1 HM: Looking into your crystal ball, and with everything you’ve seen in 2013, how will the hotel industry fare in 2014 in terms of overall operating metrics and profits?
SB: It’s anyone’s guess. There are so many variables today that can affect the outcome. Years ago, the industry was biblical, with seven years of feast and seven years of famine. Today, every political and global issue can change the direction in a heartbeat. I believe 2014 will mirror 2013, with a possible small bump in occupancy and rate.
2 HM: Most pundits are predicting healthy growth for the industry over the next three years, but what out there (government or otherwise) has the possibility to upset this optimism?
SB: There is no way to predict healthy growth for the next three years. There are simply too many issues within our government, the global picture and more that have the potential to upset this optimism rather quickly. For example, what happens if there is a terrorist attack on American soil? Most would agree that travel would come to a screeching halt. Occupancies will drop for a period of time dramatically as it has in the past during such an event. There are simply too many uncontrollable issues that can affect our industry.
3 HM: Developing new markets is always top of mind. In 2014, and beyond, where are you concentrating on for growth and expansion?
SB: As a pure franchise company that doesn’t own any brick and mortar businesses, we entertain quality growth anywhere but are focused toward major gateway cities.
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?
SB: As a franchise company, all you can do is make sure you’re franchising to someone who understands guest satisfaction and service quality, make sure your brand standards are in place and enforced, and work closely with management on all issues of guest satisfaction.
5 HM: As you lay your head down on December 31, what will your perfect industry dream be?
SB: That we would have an industry operated by quality, professional and experienced operators who understand the importance of a positive guest experience. Unfortunately, our industry, primarily in the economy and mid-tier sectors, are inundated with poor operators.