1 HM: With everything you’ve seen in 2013, how will the hotel industry fare in 2014 in terms of overall operating metrics and profits?
SJ: The outlook is good and the supply/demand growth is still very favorable. People have started traveling again. According to the UNWTO, in the first eight months, international tourist arrivals grew to reach a record 747 million worldwide, about 38 million more than over the same period in 2012. This makes us very optimistic about the industry’s growth potential.
2 HM: In regard to how you handle 2014, what specific or significant goals have you set for your company?
SJ: We will continue to expand into the upscale segment with the Ascend Hotel Collection and Cambria Suites. We will also look to further grow our technology sector through the new Sky Touch division. Our Comfort brand is being refreshed, and on the distribution front, we are very focused on staying ahead of the rapidly expanding mobile part of our business.
3 HM: Most pundits are predicting healthy growth for the industry over the next three years, but what out there could upset this optimism?
SJ: While the economy is growing, there continues to be some uncertainty. This is obviously not good for business in general. Also, immigration reform is at the top of the agenda for the federal government, and it is a critical long-term issue for our industry. While we clearly need to secure our borders, we recognize that we cannot grow economically without a ready workforce. Tax reform could occur, and if done badly could threaten hotel expansion and job growth.
4 HM: Developing new markets is always top of mind. In 2014, and beyond, where are you concentrating on for growth and expansion?
SJ: The UNWTO reported that between January and August of this year, European tourism grew more than any other region in the world. Europe recorded approximately 20 million more arrivals over this period than last year. As such, we see huge growth opportunity in Europe.
5 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?
SJ: We believe customer service is critical to our success and to the success of our franchisees. We have customer service guidelines in place which must be adhered to in order to be a Choice franchisee and we work with our hotels to ensure that they meet these standards.