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Gaining Momentum

Choice’s Cambria Brand Surpasses 50 Hotels; Targets 100 By 2023

Monday, February 24, 2020
Dennis Nessler
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Defining critical mass as roughly 100 properties, Choice Hotels’ Janis Cannon noted that its upscale Cambria Hotels brand is now more than halfway there and armed with plenty of momentum as the result of a robust pipeline of product.

In fact, Cannon, SVP, upscale brands, Choice Hotels International, said the brand is projected to reach the 100-property mark by 2023, according to the company’s roadmap.

She commented on the likelihood of reaching that goal. “We’ve got a very high level of confidence because of how many hotels we have under construction,” she said.
Cannon noted the brand has some 27 projects under way and another 14 expected to break ground in the coming year.

According to Cannon, the company just achieved its goal of reaching 50 hotels by the end of 2019, a milestone that was outlined during long-range planning sessions three years ago. “That’s something we’re really proud of. It’s one thing to sign deals, it’s something else to open hotels and get those deals across the finish line,” she noted.

The brand--which was originally launched in 2005--comes off of a record year in 2019 with 11 openings and got off to a fast start in 2020 opening its 50th hotel with the Cambria Hotel Anaheim Resort Area. The 352-room hotel, located just outside of Disneyland, is the brand’s largest property.

Earlier this month, Cambria opened its 52nd hotel and its third hotel in the Charleston, SC metropolitan area with the Cambria Hotel Summerville-Charleston. The hotel was developed by Four Raines, LLC, which also owns the Cambria Hotel Mount Pleasant-Charleston, and is currently developing the Cambria Hotel Greenville scheduled to open later this year.

With properties in destinations like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Phoenix, Dallas and Washington, DC, the brand has been focused on penetrating top 25 markets, according to Cannon.

In 2020, new hotels are expected to debut in cities such as Detroit; Fort Lauderdale, FL; Louisville, KY; Greenville, SC; and Savannah, GA. In addition, groundbreakings are expected in cities such as Cincinnati; Kansas City, MO; Santa Clara, CA; Washington; and Tampa, FL.

She explained the appeal of such markets.
“We’ve been focused on building up our corporate travel base so having that distribution in those top 25 markets is really important, especially that coast-to-coast presence,” said Cannon.

The SVP also indicated that the performance of the portfolio, which includes many new hotels, was solid in 2019 as well. “We’re seeing year-on-year growth and January has come out really strong too. Part of that is we’ve got hotels that are ramping,” she said.

Cannon further noted those new properties have more than held their own in their markets. “Our hotels are getting to 100 percent index within 12 to 15 months, depending on location, and that’s against a pretty tough defined comp set too so we feel pretty good about that,” she added.

Cannon acknowledged the company continues to tweak the brand--which originally started as an all-suite product—to drive better results. “We’ve done things from a consumer insight and design sensibility perspective that really add value for the customer stay experience and at the same time have really driven value to the owners as well,” she stated.

For example, while about 60 feet was taken out of the guestrooms, the size of the bathrooms increased and the ceiling height was raised as well.
“We’ve been able to actually shrink the room and make it much more efficient, and the customer still has that real feeling of volume of space,” commented Cannon.

The brand has also worked on its back-of-house areas, specifically tightening up its kitchens and updating its Marketplace offering, according to Cannon.

“We’ve overhauled our F&B model to make it as cost-effective as possible. The goal is to have F&B make money and so we’ve gone heavy on the bar-forward concept and much lighter on the food,” she said.

Meanwhile, Cannon pointed out one of the brand’s signature hallmarks has become its unique rooftop bars, which have received numerous awards.

“Rooftop bars are becoming more and more a part of the DNA of the brand. It gets both the locals and the guests really immersed in that destination…The experience is just so different,” she said.

Going forward, Cannon noted the brand continues to look at ways to add value. For example, it is piloting an opt-in housekeeping program in its Phoenix location. As part of the initiative, guests would have the opportunity to provide housekeeping preferences prior to checking in, such as replacing towels, getting their room cleaned every day, or designated Do Not Disturb periods.

Cannon also emphasized the importance of health and wellness, which she referred to as “table stakes” for the upscale category now. As an example, Cannon noted the company is studying biophillic design.

“How do we make sure those natural elements are incorporated into the design as well to give people those restorative [elements]? With today’s time poverty that’s what people really need,” she said.

In addition to the aforementioned numbers, Cannon offered her long-term objectives for the Cambria brand.
“We want to be the preferred brand in the category for guests and developers. We are just so focused on making sure that what we’re delivering is the right thing for guest, is the right thing for the owner from a financial perspective, and it can be operationalized and delivered in a smart and effective way,” she noted.

Dennis Nessler    Dennis Nessler
Hotel Interactive®, Inc.
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