HB ON THE SCENE: RLH Corp. Pitches ‘Good for Business’ at Vegas Conference

LAS VEGAS—RLH Corporation is expecting to roll its momentum into the new year by focusing on what’s “good for business” for its franchisees.

“Let’s talk about the conference theme a little bit: ‘Good for Business,'” said RLH Corp. CEO Greg Mount, who joined the company in January 2014. “Again, when we look at this, for us, it’s about listening and adapting. A big part of what I hear when I’m speaking with you, speaking with the brand advisory teams, is it’s important that we listen. It’s important that we adapt. It’s important that we understand the challenges that you’re facing out there as a real estate owner and business operator.”

With more than 400 franchisees in attendance at RLHC Corp.’s Global Brand Showcase and Expo, held this week at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, right on Paradise Rd., the Denver-based hospitality group delivered its vision for hoteliers—much of which focused on accomplishments over the past year, what’s new and the year ahead.

RLH Corp.’s top executive also touched upon the proliferation of brands—an issue the industry cannot agree on. “The brand blur is significant,” he said. That’s why RLH Corp. has committed to reducing its brand offerings to nine by year-end 2018. For him, the goal is to position RLH Corp. as a hospitality company with nine distinct brands.

Amanda Marcello, VP of brand management of Signature at RLH Corp.

Amanda Marcello, VP of brand management of Signature at RLH Corp.

On Signature, Amanda Marcello, whom RLH Corp. recently promoted to VP of brand management of Signature, told the crowd: “Let us help you bring the cool factor back to your property.” For this brand, RLH Corp.’s looking for owners interested in property conversions. There’s a brand franchising incentive for the first 20 properties: no royalty fees for the first year, $20,000 key money, and low and interest-free loans.”

Leslee Torres, SVP of digital, loyalty and partnerships, introduced “franchiseasy,” a new way for owners to secure Country Hearth franchises. With franchiseasy, owners can now go through the franchising process through a mobile app in eight steps.

RLH Corp.’s newest addition to its senior leadership team, Yvonne Choi, whom the hospitality group appointed to chief brand officer of Hotel RL, asked franchisees to “embrace the spirit of curiosity” with RLH Corp.’s upscale brand, designed  in new-builds and conversions (the later in particular) in primary and secondary markets.

Yvonne Choi, chief brand officer of Hotel RL at RLH Corp.

Yvonne Choi, chief brand officer of Hotel RL at RLH Corp.

“To me, brands were created to solve problems for consumers and real estate, but more, hotel brands are also created to unique and distinct experience—and Hotel RL is that bold and innovative brand,” she said.

Following Choi, Roger Bloss, EVP and president of global development, presented franchisees a $25,000 incentive for new GuestHouse franchisees. The only catch: The offer is limited to the first 25 who join the brand, which targets conversion and new-build opportunities in secondary and tertiary markets.

“Our growth potential is really unbound,” said Paul Sacco, chief development officer of upscale brands and corporate development. “With five very well-positioned brands in the upscale space and a lack of oversaturation in the marketplace—all being backed by the most innovative, technology and forward thinking teams in the business, from field marketing to revenue management—it really makes us a really attractive option for both primary and secondary markets.”

Paul Sacco, chief development officer of upscale brands and corporate development at RLH Corp.

Paul Sacco, chief development officer of upscale brands and corporate development at RLH Corp.

He also updated attendees on RLH Corp.’s Settle Inn, a collection of extended-stay properties targeting the midscale segment. “We’re already working on deals in California and downtown Atlanta, so Settle Inn is a midscale extended-stay offering, and as many of you know, the extended-stay model—the operational platform of extended-stay hotels—has really withstood the test of time,” he said. The brand’s offering franchisees conversion and new-build opportunities in secondary and tertiary markets.

RLH Corp.’s future development outlook includes the following objectives: strengthen its portfolio of more than 1,100 properties, continue its asset-light approach; and focus on field marketing, revenue management and technology.

RLH Corp. CIO John Edwards provided an update on PMSs at the hospitality group’s properties: more than 400 hotels are running compliant PMS solutions; 100 more hotels are scheduled for PMS installation; and all seven approved PMS solutions are scheduled to complete integration with Synxi CRS and Hello Rewards by end of Q1 2018. His team’s initiatives for 2018 include a new owners’ portal; enhanced guest credit card and personal info security options; mobile payment solutions; and guest WiFi offerings.

On the franchise operations front, Jordan Langlois, VP of member and franchise operations for RLH Corp., said the following: “Franchise ops has multiple innovations, including driving top line performance, enhancing the guest experience and building relations.” The team’s top initiatives for 2018 include: the owners’ portal, enhancing connection between franchisees and the global sales team; revamping the onboarding process; retaining quality assurance.

Bill Linehan, RLH Corp.'s EVP and CMO

Bill Linehan, RLH Corp.’s EVP and CMO

Bill Linehan, RLH Corp.’s EVP and CMO, spoke about the hospitality group’s marketing initiatives. These efforts include recognizing shifting consumer mindset and changing behaviors; creating unique, relevant brand positioning, increasing bookings, lowering cost of sales; and growing system contribution (with a goal of 67%).

“For marketing, our directives are simple and straightforward,” he said. “We exist to deliver business to your hotels.”

Some of marketing’s accomplishments from this year: collapsing websites into one platform; cross-selling two reservation systems and call centers; and balancing marketing mix.

What’s next for marketing in 2018? There will be a focus on brand management and branding; digital marketing; distribution and channel management; relationship marketing; and communications.

“This is how we build consumer brands that consumers want,” he said. “This is how we manage our spend and ensure the greatest return on your marketing investments, and this is how we reduce the cost of sales, increase bookings and grow system contribution.”

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