Choice homing in on brand growth, tech investments
Choice homing in on brand growth, tech investments
01 MAY 2019 8:18 AM

Choice Hotels International is celebrating 80 years in business and continues to focus on growing its footprint and helping owners drive profitability through technology investments.

LAS VEGAS—During its 80th year in business, Choice Hotels International is focused on helping owners stand out, which is the theme of the company’s business convention this year.

For Choice, it all started when Stewart Bainum Sr. bought his first hotel and aligned it with Quality Courts United, now known as Quality Inn, outside of Washington, D.C., during the Great Depression.

His son, Stewart Bainum Jr., joined Choice’s leadership team in 1976, and has achieved great success since then, Choice President and CEO Pat Pacious said during a general session at the conference Tuesday.

In 2018, Choice’s loyalty program grew to more than 40 million members. The company also increased its international room count by 6% and has a total global footprint of more than 7,000 hotels.

To continue this growth, Pacious said it’s important to stand out in the industry.

“Today, there are more hotel (brands) for travelers to choose from and more competition for you,” he said. “You have to offer a standout experience that inspires loyalty … and in today’s tight labor market, you also have to stand out in order to attract and retain the right talent.”

Brand growth
Choice has grown from “one brand to a dozen” in its 80-year history, Pacious said.

“From 66 rooms in the United States to over 600,000 rooms in over 40 countries and territories,” he said. “What was once a collection of seven Florida hotel owners is now a powerful global network of over 12,000 business owners.”

Each of Choice’s brands continues to grow, starting with its founding Quality Inn brand, which opened 132 hotels in 2018.

The company has been working on the transformation of its Comfort brand since 2013, which started with helping owners with property-improvement plans. Choice announced the “Move to Modern” launch in 2016 and then unveiled 100% smoke-free hotels in 2017. The brand’s new logo was unveiled at last year’s convention.

Clarion Pointe was launched in September, and the first hotel under the brand opened in Sulphur Springs, Texas, on 30 April. Pacious said the brand was created to meet the growing needs of guests who want premium offerings at a good price.

“And it’s for owners who want a differentiated conversion opportunity that can leverage the powerful Choice delivery engine,” he said.

Choice’s upscale Cambria brand will have 50 hotels open in 2019, and has 25 more under construction.

Pacious said Choice’s extended-stay portfolio had a standout year, “especially WoodSpring Suites, the fastest-growing hotel brand in the overall economy segment.”

Extended-stay franchise agreements across Choice’s portfolio in the segment were up 156% last year, he said.

Part of Choice’s success falls on its in-house technology efforts, Pacious said.

The company is a leader in terms of tech innovations in the industry, and has done things such as making a large investment in big data for its data analytics platform.

“Because we are at the forefront of these trends, we are perfectly positioned to lead the way on new ones, like 5G connectivity and machine learning, both of which we are actively pursuing on your behalf,” he said.

Choice has been building its own technology for 30 years because “nobody knows your business better than we do,” Pacious said. He pointed out that other big names such as Walmart, CVS and UPS have done the same.

“They are household names today because they invested in proprietary technology long ago,” he said. “We transformed the foundation of our technology infrastructure last year with the custom-build Choice Edge. Choice Edge empowers us to roll out new features in one-tenth of the time it used to take. Features important to you, like the ability to push available inventory accounts to new third parties.”

He said reports of unintended overselling have decreased by 80% since Choice Edge went live. Some people want to oversell hotels during high-occupancy periods, Pacious said, which is why Choice will launch overselling capability this summer.

Pacious said working with world-class companies such as Google and Amazon also helps drive profitability. Choice has been working with Google via its Book on Google platform, and was the first hotel company to partner with the company on making it possible to book via voice through Google Assistant.

The company is also helping owners through technology by investing in cybersecurity. Choice offers cyber insurance to owners, and this summer, Pacious said the company will work with a cloud-based technology to identify and address data breaches.

Editor’s note: Choice Hotels International paid for meals and accommodations at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, where the conference is held. Complete editorial control was at the discretion of the Hotel News Now editorial team; Choice had no influence on the coverage provided.

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