LAS VEGAS—As InterContinental Hotels Group puts the downturn in the rearview mirror and gears up for a year of profit growth in 2012, executives at the franchising company outlined their top goals for the upcoming year:
Tom Conophy, chief information officer, said his goals for 2012 are to help the worldwide group of hotels improve revenue per available room and support the guest better by building out new technologies within the family of brands.
“Technology is a key enabler of that brand differentiation. My focus for 2012 is on the continuation of some big projects we have underway: something called Revolution, which is replacing Holidex, the good old-fashioned workhorse (central reservations system). So we’re one year into this and the first phase of that delivers this December, which I’m really proud of. The heavy lifting really starts in earnest in 2012. The first phase is going to address a challenge we have with something called multi-rate change, so we’re addressing that systems issue. We’ve also moved a lot of traffic off of the back-end Holidex system. The other is to assist the brand teams in building out their vision for the guest experience by looking at fixing basics in hotels and looking at in-room entertainment and mobility.”
Ricardo Lopez, VP of sales and marketing for IHG’s Latin America division, said IHG is at a key point where the franchisor can consolidate its leadership position in Latin America. He is focused on bringing every discipline from IHG America to Latin America.
“We’re making important hires in the U.S. and (Latin America) to invest in hotel support, which is a key differentiator; just the way we work with hotels and help them leverage our tools, such as revenue management. And we’re also building a global sales organization in the region so we can contract and develop relationships with some gigantic corporations. We feel like that’s a major opportunity for us, and we’re trying to set a footprint, which we will think will be a competitive advantage. We’re really integrating them with our offices in Atlanta and Miami, so we’re investing in the region at a time when others are not.”
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Del Ross, VP, U.S. sales and marketing, said that because of the competitive nature of the hotel franchising business, IHG is as focused on gaining market share as it has ever been. Ross is focused in 2012 on what IHG can do to influence guests’ booking choices so they choose an IHG brand.
“That’s going to be our common theme for the next year and well beyond. Online (travel) agencies play a very important role, and, properly managed, they’re a great source of incremental business. The challenge is really less about OTAs, per se. It’s about good revenue management. Twenty years ago revenue management was almost a luxury service to try and optimize on the margin. Now, if you don’t have a good revenue management practice at your hotel you could in fact be deeply harming your business.”
Robert Radomski, VP of global brand management for IHG’s extended-stay brands, said for IHG’s two extended-stay brands (Candlewood Suites and Staybridge Suites) the focus in 2012 will be about alignment and consistency. IHG has a specifically defined model for success on an extended-stay sales and operating basis, he said, and the goal is to get all of the owners executing that model well.
“We have some owners and operators that come from a traditional transient hotel background, and some adapt to the extended-stay model very quickly, and for some it takes some training. That training is real time so we are, overall, looking to build our RevPAR, especially RevPAR relative to competitive sets. We’re looking to grow that—not just our market competitors but against our brand competitive set. The most important lever in doing that is ensuring we have the mindset of all of our owners and operators focused on the extended-stay operation model, which is all about hiring the right team and focusing on, from a sales standpoint, bringing the right guest into the hotel.”
Janis Cannon, VP of global brand management for Hotel Indigo and Crowne Plaza, said 2012 will lay the foundation for Crowne Plaza’s four-year repositioning. Her goals are to roll out a consistent message through the Crowne Plaza product and service that connects with a new target demographic: the “striver.” The striver, Cannon said, is a businessperson climbing the ladder of success; a person who sees travel as a necessity to grow.
“Brands are organic just like every living thing. We want to validate that though market scale and sizing and then find out what the potential is. Crowne Plaza has 115 hotels in the global pipeline, and we’d like to be in urban markets and resorts as well. Key cities targeted are Hawaii, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and another hotel in New York City. We have the commitment from senior leadership to put resources toward that.”