HB ON THE SCENE: Vantage Conference Focuses on Integration of Brands

LAS VEGAS—It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the 2014 Vantage Hospitality International Educational Conference and Trade Show—the first since the company acquired America’s Best Franchising, Inc.’s hotel brands—focused on integration of its existing and new brands.

This strategy revolves around the stratification of the brands, including the delineation of value and upscale brands. To do so, the company has altered its structure, with three group presidents: Patrick Mullinix, group president, Vantage value brands, will focus on Americas Best Value Inn, Country Hearth Inns & Suites, America’s Best Inns & Suites and Signature Inn brands; Mark Williams, group president, midscale to upscale brands, will focus on the development of the Lexington by Vantage brand offerings, as well as Jameson Inns & Suites and 3 Palms Hotels & Resorts; and Bill Hanley, group president of international development, will focus on global markets.

“This new alignment allows us to focus on strengths within each segment,” said Williams.

Both Roger Bloss, president and CEO, and Bernie Moyle, COO/CFO, addressed concerns from members of all brands in an all-access Q&A session. “There are concerns; I get it,” said Moyle. “We were franchisees first ourselves, and the thing we didn’t like about being franchisees is brands have a tendency to mishmash brands together.” He noted that, when they were looking at the acquisition, they sat down to come up with a plan of how this could work, what promises they could make to the brands and consulted with Vantage’s revenue management group. “They came back to us with the stratification program… that’s the first part of the process,” he said.

Moyle noted that much of the company’s strength comes from its flexibility, and soon hotels will have the opportunity to request to move within the system to find the right brand.

Bloss stressed that the company has a three-mile courtesy area of protection (which can vary a bit depending on the market). “We won’t put a similar brand within three miles,” he said, noting that he thinks ABVI and Lexington could compete on the same street corner, but the company wouldn’t look to put two value brands so close together. He also noted that in the future, the company would look to do dual-brand projects, specifically with the extended-stay Country Hearth Inns & Suites.

As for the owners of Vantage’s new brands, Bloss told the media, “I think they came in walking on eggshells, and now they’re dancing to the beat of a different drum. I see the day-by-day change in attitude.” Bloss noted that as a much larger company, Vantage is able to provide support in ways previously unseen for these hotels. “We have more people answering our phones in the corporate office than they had in the entire corporation,” he pointed out.

With some 1,217 hotels in the system, Bloss noted, “Our consistent growth is a testament to our program and our members. I’m excited about where we go from here.”