Challenging economic times can sometimes bring out the best in companies shining a light on their organizational strengths and strategies for success. While many hotel companies have been focused merely on ‘keeping the lights on’ during the past year, Concord Hospitality Enterprises has not only kept all of the assets in its portfolio up and running, but the owner/operator and developer has managed to add some 20 properties to its lineup as well.
The Raleigh, NC-based company—which now includes roughly 135 full-service and select-service hotels under operation—has maintained a growth mindset looking to leverage a few key areas of expertise, according to Kevin McAteer, svp, marketing and sales, Concord Hospitality.
“Our strategic focus is really about expanding our growth in the lifestyle and boutique hotel space, but also along with that it’s promoting our culinary excellence and independent branded rooftop bars and restaurants,” he said.
The company—which was founded in 1985 and built its reputation operating primarily major branded hotels—has more recently carved a reputation through many of these unique venues. One such property is The Ben, a new independent hotel in West Palm Beach, FL, which is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. McAteer referred to the hotel as “one of its best performing assets” and home to Spruzzo, the only water facing rooftop lounge in the downtown West Palm Beach area.
McAteer further added how the rooftop bars, in particular, have helped generated a buzz for the hotels. “It’s really done through two means; one is through social media and digital, and the other is great execution. You’ve really got to have both and really you’ve got to learn how to be adaptable and flexible,” he said.
McAteer—who joined the company in 2003—pointed out that Concord has actually opened 12 hotels since the pandemic began in March and has assumed management on several others, in addition to adding a number of culinary assets.
While continued growth has been a focus for the company, McAteer acknowledged the importance of maintaining operations at existing hotels, which has been a challenge for all hoteliers amid declining demand throughout the U.S.
“Between us and our partners we have not had to turn the keys in or not been able to work through the financial burdens for one of the hotels we’ve operated through the pandemic and that is a bold thing to state,” he said, later adding the company is “pretty proud of that.”
In addition to performance and execution, McAteer attributed that fact largely to company President and CEO Mark Laport’s commitment to maintain corporate support to actively assist property leaders where staffing levels had to be reduced. As an example, McAteer noted that the company has maintained as many as 9 regional vps in operations, as well as in 9 regional sales and marketing execs.
“We did make some cuts, but each one was very thought-through and overall we never stopped providing very strong support for both the property and our ownership groups. I think that’s also helped us grow on the third-party management side,” he said.
McAteer continued, “Part of that [growth] was we were able to show our position of not pulling back and cutting out sales and marketing. That was helping us beat our competitors and grab some of the leisure share that was out there through the summer and all the way up to today,” he said.
McAteer highlighted a few other differentiators for the company amid a competitive operating landscape, including some “very flexible, very customized digital marketing tactics,” which has helped generate leads.
He stressed that another difference maker for the company has been its proactive approach to COVID-19 rolling out its PureStay by Concord Cleanliness initiative. Designed to ensure the health and safety of guests and associates, the program outlines procedures for guestroom and public space cleanliness and protocols.
“We didn’t wait for the brands to come out with this real commitment for clean and safe. We ran along side them and tried to work as advisors to them as we always do. We rolled out our own PureStay campaign program to basically be a tool for our properties, but also for our customers. We are able to easily communicate all the protocols on our website for all of our hotels,” he said.
McAteer also touted the company’s culinary execution. As an example, he noted Concord was recently recognized by Marriott International as one of its top 3 food & beverage leaders in customer service response for full-service hotels.
Finally, McAteer stressed that the company has a bullish outlook on performance going forward based on a number of factors, including an increase in site visits and the potential for an uptick in group and meeting business.
“We’re a lot more optimistic than what we’re seeing from the recent analysts who have predicted a return to 2019 revenue levels in 2024. We think a lot of our portfolio could start seeing 2019 levels towards the end of this year; definitely by spring of next year,” he concluded.