HM on Location: Aimbridge flexes operational hegemony through structural change

PHOENIX—It's an important time for Aimbridge Hospitality. Andrew Jordan, the company's chief marketing officer, made that abundantly clear at The Lodging Conference in September, where he was joined by Mark Tamis, Aimbridge's president of global operations, and Allison Reid, chief global growth officer. Both have extensive careers in hospitality: Tamis, who most recently worked in cruise operations, had stints with Four Seasons and Morgans Hotel Group; Reid has a long history working on the brand side with the likes of Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Kimpton. 

Before the brands, Reid was with Interstate Hotels & Resorts, which merged with Aimbridge in 2019, creating the world's largest third-party management platform, boasting some 1,500 hotels globally, with around 114 hotels outside North America. It came with change at the top. In August 2021, Dave Johnson, the founder of Aimbridge, ended his affiliation with the company after 18 years, with Mike Deitemeyer, who had been president and CEO of Interstate, taking over with the same title of the combined company.

A little more than a year later, Aimbridge is increasing its potency by implementing a new operational strategy that it hopes will help it take further advantage of its scale, while still keeping it owner-centric.

In one step, the Interstate name, which was Aimbridge's international arm, was retired. Instead, moving forward, it will be known as Aimbridge EMEA and be led by David Anderson, who joined the company in 2021. "Under one identity we can take Interstate’s position and experience as a leading third-party operating division in the UK, Ireland and Europe, and capitalize further on Aimbridge’s strong industry and brand relationships," Anderson said.

As part of the rebrand, Aimbridge EMEA became one of six Aimbridge operating divisions, divvied up by asset type and geography:

  • Full Service, which encompasses resorts. 
  • Evolution Lifestyle, differentiated through curated experiences
  • Enhanced Select Service, focused on service 
  • Select Service, focused in on efficiencies for short and extended stays
  • EMEA, seeking to expand beyond the UK and Europe

The company reorganization comes on the heels of other high-profile additions beyond Interstate, including Prism Hotels & Resorts and Grupo Hotelero Prisma, both in 2021.  

The new Aimbridge is hardly recognizable, noted Tamis. "It feels like a new company," he said, describing the new divisions as "companies within a company," and adding that owners were open to the changes because they always "want improvement."

It's Aimbridge's vast systems and scale that allow it to effectively manage such a high volume of assets, with each getting the benefits of purchasing power. Aimbridge employs more than 20 procurement specialists, who have line of sight into what every hotel is buying, going as far as negotiating individual SKUs.

Tamis said Aimbridge has the ability, if needed, to intake as many as 50 hotels in a single day, all centered around a triptych of a tagline: "People. Product. Profit."

Although Aimbridge operates at scale, according to Deitemeyer, the company's structure has effectively shrunk, with divisional presidents directing each unit. 

"We came together as the biggest in the world; it's been a cultural evolution around redefining the landscape," Deitemeyer said. "We are investing in talent, leveraging technology and it all allows us to be much more responsive to owners because we understand the ROI thesis on investments."

Deitemeyer also gets the headwinds facing the hotel industry, not least of it labor. "The focus is on how we improve productivity," he said. Beyond clustering labor, Aimbridge is currently beta testing technology that will allow it to staff hotels through gig workers. 

Bigger is Better—Right?

Competitors will contend that Aimbridge's size is its Achilles heel—that owners will get lost in the shuffle and not receive the level of service and attention they would with a third-party operator carrying a smaller portfolio of properties. Not so, said Reid, adding that any owner can get CEO Deitemeyer on the phone as needed.

"Big is good; some will say it’s not," said Reid. "The industry has changed and Aimbridge is at the center of it."

Part of it is because there are such a range of owners now—institutional down to mom and pop. "There are the Blackstones and Starwood Capitals looking to move money on a scale basis," Reid said. "There are also the smaller owners handing over assets to the next generation. Both need operating excellence."

One of the reasons Reid joined Aimbridge was because of the vast amount of data it holds. Before, working at one brand, there was only one set of data to peruse, offering a rather myopic industry view. Now, Reid has access to data points from myriad brands and asset types that allows her, she said, to "help our partners understand where the industry is going and where they should invest.

"There are a lot of investors who need to put money out and some companies don’t have the resources. Being big, we can see every market and product type."