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Insights From ALIS: Checking In With Andrea Foster

Insights From ALIS: Checking In With Andrea Foster

Milwaukee-based hotel management company Marcus Hotels & Resorts has been using this long period of industry growth and stability to tap into unique markets and expand the company’s reach, especially with projects in its own backyard. Andrea Foster, senior vice president of development for Marcus Hotels & Resorts, acknowledges that the hotel industry is stagnant in a good way, but hoteliers need to implement innovative technology and practices to keep up with guests’ evolving needs. Foster spoke with LODGING at ALIS about the industry’s progress and Marcus’s evolution.

What are some of your biggest takeaways from ALIS this year?

It’s been great. I’ve noticed that a lot of younger people are moving into higher positions, which typically happens at this point in the cycle when the industry is doing well. They’re very optimistic about the future of the industry. The more experienced people also seem to be in good spirits, but our optimism is cautious. There’s still uncertainty as to where the industry is going, but overall people are happy. More hotels are being built and are performing well. And, we’re not seeing too many significant supply increases except in a few, out-there markets.

What do you think hoteliers need to do to keep the industry going strong?

We need to start looking at where we’re going from here. How are we truly going to innovate? People want technology. I’m not a millennial, but I act like one—I want quick, easy, and fast solutions. Everything needs to be done easily, and on top of that, there’s a real opportunity to create personalized experiences for guests with new technology. People want easy, but they also want that personal touch. There’s a real opportunity to create an experience with personalization.

What are some of Marcus Hotels & Resorts top projects at the moment?

We just opened the Murieta Inn and Spa in Northern California, which is also the home to the Murieta Equestrian Center. So not only are we hosting humans, we’re hosting a thousand horses and 40 equestrian events each year. It’s completely different, unique, and special. We’re also in the process of reimagining the InterContinental Milwaukee. It’s in a perfect position to an update and is in an area known for its art, theater, and entertainment community.

We’ve heard from a number of people that Milwaukee is a great market right now. Why is that?

It’s the performing arts, visual arts, music—and we’re leveraging all of it. Marcus has always been a big supporter of the arts. The Marcus family themselves have been collecting music and art over the years. The company actually started in movie theaters 82 years ago, and it’s a perfect tie-in to who we are. For example, another one of our properties, the Pfister Hotel, has the largest collection of Victorian art of any hotel in the country. Art has always been part of who we are, and in Milwaukee, there’s such a great market around it.

Is there anything in the industry keeping you up at night?

Flatter average daily rate growth is the only question mark I see. Some markets are stronger than others, but we’re seeing the impact of the sharing economy all over the country. The demand to travel is there, but home sharing companies really have the potential to slow rate growth for hotels. And, if hoteliers can’t raise their rates, it impacts their return on investment.

What do you see in the industry’s future?

The world is getting smaller. People can reach every part of the globe, and we’re seeing more interest in exploring every corner of it. People aren’t just staying home in their comfort zone. This creates great career and developing opportunities. Our industry is going to continue to grow.

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