Home2 has grown rapidly since its launch in 2009. To what do you owe that success?
It’s doing extremely well. We’ve got 27 open, we’ll open about 20, maybe more, this year in 2014, and the pipeline is pretty strong with about 90-plus hotels. Hilton has developed a reputation of being able to launch new brands. It’s exiting to see. Probably my proudest moment with these two brands is that owners are developing both. They’re not necessarily looking at one or the other, they’re looking at both of them, and they’re looking at multiple opportunities. Not only is it important, it’s obviously very inspiring for these two brands. Because it’s accomplishing what we set out to do, which is to ensure we had two great brands to take care of two very distinct segments in the extended-stay category and for them to both be able to continue to grow.
Home2 made its debut in Mexico, marking its first property outside of the United States, and there’s a property under construction in West Edmonton, Canada. What is the international expansion plan for both brands?
We’ve been very excited about what we’ve been able to achieve with Home2 as far as going into Mexico. We should open our first Home2 in Canada within a couple of months. For Homewood, we have a property in Mexico, which is great, and we’ve really been embraced in the Canadian market with upscale extended stay. We have 10 hotels open there, plus seven in the pipeline, so we’re seeing a lot in North America for Homewood and Home2. Homewood is slightly starting to make its way down into South America, too. The future is bright for both brands from the development perspective.
And you’re still continuing to expand into U.S. urban markets?
Urban markets have typically been tough to enter, but we’ve learned how to make it work, and it’s really taken off for us. We figured out how to deliver the experience in that type of urban setting, where you go vertical but you still have the key attributes, and we’ve been able to fine tune that offering and make sure the customers are getting what they need out of it. The opportunities in North America are still very strong for both brands, and there’s lots of new territory and new ground to cover.
Is the extended-stay segment gaining in popularity?
The extended-stay category, specifically the ones I deal with in the midscale and upscale segments, is just tremendously resilient and it’s a great category people discover and become hooked on. That part hasn’t changed over the course of time. In my perspective, I continue to see this segment only gaining in exposure and people discovering it as we make more headway into the urban markets. One of the great evolutions we’re seeing is a rise in leisure extended-stay customers. The other one that continues to grow is the blending of business and leisure travel.