As president of the B.F. Saul Company Hospitality Group, Mark Carrier lives and breathes hotel operations. The former IHG Owners Association chair relishes the opportunity to represent owners’ interests and address the big issues that impact the industry. In 2013, Carrier’s leadership as an advocate on Capitol Hill garnered him the Kemmons Wilson Service Award. Past recipients have included industry icons Mike Levin, John Q. Hammons, and Tom Corcoran. Now, as the new secretary and treasurer of AH&LA’s board of directors, Carrier looks forward to making an even bigger impact on the industry.
Lodging: How did you get into the lodging industry?
Carrier: I always had a food and beverage related job to pay the bills. I joined B.F. Saul after I graduated from Cornell because the company gave me a fast track to become a food and beverage director. I started out as a management trainee at a Hilton hotel we owned and worked my way up to food and beverage director, then regional director, and then I managed the company’s development efforts. For the past 15 years, I’ve been running the hotel side of the company.
Lodging: What is your company’s growth strategy?
Carrier: We have at least one new project on the drawing board right now. But our base of properties is largely in the Washington, D.C., region, so we’re a bit conservative these days around new development. The federal budget disruptions and the sequester have been dampening the demand in our region, so we’re being very careful about our future plans here in reaction to the fact that, unlike the majority of the country, we’re going through a pretty challenging period right now.
Lodging: Have you been busy with renovations?
Carrier: Yes, we have had a significant renovation program across all of the brands we work with. We’ve been focusing on a broad range of issues—everything from our guestrooms to repositioning our food and beverage outlets to renovating lobbies and installing new technologies. We’re maintaining the quality of the asset and keeping up with our guests’ changing demands.
Lodging: Revenue management is one of your focus areas. Why do you find the topic interesting?
Carrier: The way distribution has changed over the last decade has dramatically altered how we sell hotel rooms. To me it’s a seminal subject for our entire industry that’s playing in the relationships of owners, brands, and third parties. So many things are in a bit of flux because we’re all dealing with what is a disruptive timeframe in the industry.
Lodging: What are you looking forward to as AH&LA secretary and treasurer?
Carrier: I think we have a very exciting time ahead of us at the AH&LA. The new structure of the organization really brings together the interests of the major brands, owners, management companies, independent hotels, partner state associations, and allied members around a combined vision for the future of the hotel industry. I’m just so pleased to see the tremendous progress the organization is making and very proud to be selected to be a part of that effort going forward.
Lodging: What issues are you passionate about?
Carrier: Issues around government travel have both a broader industry policy perspective and a specific personal impact, so I’ve been very involved in that. There is a whole range of issues AH&LA is focused on that impact my properties that we have concerns about, everything from things that are happening at the National Labor Relations Board, minimum wage, and how the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to hotels, to distribution and taxation fairness.