Choice’s growth potential is not limited to franchising hotels, as the company identified back in 2013 when it launched SkyTouch Technology, an independent software division that develops and markets cloud-based technology solutions. Through SkyTouch, Choice built on the effectiveness of its internal property management system so it could offer a similar product to other chains and independents.
Joyce also saw a chance to create another adjacent line of business as home-sharing platforms like Airbnb began to steal market share from hotels.
In February 2016, Choice jumped into the online vacation rental market with the promise of offering a better service delivery model than short-term rental companies. Vacation Rentals by Choice provides vacation rental managers with distribution, branding, and technology solutions, while also appealing to consumers who seek longer-term stays and larger accommodations with the amenities of home. “We put the vacation rental management companies in between the owner of the property and the customer,” Joyce explains. “That way, we know we’re going to get professional, high quality, solution-based, service-oriented businesses supporting our customers. If something goes wrong late at night, it’s going to get it fixed.” The Choice Privileges rewards program also extends to these vacation rentals, which means customers can use their points interchangeably for vacation rentals or hotel rooms.
These two businesses complement, rather than detract from, Choice’s core hotel franchising operations. “We specifically only do two or three things at a time, so you won’t see us launch another business until we’re convinced that Vacation Rentals and SkyTouch are where they need to be,” Joyce assures.
After spending 44 years in Silver Springs, Md., Choice moved its headquarters to a state-of-the-art facility in Rockville in 2013. As a rapidly evolving company, Choice needed a new building that would foster collaboration, creativity, and a sense of transparency. The building features open staircases, airy workspaces, and high technology and connectivity. “If you’re working as a new company that is technology oriented, it’s hard to do that in really old, bad office space,” Joyce says. “Our new offices made a big difference in the culture.”
Creating a best place to work and a unique culture is a priority for both Joyce and Choice Hotels. For example, Choice recently rolled out new parental leave and caretaking benefits. Highlights of the new policy include up to 12 weeks leave for new mothers at full pay and up to four weeks leave for paternal, adoptive, and domestic partners at full pay.
“As a company, we want to be aggressive, successful, and known as tough competitors, but we also want this to be a great place to work, because we care,” Joyce says. “You earn your place to work here by performance, but once you’ve fulfilled that requirement, you’re one of us and we take care of our own.”
These combined efforts are paying off, as Joyce’s long-term view has resulted in a strong global hotel franchise business that continues to grow market share. The company’s third quarter 2016 results were highlighted by a 4.5 percent increase in domestic RevPAR. Choice is running 150 basis points RevPAR above the industry, and 250 basis points above its competition, Joyce adds. “For our franchisees, that means they’re making more money, they’re providing a better level of service and that is something they can be proud of. They also are big supporters of a higher level of consistency across the hotels within all the brands.”
Even if another recession were to hit during Joyce’s tenure, he has taken the right steps to ensure the company continues to prosper. For the near term, he sees a healthy outlook shaping up for 2017. “Everything we’ve done up to this point has positioned us to take advantage of what will likely be a strong economic environment.”