A Word from Management: Davidson Hotels’ John Belden

John Belden, president and CEO of Davidson Hotels & Resorts, has always been optimistic when it comes to the lodging industry. It’s a mindset he believes comes with the territory, as serving guests and finding the best possible outcome is the ultimate goal of any hospitality professional. And with a number of positive changes happening at Davidson, Belden has more reason than ever to have a positive outlook. With more than four decades of experience under the company’s belt, Davidson just this year launched a lifestyle division—Pivot Hotels & Resorts—to appeal to a whole new generation of travelers. Belden spoke to LODGING about the exciting evolution at Davidson.

What led to the creation of Pivot?
Over the years, Davidson has strategically shaped its portfolio toward the full-service, upper-upscale, and luxury space. This is because we wanted to diversify within that particular quality and pricing spectrum. Pursuing boutique lifestyle properties within luxury segments makes perfect sense with that goal in mind. Further driving our decision were changing consumer trends. Guests are looking for more unique and personalized stays, plus the investment and lending community have more formally embraced this segment over the last seven to 10 years.

How did you prepare to run this new division?
We’ve operated a lot of independent hotels over the years but never in a defined or concentrated manner in terms of growth. We really wanted to leverage those successful experiences, so we hired people for Pivot who have spent the bulk of their careers in the boutique and lifestyle space. The name reflects our new credo: “Performance from a new perspective.” And, while it’s a wholly owned division of Davidson, we based Pivot in Los Angeles, which is one of the strongest reservoirs of talent in the boutique and lifestyle segments in the country. We want our people at Pivot to develop their own unique personality while zealously sharing our common values. To my knowledge we’re the first large-scale operating platform to launch into the lifestyle space in this manner. Others have defined elements within their companies addressing this space, but no one’s ever launched it independently and outside of their core management apparatus. We feel like we are charting some new territory here.

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How are you looking to shape Pivot’s performance in its Early years?
First and foremost we need to define where Davidson will play and where Pivot will play. So Pivot will operate all independent and soft-branded assets ranging from three-and-a-half to five stars. We aim to have more than 25 properties in the Pivot division by 2020, and we aspire to become the go-to operator in the lifestyle space. This is not because we’re trying to create a brand—Pivot will never be a brand on the side of a hotel—it’s just a different way for us to express ourselves.

I’m sure Pivot isn’t the only thing Davidson has going on right now? What else does the company have in store for 2016?
We’re going to continue to grow our portfolio through our existing client partner network and pursue new client partners who share our values. We are also going to pursue merger and acquisition opportunities by looking at other management companies that either have assets that fit with our defined portfolio or share a common culture with Davidson and Pivot.

What differentiates Davidson from other management companies and keeps it growing so steadily?
It’s simple—love. Our company has been around for 42 years and is always evolving and changing in exciting new ways. Our heritage of success creates an ever-raising bar, so we all feel a powerful sense of responsibility to carefully steward Davidson through our generation of management, build on the efforts of those who came before us, and prepare the company for greater things.

I always hear people say they love working for Davidson, but what they are really saying is it means everything to them to work for a team that is values-driven, highly engaged, highly skilled, and passionate. And through those shared adventures we’ve developed a deep sense of love for each other, which has brought out the best in each of us and become a core foundation in our culture.