One on one with Concord Hospitality Enterprises Co.’s Mark Laport

Like a stealth bomber, Concord Hospitality Enterprises Co. has been cruising along for almost four decades, consistently targeting and scoring significant development deals while keeping compelling opportunities for growth and revenue enhancement always on its radar.

Piloted by President and CEO Mark Laport since he founded it in 1985, Concord currently manages 145 properties—the bulk of which are in the United States, with 10 in Canada. They run the segment gamut from upper-upscale full-service to premium select-service to extended-stay, and include luxury and boutique independents, restaurants and rooftop bar venues as well.

As might be imagined, the flight pattern has not always been smooth for such a long haul, but Laport’s steady hand and clear vision have kept the Raleigh, N.C., firm on course through some of the industry’s strongest headwinds. 

Case in point: As with most of the hospitality industry, the coronavirus pandemic buffeted Concord, but a disciplined approach rather than a pure survive-till-tomorrow attitude resulted in the company ultimately enjoying a banner year in 2022, with hotel revenues hitting $981 million, with comp hotels experiencing RevPAR growth of 41.6 percent over 2021. Similarly, revenues from F&B operations soared 25 percent, pulling in more than $125 million. Concord also added 15 third-party management contracts, opened 12 new hotels and 10 branded restaurant and rooftop bar concepts and retained management of 18 hotels that changed ownership. Its 29-asset Opus Collection—launched in 2019 to operate and develop upper-upscale boutique hotels, restaurants and bars within Concord’s portfolio—also has thrived and is anticipated to grow 17 percent this year.

“Through 2022 we’ve seen hard times as a result of the pandemic and now interest rates have risen to some of the highest numbers we have seen,” Laport said, framing the picture for what’s in store this year. “When you’re a developer it takes many months to figure out what you’re going to build two, three years from now. So, by the time 2023 came, we had $780 million in our development pipeline. We have a number of hotels that are already under construction from the four-star Westin Atlanta Gwinnett to lower-tier hotels such as WoodSpring Suites,” he said, adding Concord is now the largest developer of AC Hotels and is unafraid to build to whichever segment it deems is a fit for that given market. 

“We are still very active, though we are slowing down, as you must in some cases,” he added.

At press time, Concord had 15 hotels under construction with a dozen new hotels slated to be delivered by year’s end, even as several more are set to begin construction by Q4.

“We’re able to do that by working with our partners to put more cash in our developments, with less debt, and believe that we’ll have the opportunity to refinance when the market does turn and be rewarded for doing what others often are not [able to],” Laport said. “We’ve always been rewarded by being a developer when times are tough. We’ve also been rewarded for being a best-in-class operator and by attracting owners who understand what we bring to the table as an operator and a partner. We aim to be collaborative to drive value in their assets.” 

As the company’s Top Gun, Laport said he’s looking forward to celebrating the firm’s upcoming 40-year milestone, as well as recognizing key people—past and present—who have encouraged and inspired him along the way. 

Right from the Start 

The Buffalo, N.Y., native is the middle child of the Laport family and credits his late parents, Vivian and Raymond, with laying the foundation for many of his successes. 

“I was fortunate to grow up in a household with caring parents that stood by me from day one to when I went off to college and then continued to support me throughout my career,” Laport said, noting from an early age his mom, a teacher, stressed the importance of being studious.

A voracious reader today, the CEO grew up “absolutely loving” sports, especially basketball, which he played through college. “Being an athlete, I was devoted to staying in good physical shape and enjoyed being part of a team and all the hard work that entails. This experience became a part of who I am,” Laport said, adding that he still loves the sport.

The executive also touted the influence of his high school basketball coach. “[He] instilled in me a desire to win, compete, be fair and to get up the next day after a loss—because you do lose every now and then. What he taught me really inspired who I was and who I wanted to be when coaching and mentoring those around me ... Working with my coach set me on the course to where I am today and I will remember that forever.” 

While he might have daydreamed about shooting three-pointers for the once-upon-a-time Buffalo Braves, Laport instead headed for Ohio and the College of Mount Union where, thinking he would follow in familial footsteps—a doctor, a dentist—he enrolled as pre-med. “That didn’t work out, thankfully,” said Laport. Still, he came away with a Bachelor of Science degree (biology major, chemistry minor). “It really helped because part of my learning was to think like a scientist, be analytical. And that ability to analyze was something I was able to pull into my hospitality career,” he said. Laport later graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York with a Master of Science degree in hotel and tourism management.

