After 12 years at Choice Hotels International, leading the company’s global operating functions, Bruce Haase is taking his game from Silver Spring, Md., to Wichita, Kan. He joined Value Place as its CEO in April, looking to lead the economy extended-stay brand into a new frontier of development, operations and distribution. With around 185 hotels operating today, Haase will look to grow that number. He let Hotel Management in on how he intends to do just that, what the brand’s new marketing ambitions are and what he thinks of some of the competition popping up in the segment.
1: You took over the reins at Value Place only seven months ago, but moving forward, what are some of Value Place’s immediate plans?
BH: Regarding development, we want to continue to build new product to be owned and operated by the company. We primarily want to do that in expansion markets, where Value Place doesn’t yet exist. Plant the flags in those markets, then entice other franchisees to develop in the market with us. We feel good about the trajectory we are on and are building a substantial pipeline.
2: Development aside, what is Value Place doing to up its identity as a hotel brand?
BH: We are building up our marketing, branding and distribution capabilities. In the past, we were more oriented as an operating concept rather than a branding concept. We haven’t spent much time on this as a company, so we are looking to grow the brand value in addition to growing the number of units. This will include the launch of a new website in the next few months and the hiring of distribution specialists. The whole gamut of online distribution is something we haven’t played in. We aren’t going to be a powerhouse like Marriott or IHG, but there is lots of progress to make.
3: As a brand that plays in the economy extended-stay segment, how important is your online presence to your clientele?
BH: Despite how people book, they use the Internet as a shopping vehicle. We need to be top of mind and have presence out there. In the past, Value Place was found because we were off highways with a real big sign. That ability to draw customers is strong, but we need to augment it with online, particularly for people coming from out of town on relocations, which is a big part of our business. There is more research involved when someone is thinking about where to stay for a week or a month, for temporarily living, than when they are going for a night or two. They might not book via the website, but that’s the entrée to the introduction of the brand.
4: What’s the focus now as it relates to growing the brand’s footprint?
BH: Our focus is on opening up new markets. We are in 32 states now and there are more markets we can go into like Minneapolis, the Pacific Northwest, South Florida, Milwaukee. We are looking at 20 to 25 expansion markets—go in early with a flagship location to establish the brand, then invite franchisees to share the market. Our long-term goal is to open 10 new company-owned properties and 30 franchises per year.
5: The lower-end extended-stay space is getting crowded with more brands. What do you think of the competition?
BH: We are happy where we are. We are in a number of markets and have a huge head start. We like our space between lower-economy extended stay and Extended Stay America. The lower economy product is inconsistent; I don’t believe they deliver clean and safe as well as we do. We are all interior-corridor, purpose-built with high cleanliness standards. No one delivers at the price point that we deliver. I don’t see the lower part of extended stay moving up to where we are or making the investments needed to compete with us.