Choice Turns Attention To Urban Upscale Development - Business Travel News

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Choice Turns Attention To Urban Upscale Development

December 18, 2012 - 01:55 PM ET

By Michael B. Baker

New York - Choice Hotels International during the next two years will debut its Cambria Suites brand here in a move that the mostly midprice hotel company hopes will attract more travel buyers to its foray into the upscale tier.

The first Cambria Suites property opened five years ago and the brand since has grown to nearly 20 U.S. locations. The major urban markets, however, largely are absent from the portfolio. CEO Stephen Joyce aims to fill that gap.

"When I came over to Choice—and Cambria Suites was one of the primary motivators for that—I saw a young brand that could do great things," he said during a Dec. 6 press event for the groundbreaking of three Cambria properties in the New York metropolitan area. "At that point, the company was doing well and selling lots of franchises, but the markets they were getting in were not the markets I thought we should be in. For example, we pretty much own Wisconsin, and no offense to anyone from Wisconsin, but when you start a brand, that's not usually where you want to start."

Because Cambria is a brand targeted to the business traveler, Joyce started talking to developers about a bigger urban presence for the brand. The 2008 economic meltdown delayed progress, but development now is back on track, he said.

Of the three Cambria properties under construction in the New York area, the first, a property in downtown White Plains, N.Y., is scheduled to open in summer 2013. Manhattan properties in Times Square and Chelsea are due to follow in 2014.

Within about a year, Joyce expects to have about 20 Cambria properties under construction across the United States, with a continued boost from Choice's own capital investment.

"Barring something unforeseen in the economy, we see it continuing to build like that," he said. "We have the right developers and the right attention."

Cambria Suites senior vice president Michael Murphy said the New York debut would help the brand "on a national level" with key corporate accounts, since so many travel buyers are based in the city. "We have to aggressively let those travel managers in New York know about Cambria Suites, and in a very short 24 months, they'll be able to come in and experience it," Murphy said.

Outside of Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, international expansion is not planned for Cambria for at least the next three to five years while Choice focuses on domestic markets, Joyce said. At the same time, Choice will be bolstering its other brands' presence outside of the United States, particularly in Europe.

"We have a technology platform, a reservation and property management system that's massively distributed and cloud-based, and we internationalized that system about a year ago," Joyce explained. "We're rolling out into various properties and that technology gives us distribution channels that could be big growth for our other brands."

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