched last year, signed 21 agreements in 2018 and approximately 10 Clarion Pointes will open this year.
Clarion Pointe was meant to serve guests who don’t have children, “be it empty nesters or millennials who haven’t started a family yet,” who are looking for amenities such as premium quality coffee and work out streaming services at a midscale price, he said.
“On the flipside or the hotel owner side, there are a number of hotels out there where owners want to put capital into an existing asset to meet that specific need, and so the coming together of those two trends, the consumer trend and the hotel ownership trend, really helped create … this explosive growth in Clarion Pointe,” he said.
Choice acquired WoodSpring Suites in February of 2018, and Pacious said that buy has “really reinvigorated” the extended-stay segment for the company.
“Our development pipeline in extended stay grew by 156% across our WoodSpring, Mainstay and Suburban brands, so a lot of explosive growth across our portfolio of brands,” he said.
Thoughts on the economy, industry
In a video interview with HNN at the Hunter Conference, Pacious gave his thoughts on “the Wall Street and Main Street” stories on where the economy stands.
In terms of brands being added to meet customer needs and add scale, he said he doesn’t think there is a problem with too many in the industry, but maybe too many brands in a specific market.
Watch the interview below.
Choice has been working on multiple technology projects in-house, which Pacious said the company likes to do because it is “closer to the hotel owner and the guest than a software vendor would be,” adding that developing technology in-house has always been part of Choice’s strategy.
“This past year we launched two things that are really helpful for our travel managers. One is virtual pay, which allows the travel manager whose travelers don’t carry credit cards to go ahead and book their rooms without someone at the hotel actually having to produce a credit card, so that really helps, particularly in the midscale segment, a lot of our travelers and the travel managers who book those rooms,” he said.
Choice also developed and launched a group management platform that allows a travel manager to book for guests with “10 stays or more or 10 rooms or more.”
“Again, putting the ownership and the functionality in the hands of that travel manager and that person who is responsible for groups, and that’s such a growing part of our business that we are really seeing a lot of uptick on that front,” he said.
Choice rolled out its Book on Google partnership in 2018, which allows guests to book directly into the Choice central reservations channel through Google. Pacious said the company is also working with Google to give guests the ability to talk to their smart speakers and book with Choice using Google Assistant.