IHG executives say their hotel owners need to work with them to improve technology, loyalty, quality assurance and revenue management at their properties.
SAN FRANCISCO—The executive leadership of InterContinental Hotels Group preached the need for cooperation with franchisees during the first day of the 2015 IHG Americas Owners Conference Wednesday.
That logic extended across multiple facets of the franchisee’s businesses, from revenue management to technology to loyalty to quality assurance.
That’s why Elie Maalouf, CEO of the Americas, and CEO Richard Solomons pointed out that this year’s theme is “winning together.”
“When we think and act as one, we’re unstoppable,” Solomons said. “We need one another. Not just as business owners and hotel owners, but as real people.”
IHG Chief Information Officer Eric Pearson walked through a laundry list of technological improvements the company plans to make at its brands, including expanding use of smartphones for check-in and to use as mobile keys.
He detailed how an integrated system will allow IHG
properties to track guests from the moment they land in a city, allowing the front desk to prepare for their arrival, send a greeting text, send special offers from a hotel bar and ask them to leave a positive review at check-out. But he said all of those efforts are meaningless without buy-in from hotel owners.
“This is where we need your help and we need your support,” Pearson said. “The most critical part of this is that last mile in your hotels. Everything comes alive for guests in your hotels.”
Pearson said the company will need property owners’ help in updating the systems in hotels to be more streamlined and allow programs like mobile keys to take hold. Those efforts are complicated by having different systems at different properties. There are a total of 76 different point-of-sale systems operating at separate IHG hotels in the Americas, Pearson said.
Pearson said IHG expects to roll out its new reservation system in 2017.
Maalouf described the IHG Rewards Club loyalty program as a “large and long-term investment to all of us,” and said it’s most effective at the local level.
“Loyalty is so much about recognition at the hotel,” Maalouf said.
He said treating guests well is an area the company’s brands have thrived in.
“When we do this well, our guests and owners notice,” Maalouf said. “We are doing it well, and they are noticing. New brand signings are the highest they’ve been in seven years. This is clearly a case of winning together.”
Oliver Bonke, chief commercial officer of the Americas, said that can be accomplished by doing something as simple as making the sleep experience better, which he described as “winning in sleep.”
“It might not be the sexiest stuff, but guests value this tremendously,” Bonke said. “Quality of sleep is the No. 1 or No. 2 driver of guest love or hate. We’re in the business where we’ve got to get this right.”
Incoming IHG Owners Association Chairman Steve Ehrhardt, owner of Ehrhardt Properties and SJS Hospitality, said simplifying things and giving multi-property hotel owners a single point of contact with IHG—as opposed to contacts for individual brands—would be an improvement he’s seeking in his new role.
COO of the Americas Jolyon Bulley said it’s becoming a reality. That single point of contact with an individual hotelier would then work with experts in area like revenue management, marketing and sales and operations support.
“We’re going from a hotel-centric model to putting the owner at the center of franchise support,” Bulley said. “This allows us to get closer to you.”
Bulley said more hoteliers need to adopt the tools offered through IHG, particularly the company’s revenue management tools.
“It allows your general manager to do what they know best: to run a great hotel by leading their hotel team to deliver a great guest experience,” Bulley said. “That’s a key element to winning. … So free up your general managers from dealing with this complex subject. Make a monthly investment in one of our tools.”
Maalouf said slightly more than 2,300 hotels in the Americas take advantage of the program and are seeing dividends.
By Sean McCracken