During the 43rd annual NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference, LODGING caught up with Janis Cannon, senior vice president, upscale brands for Choice Hotels International. There, Cannon spoke about the hotel industry’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, growth strategies for Choice’s upscale brands, and her outlook for 2022.
What opportunities have you been seeing for owners during this recovery period?
So far, it’s all positive across the board. Business is back and there are opportunities for growth. The cost of operations related to inflation has gone up, but the top-line revenue helps to offset some of those costs. Our responsibility as a hotel company is to make sure that we’re lowering that total cost of ownership, so that is what we’re doing: reducing the cost and operating model so that there are more opportunities for owners with that escalated cost.
Choice recently announced a new Cambria Hotels prototype. How is that rollout progressing?
It’s going extremely well. We have already executed a few contracts for Cambria expansions, and we do expect that we’ll have one opening in late 2023. There has been a lot of interest in Cambria’s new prototype—it’s designed for secondary markets where you might not have thought about developing in the past, but now it is where people want to be and travel to.
How do you anticipate Cambria will grow as this new prototype comes to market?
It’s probably going to grow more rapidly because our Cambria growth strategy has been focused on the top 50 markets. We wanted to make sure that we had the top 10 urban core markets at the forefront and go from there. We now are in 38 of the top 50, and eight of the top 10 markets in the United States. Having a focused growth strategy, we will ensure we’re putting the right Cambria in the right location so that we perform the best. The customer demand and opportunities are also there.
What trends are you seeing coming out of these markets next year?
We’ve seen that our length of stay has gone up. It used to be business travel during the week and leisure travel on weekends, but what we’re seeing is a blend. Guests may come in on Wednesday night to work Thursday and Friday from the hotel, but then they may extend their trip through the weekend. We have also noticed an increase in guests using outdoor spaces.
As the industry traverses a shortage in labor paired with rising demand, have you been shifting operations?
Our housekeeping on-demand option has been successful. We’ve learned a lot about the importance of communicating with the guest and providing them with choices. With Cambria, we use a text platform to be upfront about our housekeeping on-demand offering. We reach out to customers asking if they want more towels or coffee, and what we realized that we need to solve is the replacement of daily-use items. So, our text platform allows us to check in on our customers, and then we can bring those items to them.
International travel borders have recently opened; how does that influence your outlook for 2022?
Once COVID vaccines began to roll out, we saw a V-shape recovery. Now, with international travel coming back, for a lot of the major urban core markets like New York City, bringing back that international travel and demand will help to boost the performance in the city overall.
Heading into 2022, how do you see your upscale brands faring?
I think they’re going to do extremely well, as they have fared throughout the pandemic. Our index and categories have been over 100 percent for over 15 of the last 16 months. We’ve had a good run, and we think we will continue to see that with future bookings. Even with slight changes in market segmentation, business is only going to get stronger as groups and conventions start to come back, as well as business travel. As we continue to grow, our responsibility is to make sure it’s the right kind of growth and to protect what makes Cambria so special.