Hotel leaders speaking on three general session panels at the recent NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference mostly were harmonious in identifying the topics, and answering the questions, permeating and shaping the hotel industry today.
On the question perhaps most asked at the conference—are there too many brands?—it seemed to depend on who’s asked, and when.
Accor Chairman and CEO Sébastien Bazin, whose company currently has a portfolio of 38 brands, said it’s completely plausible that the industry will see the total number of brands double within a few years.
“Brands have meaning—something sexy, fresh, modern,” he said.
The important part for a hotel company is to unify those brands on a single platform, he added. “We have 38 brands; we don’t have 38 websites,” he said. “It doesn’t cost one penny more to have 50 brands on one portal.”
Marriott International President and CEO Arne Sorenson noted that while his company’s brand portfolio numbers 30, “we really have one brand, one umbrella brand,” which is the loyalty program, Marriott Bonvoy.
The key is “providing choice broad enough to keep them (guests) with us,” he said, “as opposed to going to an (online travel agency), Google and being an intermediary customer.”
Because not everyone’s travel purpose is the same, “to have one brand is not nearly enough choice,” Sorenson said.
Keith Barr, CEO of InterContinental Hotels Group, said having a “world-class loyalty program” is just smart business. “If you don’t have the product customers want, you’re effectively saying ‘go stay with my competitor,’” he said.
Elie Maalouf, CEO, Americas, at IHG, which has a portfolio of 16 brands, said “it’s not about reaching a certain number of brands; it’s about keeping your strategy consistent.”