Four Innovators in Hotel Development and Franchising

A multi-faceted industry, there are more opportunities in hospitality to innovate, disrupt, and generally shake things up than in other business arenas. Innovating is exactly what hospitality leaders love to do. They incorporate new technologies in surprising ways, create inventive new processes and procedures, and break new ground wherever they go. LODGING recently turned the spotlight on more than a dozen executives and companies making a unique mark on the industry and influencing the course of its future. Below are four innovators and disruptors in hotel development and franchising. 

1Anu Saxena

Anu Saxena presenting to the Asian & Pacific Islander team member resource group.
Anu Saxena presenting to the Asian & Pacific Islander team member resource group.

As Senior Vice President and Global Head for Hilton Supply Management (HSM), Anu Saxena leads the global procurement of over $5 billion in more than 90 countries with more than 2,000 global suppliers. Saxena recently discussed with LODGING how her love of travel, a job at Ohio State University’s office of information technology, and a Big 4 consulting career led her to Hilton and an industry she loves, as well as her plans for what she calls “HSM 2.0.” Read the full interview here.

2Hart Hotels

David P. Hart, President of Hart Hotels
David P. Hart, President of Hart Hotels

Many hoteliers only build in flourishing markets with existing demand and strong competition—Hart Hotels does the opposite. The management company is focused on waterfront properties across the state of New York in towns that need updated lodging options and a tourism boost. Son of Hart Hotels founder William Hart, David Hart, who now serves the company as president and CEO, says, “It isn’t build it and they’ll come. It’s build it and they’ll stay. Thousands of people are going to these marketplaces already. We just need to give them better options and they’ll either stay or come back more frequently.”

According to Hart, the best places to build are “in destinations that people know about but that lack quality lodging, food and beverage, meeting space, or any combination of those. Some have been notable destinations for years but time has passed them by.” Beyond creating new tourism destinations, with these endeavors, Hart Hotels is bringing full-time work to communities in need of more employment options.

The company also has a small brand—the Harbor Hotel Collection—with a portfolio outside of New York.


franchiseasy - RLH Corporation

Less than a year ago, RLH Corporation rolled out franchiseasy, a mobile and online tool designed to streamline the franchising process and remove barriers of entry for independent hoteliers. The company gives hoteliers the option to join under the Country Hearth brand umbrella or keep their hotel’s name and remain unaffiliated. It also allows hoteliers to pick and choose from a selection of optional services to build a custom package.

Leslee Torres, senior vice president of digital loyalty and partnerships, told LODGING that this modern approach to franchising allows hoteliers to navigate the process at their own pace and on their own time. “The entire franchising process, at one time an impersonal rush to sign contracts and hammer out deals, has been simplified, made more comfortable, and specifically geared to appeal to owners who may be new or reluctant to forego their independence to join a large corporation,” she explains.

Torres says the process is designed to give more freedom to independent hotel owners. “The streamlined application process is a low barrier of entry, breaking down the hurdles of the more complex traditional franchising process and opening the door to owners who may have been hesitant to look into franchising due to the complexity,” she notes.


Wyndham/Wayfair Partnership

Wyndham has partnered with online home store Wayfair to offer franchisees an opportunity to purchase brand-standard furniture, fixtures, and design products online. Howard Johnson owners in North America gained access to the Wayfair portal in May, and the company plans to roll out the program to Wingate, Microtel, Days Inn, Super 8, and its recently acquired La Quinta brand as well.

Wyndham Hotel Group CEO Geoff Ballotti says that the Wayfair collaboration aims to elevate guests’ economy and midscale experiences through brand standards while making it easier for owners to update their properties. “We really do believe that this partnership is a game changer,” Ballotti says.

Niraj Shah, co-founder and CEO of Wayfair, explains that because about 30 percent of Wayfair orders are too large—either in quantity or size—to be delivered by UPS or FedEx, the company has created 20 delivery operations in the largest U.S. markets and forged partnerships in other markets. This not only improves delivery efficiency, but also gives hotel owners the option to schedule their deliveries.

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