IHG’s Kirk Kinsell On Even Hotels, Airbnb, and More

KinsellHours before being honored by the UJA-Federation of New York’s Hospitality Division at a cocktail reception, Kirk Kinsell sat down with Lodging magazine at the InterContinental New York Times Square. Just slightly away from the buzz of the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference, the InterContinental Hotels Group’s president of the Americas discusses the pending opening of the much-anticipated Even Hotels, the rise of Airbnb, and more.

With the first two Even Hotels opening by the end of the month, this must be a particularly exciting time.
I guess you could say I’m excited and relieved. It’s like one of those tough workouts you finally finish. I’m delighted as well for all my colleagues across the company who have worked so hard and the partners associated with our company that have supported us during this period. I think of it as being tremendous heavy lifting amongst some of the best people in our industry in terms of their insight and innovation. I commend them for that.

The other thing is that we’ve taken a bit of a broader attack as well. It’s not one or two hotels, but we’ve created a website (www.wellwellwell.com), which is a treasure trove of things that you can do when you’re traveling to maintain your wellness. It’s a series of articles and insights by a number of experts in the field. It’s a place that will be constantly updated and where others can feed in. It’s going to be a very valuable tool because I recognize even when you’re at home or between stays at our hotel, you’re going to want to maintain your wellness. It’s an opportunity to be involved in your life.


Can you talk generally about the importance of having a wellness-centric brand in your portfolio?
Wellness is certainly not a trend. It’s part of our psyche, it’s part of our behavior. The key thing about Even Hotels that differentiates itself is the holistic nature of it and the mainstream price point. We recognize that people want to be active. We can facilitate that in a variety of ways either in their room or in a facility in the hotel or introduce them to other amenities or services in their local community.

Airbnb is obviously a hot topic at this meeting. Can you share some of your thoughts about it?
There are two things. I don’t think our company has any issue with a sharing economy concept. The issue is also not with innovation or new concepts.

Government authorities or other regulators need to hold these folks accountable for what other people have had to comply by or invest in. It just feels like there’s some kind of pass that this group is getting that the rest of us are held accountable for.

What advice can you offer to someone new to the industry?
First of all, it’s a great industry in terms of opportunities for career pathing. Careers are not a straight line. They are like rivers, and they’ll find a low spot now and again. 

Starting out, you want to focus on a variety of different experiences, especially operations, as that’s a key cornerstone to your foundation. Many people I’ve met at hotel school all want to go into convention services, so it’s a little popular right now. I think revenue management might be a better choice.

At the end of the day, understand what your purpose is, what your passion is, and what gets you up in the morning. Do a self-assessment and try a variety of different things and stretch yourself.

How many nights a year do you spend in one of your hotels?
I’m on the road 200-plus nights a year. I’d say three-quarters of those days are with our brands, but I do like to sleep around [laughs].