HM Exclusive: Women Own the Room member blazes own trail to hotel ownership

The hotel industry is full of family businesses, often starting with a man buying a hotel and operating it with his family, with the children often taking over the business when they reach adulthood.

But the latest member of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts’ Women Own the Room program and her mother have given the story a bit of a twist. Christina Lambert is a broadcast producer who owns two Wyndham properties—a Baymont Inn and a Travelodge—in Loveland, Colo. Her start in the industry came via her mother.

“My mother was a businesswoman in the ’60s when women didn’t do that sort of thing,” Lambert said. “She was divorced and she started out with three single-family properties that she converted into apartments and built her business from there. I grew up watching her work and was inspired by her.”

Lambert additionally was inspired as a child by Jane Merriken, director of Ralph Lauren Home Collection in the 1980s and 1990s.

“[Merriken] was a huge inspiration and like a second mom to me and having the advantage of being exposed to women in business at an early age I felt like I could follow my dreams,” she said.

Lambert went to art school and worked for a graphic design company for about a year before deciding that the field was not the right one for her. That decision led to her working in commercial production. She ended up moving to Los Angeles and working in film and television, being further inspired by a neighbor who won an Academy Award in the 1990s.

“I don’t think any of that would have been possible without the positive women role models in my life,” she said. “There were also a lot of men in my life who were influential as well, but to see a woman do it [was inspirational]. I certainly never felt like I had anything holding me back.”

New Direction

photo of a woman
Christina Lambert (Wyndham Hotels & Resorts)

Lambert and her mother decided to sell their apartment buildings and try something new, buying the hotels in July of 2020. The two hotels sit side by side in Loveland, with the Baymont a reflag of a former Holiday Inn Express. They needed a loan to purchase the Travelodge and a three-month deadline: 10 lenders said no before Banner Capital Bank came through.

“The revenue on the properties looked great and they looked like we could improve them,” she said. “When you purchase a hotel that needs a renovation, there’s more opportunity for growth and that was what we were looking for.”

The relationship with Wyndham was a natural fit, according to Lambert.

“We took a look at the bones of the building and the amenities and thought, it’s easy to see that what needs to be done here is it needs to be renovated and rebranded and you know, with the help from the folks at Wyndham, we made it happen,” she said. “The key money through Women Own the Room has been a big part of that.”

Another element WOTR helped Lambert with was support.

“I felt like the support that Wyndham offered me was amazing. My sales guy Kent Williams, who was really pitching me the Baymont flag, put me in touch with other hotel owners in Colorado and when I had questions he said, ‘You know, I know who you should talk to—you should talk to my friend Jason, you should talk to this person. You should talk to that person,’” she said. “It's just been a real partnership with Wyndham all the way and it was an easy choice to go with them. To me was not even really a question.”

Lambert continues to live in Los Angeles but devotes 100 percent of her time to the hotels. She spent the first two summers of ownership on site in Colorado retraining and hiring managers and staff and visits once or twice a month.

“We had to become better than what we were—our employees weren't even in uniforms,” she said. “We’ve figured all that out and I'm really proud of where we are today.”

Lambert would like to add another hotel or two to her portfolio in the next few years depending on “what’s out there and where we are. But I’m really happy with what we have.”

Lessons Learned

Lambert said her mother was very frugal, investing every penny back into real estate. She had A-plus credit and a viable business, but she still faced obstacles as a woman in business, including when dealing with banks.

“She was always about solutions, not the obstacles,” Lambert said. “I think it colored the way I look at things in life. I tend to look at things more in a strategic way. If I find that Point A and I want to get to Point B, what is my path to do that? How many different ways can I achieve that and what is the most likely path? What is the easiest path?”

Lambert’s advice for other women considering hotel ownership is to build relationships—and do your research.

“Investigate first all of the programs that are out there, see what they have and how they can make [ownership] happen,” she said. “Attending conferences is really enlightening and they have lenders who have resources available. You have to take a look at where you are regionally, where you want to purchase, is that a seasonal business? Is it near an Air Force base, and you've got that kind of business?

“There are there's so many paths but I think everyone has to do their homework and say this is where I am this is what is a good fit for me.”

Women Own the Room

Wyndham launched its Women Own the Room program in August 2021. The goal was to advance and empower female entrepreneurs who are interested in hotel ownership. That includes helping women overcome common barriers they face in hotel development and helping them open and run their own hotels.

The company committed to use its balance sheet to support women hotel owners and launched a development incentive program that will provide financing and complimentary or expanded first-year operating services for hotels developed by women. Wyndham also planned a series of educational and networking events to kick the program off.

According to Wyndham, the Women Own the Room program has garnered significant interest, with hotels owned by women open across the country, more than a dozen signed and additional deals in the pipeline.