Maintaining Focus: Checking In With Meyer Jabara Hotels President Justin Jabara

Justin JabaraThe Meyer and Jabara families have been in business together for more than 45 years. That partnership, which spans three generations, is thriving today through Meyer Jabara Hotels, a privately-owned hotel ownership and management company. Justin Jabara, president of Meyer Jabara Hotels, says that the company has a meaningful ownership stake in approximately two-thirds of its portfolio while it manages the other third on behalf of family office, private equity, developers, or other asset classes coming into the hotel space. LODGING checked in with Jabara during this year’s Lodging Conference to discuss the family business, the trends he’s seeing, and his outlook for the year ahead.

How have your properties been performing this year?

I took over as president of the company in January 2020. Whether COVID is behind us or not (I like to think it is), we weathered that storm, and we’re a stronger company for it. A lot of hard work and perseverance during COVID positioned us quite well. Our portfolio is located across the United States, and it’s everything from large, 500-key, full-service Marriott hotels to our smallest hotel (a 16-key boutique with an extremely high ADR). About a third of our portfolio is at 2019 levels, a third is beating 2019, and of the last third, half of the properties are new. There are still a couple of properties and markets that are slower to come back and are more business travel driven.

On the management side, how has your company worked to stand out or innovate?

During COVID, we invested heavily within our platform—not because it was broken, but because within our culture, we’re focused on being the best and industry-leading. To just revenue manage in today’s world is not industry-leading—you need access to systems and data, and the skillset is totally different than it was in 2019. It’s gotten more complicated, and COVID sped that up. We operate under a commercial strategy; we have regional sales, on-property sales, revenue management, digital marketing, and eCommerce, and all that supports the property to pull all those levers to really get the best outcome. We see that in our hotel performance that consistently, market on market, we can outperform our competitors. We also have a team that is focused on business intelligence and data analytics; our feeling is if you can get the right data and interpret it, you can make better and quicker decisions, and by doing that, you become more competitive.

How are you responding to guests’ changing expectations around F&B?

We went through COVID and one of the things that was highly revised or diminished was food and beverage. We’re focusing on and investing in food and beverage; we actively have multiple F&B assets that we’re working on and renovating. The customer expectation is there; ADR is up, and people want that food and beverage experience, especially on the leisure side.

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What’s your outlook for the industry?

The booking patterns for group, business, and corporate travel are still somewhat depressed, but by all indications, unless there’s another black swan event (a major recession, a resurgence in the pandemic, or a major geopolitical event), it should be a good year next year. If next year is as good as this year, we’ll be happy. If we can do better than that, we’ll be very happy.

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Christine Killion is the editor of LODGING.