1 HM: Looking into your crystal ball, how will the hotel industry fare in 2014 in terms of overall operating metrics and profits?
ED: I’m optimistic about 2014—barring any unforeseen circumstances, of course. But from what we’ve seen, we expect improving trends to continue: performance and occupancy rates should remain strong as consumers travel more. We feel the good times should continue for the foreseeable future.
2 HM: Most pundits are predicting healthy growth for the industry over the next three years, but what factors have the possibility to upset this optimism?
ED: You have to assume there will always be hurdles to jump over and challenges to overcome, whether they’re put in place by governments or other entities. It’s the way of the world. We believe we’ll be able to tackle challenges thrown our way, and the industry is in a good position to see business continue to improve.
3 HM: Technology and social media play major roles in the hospitality industry. What is your company doing to stay ahead of the curve?
ED: Mobile technology is also playing an increasing role in how hotels capture business—this channel gives travelers increased flexibility and they can book immediately. Our research has shown that over half of travelers book the same day, less than five miles from their destination. Since so many of our guests drive to their lodging destinations, we developed mobile websites and apps from the ground up. They include an express booking feature to cater to the customer researching and booking on the go, which allows them to reserve a room without using a credit card.
4 HM: Nothing can ruin a hotel stay—or transaction otherwise—more than bad customer service. How do you ensure your teams are delivering the best in guest satisfaction?
ED: The incorporation of ratings and reviews on all of our websites is one way we’ve worked to deliver on guest satisfaction. This feedback ... gives owners a better understanding of what guests are experiencing, where the hotel is doing well and where the hotel can improve.
5 HM: As you lay your head down on December 31, what will your perfect industry dream be?
ED: I hope that the industry is healthy enough that all owners have the ability and willingness to reinvest capital into their business and assets so that consumers, brands and owners continue to win bigger.