Vantage CEO Roger Bloss Talks Industry Consolidation

BlossRoger Bloss feels old. His daughter just graduated high school and is headed to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to study hospitality management. The president and CEO of Vantage Hospitality Group thinks back to the day she was born, April 22, 1996—only a couple of weeks after he bought his first two hotels. How time flies.

Over the past 18 years, as Bloss’s daughter has come into her own, so has the company he and his partners launched in 1996. In July, Vantage announced big plans to acquire America’s Best Franchising’s (ABF’s) six core brands and its 200-plus hotels. Add that to Vantage’s more than 1,000 existing properties, and Bloss has a lot to be proud of this year.

So what’s the next step with the ABF deal?
Our culture is uniquely different than most, so we have to talk to ABF owners, find out what they need, and communicate what we want to do. We’ll also add some key people into the fold as we move forward, so there is still a lot of work to be done.

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Will there be more industry consolidation ahead?
To compete with third-party OTAs and the other big legacy brands, I do think there has to be more consolidation. Today, it’s about distribution. I know how difficult it was for us to stay competitive at our size, and we’re pretty big. So for the smaller guys, it’s virtually impossible today. The dollars it takes to run frequent traveler programs, marketing, advertising, keyword buys, revenue management, and all of that, it’s heavily intense in manpower and technology, and smaller companies just can’t carry that overhead.

ABF acquisition aside, what is driving Vantage’s growth these days?
We’re getting a lot of conversions from legacy brands because a lot of them have taken some pretty aggressive stances and alternative directions. Human nature says that if you’re pushed, at some point you’re going to push back. So I always felt if I could educate and motivate people and show them the path to prosperity, then they would be much more apt to listen, as opposed to me sticking a six-inch-thick contract in front of them.

Is that the thinking behind your “educate, not mandate” philosophy?
I can’t make people do something they don’t believe in or can’t afford. Virtually every day is about education and bringing resources to members. Believe it or not, I only have a high school education; I never went to college. I think that’s why I emphasize education, because I don’t think we should ever stop learning.

You recently added quarterly webcasts for members. Why is it important to keep an open line of communication like this?
My motto is, “Don’t tell me what I want to hear, tell me what I need to know.” When I do these webcasts, I always do them live so members can see my body language and hear the inflection in my voice. That way, they know what I’m saying is heartfelt. Growing up in the business and owning hotels, I can relate. I know the frustrations owners deal with. The webcasts keep them connected and reinforce that they can talk to me about anything. I love how this really empowers them. At the end of the day, it resolves issues, it shows we care, and it shows that the leadership is engaged.

What was the thinking behind adding Cruise Inns RV Parks to your portfolio?
There are 11,000 RV parks in this country, and less than 600 of them have any technology or branding. We saw this opportunity as a vertical integration to the hospitality industry. We’re now branding and managing and partnering with RV parks across the United States. And you know what’s really cool about it? All their garbage and linens drive away every day.