Today, there is transparency with customers in pricing and the condition of a hotel. Five years from now, there will be perfect information around pricing, service, ratings from friends, ratings from observers, and you’ll be able to view online in a very detailed fashion what you are buying.
I’m very bullish. No one has been building new hotels for a couple of years. The supply- demand balance is as favorable as it gets in this business. There are 55,000 hotels in this country, and in 2011, where we play, inventory actually shrank. We think 300 to 400 hotels came out of the inventory. By definition, it means business will get better because demand is going to grow. The hotel business is going to do better almost regardless of the economy.
What advice do you have for travelers?They should be looking at what they are getting and make sure they are looking at all incremental fees and other charges and make sure their room rate covers what they want.
What’s going on with Choice in the Washington area?
We are building a new headquarters in Rockville Town Center and will move in during April or May of next year. We are leasing 137,000 square feet in a 231,000-square-foot building. Our current set of buildings [in Silver Spring] aren’t conducive to the kind of collaboration and creativity we will get out of the new place.
I waited too long to make some tough decisions, like where we should be investing our dollars. I should have moved more quickly and aggressively into investing in the technology piece, and moving more assets and resources and people into the distribution business and away from traditional marketing and advertising.
And . . .?
We learned from the retailers, by watching Amazon.com, how quickly people were moving online. We watched the cost of not moving — the carnage of the retail business.
What’s your favorite Choice Hotel?
The one in the Bahamas, next to the Atlantis. I stay in Choices a lot. I travel about 100 days a year. My New York favorite is the Distrikt Hotel on West 40th. I like the Comfort Inn on 46th Street. It is walking distance to Del Frisco’s, which is my favorite steakhouse. I like their bone-in rib-eye.
What customers do you chase?
The 99 percent. We are the value-priced alternative. For $80 to $90 a night, you get free breakfast, free Internet, free parking and one [heck] of a waffle.
For previous Value Added columns, go to postbusiness.com.