“What makes Omni a little different is we really strive to be unique, local, and authentic in all of the different markets,” says Omni Hotels & Resorts President Mike Deitemeyer in an interview from his office in the company’s Dallas, Texas, headquarters.
Indeed, Omni has developed a reputation over the years of putting up one-of-a-kind hotels, particularly in urban areas. But these days, that strive for uniqueness has helped lead the company on a growth path that—even in a tough development environment—has resulted in some very high-profile developments in cities such as Dallas and Nashville, Tenn., and resort areas such as Amelia Island, Fla. (You can read more on Omni’s developments and growth plans in the upcoming March issue of Lodging.)
Omni itself is a unique company. In fact, Deitemeyer says Omni carries no debt and can still be choosy about its projects. It can still afford to be strategic about building its brand and hitting its target audience. That target audience is also unique. Omni gets about half of its business from groups.
“We spend a lot of marketing dollars focusing on meeting planners,” says Tom Santora, chief marketing officer for Omni Hotels & Resorts. “Almost half of our business is group business. We do that really well.”
Despite being in a position to be careful and methodological about its growth, Omni has been very busy recently. With each new development, including taking over Amelia Island Plantation out of bankruptcy, developing a large anchor hotel for Nashville’s new convention center, and a shiny new convention hotel in the downtown section of Dallas, Omni is taking on projects that not only help it grow, but also evolve.
“Being privately held, it’s a little different,” Santora says. “We’re going to make sure it fits within the brand image and what we are trying to create.”
Omni’s executives says being a privately held hotel company they have a lot of flexibility and can take advantage of opportunities others might not be able to. For example, it’s able to easily launch programs in a downturn that enabled it to achieve a zero attrition rate among guests, in particular meeting planners.
“That was in 2008 and 2009 when things where really crazy,” Santora says of the zero attrition. He credits it in part to the brand’s automatic room resale clause in its contracts.
Such programs are simply part of Omni’s reputation for service, something the Deitemeyer takes great pride in.
While Omni continues to move forward and has been one of the few hotel companies doing multiple new-build developments, acquisitions remain the main channel of growth, according to CFO Mike Garcia. “If we can find, acquire, and renovate a property, we see that as more advantageous in today’s environment,” he says.
As with the Amelia Island acquisition, Garcia sees that there are still some opportunities to buy properties out of bankruptcy. “Not as many as we thought,” he admits. “But we are still working on some deals down the road.”
He also says the company has some opportunities it’s looking at that are similar to the public-private partnerships that it did in places such as Fort Worth, Texas, and Nashville. “We think we have an advantage to come in and work with the cities,” Garcia says. “If they provide the incentives, we will put our capital at risk to build a hotel. We were successful in Fort Worth and Nashville and there are a few cities that we know are coming out and we continue to look at those types of developments.”
Garcia says the growth focus remains in the United States. “We are looking for a few in Canada, but primarily it’s in the U.S.,” he says.
Much more from Deitemeyer, Santora, and Garcia, and Omni Hotels & Resorts’ growth, service culture, and success can be found in the March issue of Lodging.