As Demand Soars, Brand Companies Embrace New Initiatives
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated many developments in the hotel industry, including hybrid meetings and more efficient technology.
The pandemic also is accelerating operational initiatives aimed at capturing a share of revived travel demand, according to four CEOs speaking on a panel at the International Hotel Investment Forum.
Patrick Pacious, president and CEO of Choice Hotels International, said the challenges of the past 18 months have made him and his team work much faster.
“There were so many [initiatives] in pilot; we just said no more pilots, let’s just throw it out. Over the last few years we’ve looked at reducing the total cost of ownership, but no longer are we trying [something out] in 30 hotels. We know it will work, and the success has been 80%.”
Too often, he added, the hotel industry is “smart enough to know what to do, but we are slow to do it.”
David Kong, CEO of BWH Hotel Group, said the hotel product is changing much more swiftly than it has in the past.
“Why not reposition hotels to be boutique, to open them up to the new market that is there right now? We have to expect the unexpected, have a long-term view of things and make sure we have a lot of savings to draw on,” he said, noting as an example a property in Austin, Texas, that was repositioned higher from a Best Western Plus to an Aiden by Best Western.
He agreed research, testing and learning is important, but said it is very easy to get locked into that pattern and not emerge from it.
“Things such as housekeeping on request — we pushed it out, and this was great from an environmental and cost-savings angle,” he added.
Dillip Rajakarier, CEO of Thailand-based Minor Hotel Group, said his company never stopped expanding during the months of the pandemic.
“Some say we are asset-heavy, 65% ownership, with lots of equity exposure, but it is being about being better, asset-right, and in those regions where we have met our investment threshold and established brands,” he said.
“Companies that become gun-shy and stop — that is a disaster. You have to think short-, medium- and long-term all at the same time. We feel quite bullish, and I think the companies that will fall on their swords are those not being wide enough in segmentation and not being able to pivot,” he added.
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