His career germinated thanks to two industry veterans in Erie, Pa., who asked Laport 42 years ago to help them grow their small hotel company. He already had garnered experience developing homes and small neighborhoods and owned a restaurant, but recalled the execs “threw me right in,” having him work all departments from night audit to pulling sheets at a property. “I did it all and learned very quickly how to respect the service workers (and it became a huge respect) I was surrounded with through that experience. I grew to understand the hard work, devotion and passion many of them had, and I tried, as much as I could, to make that experience a part of who I wanted to be as a team member.” 

When the hoteliers looked to retire—Laport actually helped sell their five properties—the CEO took a leap of faith. “I thought to myself, ‘Boy, I love building things. I love the industry. Maybe I can put a team together,” he said. 

After finding “like-minded people” and “investors who could believe in me,” the result was the Hampton Inn State College in Pennsylvania, the first property for the nascent Concord, which drew its name from a small town Laport drove through daily as his career gained momentum. “It fit and it stuck,” the CEO said.

Using his Internal GPS

Laport acknowledged there was “no real grand plan, no secret sauce, no thesis of how I was going to go from 1 to now 145 hotels. It really was about having fun, being able to work with people that trust one another and doing things qualitatively. We wanted to be known for our high-quality work and quality became one of our cornerstones.” Indeed, he’ll tell an observer one of his pet peeves is hotels that are less than perfectly clean. 

Of course, someone might point to his office desk and wonder how does he even know if there’s something important there? But be assured, he does.

“I do a lot of things throughout the day so on my desk there’s a collection of [profit-and-loss documents], new deals, contracts for prospective hotels to acquire, today’s newspaper; there’s a lot of action on this desk and not any one piece is most important. I look at each one, every day, with importance,” he said.

The CEO describes himself as “driven,” and his company as “best in class.” Concord itself has gleaned numerous industry awards and accolades over the years. For example, last year the company had 11 hotels recognized by U.S. News & World Report as being among the “Best Hotels in the U.S.” and its Beaufort Hotel in North Carolina was selected as USA Today’s “Best Boutique Hotel.” 

Within its Opus Collection of lifestyle and boutique hotels, in 2022 the company opened 10 new assets, including Smoke & Mirrors in Washington, D.C.; Vue 360 in Clearwater Beach, Fla.; and Prologue in Calgary, Canada. Its Hook & Ladder was voted the best new restaurant in Philadelphia and the 1Watson rooftop venue was voted best new bar in San Antonio.

“This space is highly attractive, easier to fill and maintain and often has higher average rates,” Laport said. “Not to say that the capitalization of those assets is easy—it is still quite difficult—but we’re well positioned as a company to make these successful. This is as close as I get to bragging but we’ve gotten good at this. We’re disciplined, we’re thoughtful from soup to nuts and that has enabled us to enjoy success to perhaps a greater degree than some of our competitors.”

Part of that success also stems from a give-back attitude that includes environmental and community efforts, such as investing in LEED-designed hotels.

“People who work at this company really feel that our focus and desire to be good community members and to give back helps build our culture,” he said. “Our most recent Share Day—that’s when all our hotels raise money to buy food for Feed the Children—is a memorable moment. This last year we were able to get enough food to provide over a quarter-million free meals.”

Similarly, Concord for years has partnered with Clean the World to collect soaps, shampoos, lotions and more to help fight preventable diseases by providing soap and hygiene products to disadvantaged areas across the globe. 

“Over the years we’ve collected many, many, many tons of soap. That, too, has become one of the hallmarks of who we are and what we do for people. We trumpet this milestone internally to make sure those who join our company know that it’s important to us. And boy, is it ever easy to get people on board because it’s just the right thing to do,” the CEO said.

Beyond the C-Suite, Laport personally gives back to the industry. He has served in key positions on a variety of franchise committees, including chairing the Courtyard by Marriott Franchise Advisory Council. Right now he serves as president of the Renaissance Franchise Advisory Committee, and is a member of the AC Hotel Franchise Advisory Council and the Canopy Owner Advisory Council.

“Sitting around and doing nothing is not my preference. I’m the kind of person who wants to get it done and that’s something that has stuck with me through the years,” he said, and cites a preference for phone conversations over the back-and-forth of texts and emails. “I’m a Type-A person at the end of the day—and at the beginning.”

Not far fetched then to think Concord’s captain could easily ace the call sign Mark “Driver” Laport.


Headquarters: Raleigh, N.C.

Structure: Owner, operator, developer

Portfolio: 22,373 rooms, 145 hotels

Website: www.concordhotels.com