Joel Eisemann is chief development officer, Americas, InterContinental Hotels Group PLC (IHG) where he leads all development and conversion activities (both managed and franchised) in the Americas region across the company's brands. Joel is also responsible for the company's Transactions & Asset Management group for the Americas which handles dispositions, workouts and restructurings and asset management. Additionally, he also heads up the region's Owner & Franchise Services team which focuses on attracting, supporting and growing with those owners and franchisees who will strengthen the company's continued brand growth, distribution and preference.
He serves on a variety of committees and boards including the AH&LA Government Affairs Committee, the AH&LA HotelPAC, Fellow of the Cornell Center for Real Estate Finance, member of the Hotel Development Council at the Urban Land Institute, and on the Executive Planning Committee for the New York University International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference.
Today we chat with him about the state of the industry and how he sees IHG leveraging opportunity.
How are you feeling these days? It doesn’t get much better than this.
This is great time in our industry. People are very optimistic about where we are today as an industry. Demand continues to grow, convention demand is coming back, supply is still below long term trend lines and financing is becoming more accessible. That’s especially true for hotels with stable cash flows.
Plus, there is tremendous equity interested in lodging industry and it is not just from the U.S. but internationally too. After all, it is much more of a global economy so we are seeing money not just from places such as China but money is also coming from the Middle East. Other global economies are coming to the U.S. because they view the U.S. as a great location with a stable economy.
How is the franchise business doing at InterContinental Hotels Group?
We are really busy which is great. We have a lot of great owners and franchisees enthused about their growth prospects given the state of industry. They like our variety of brands that we deliver, our channel delivery and our focus on operational costs.
Last spring Holiday Inn Express debuted a new prototype design. What is the status on those plans being adopted by your hotel owners?
We have lot of franchisees adopting the new plans for Holiday Inn Express. For example, we were talking with owner Asad Malik, president and CEO of AmeriLodge, last week -- he is on the advisory committee -- and he’s implementing concepts and ideas [for the new prototype] in a hotel he has under construction and hopes for it to open next year.
At our annual conference, we showcased those changes to the franchise community and we talked them through the great updates with the Holiday Inn Express brand. We are enduring brands that are relevant and attractive from a development perspective and the right types of brands for customers.
We also showed Crowne Plaza, featuring our updated guestroom, which we feel has great potential to our customers and for Holiday Inn we shared a lot of what we have done with F&B concepts.
I recently had a chance to visit an EVEN hotel and I thought the concept was very well done. One of the more original concepts I have seen. Though it focused on health and wellness I didn’t feel hit over the head with it.
EVEN doesn’t appeal to just one type of person or guest and we think it has broad appeal. You can get a great workout in the hotel, but also in the room.
There is great opportunity here and we want to compete head to head with hotels in that market and our target is similar to Hilton Garden Inn and Courtyard by Marriott. As more franchisees experience the concept, we will get more interest from them to develop EVEN hotels.
Here’s a good story. The Interstate people used to run the Rockville, MD hotel in a past incarnation and they said ‘we can’t believe it is the same building’ because of the reconcepting and rethinking of the building. We’re showing the owner community you don’t have to build form ground up. In the right location you can create a great EVEN hotel.
What’s the status of your development pipeline?
We have very robust pipeline and we are very happy. The quality of projects franchisees are developing is terrific and that means great things for guests going forward.
(Note: the IHG global pipeline is nearly 1,200 hotels with 676 in the U.S. as of the end of the third quarter 2014)
We have great relationships with owners and are following their growth plans and making sure we present the right opportunity. Owners are more educated today as to what customer is looking for and our team has been more attuned on questions regarding elements such as technology.
Any final thoughts?
This is a real terrific time for people in the industry. But there are some external things that could impact the lodging business. Therefore it is more important than ever to support associations such as AHLA and travel and tourism.
Kathryn Lugar, president and CEO of AH&LA and Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, are doing a terrific job and it is important for us to support their efforts.