Who says you can’t go home?” It’s more than just a popular rock song from Bon Jovi, it was in fact my first thought upon hearing that Kirk Kinsell had been named president of the Americas for InterContinental Hotels Group, succeeding Jim Abrahamson who left the group to take up the role as president and CEO of Interstate Hotels and Resorts. But rather than a rock star singing about his New Jersey roots, this scenario has a high profile hospitality executive returning to the U.S. to take over a hotel company which boasts some of the industry’s most iconic brands, including Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express and InterContinental Hotels.
By no means was I surprised by this news. To many throughout the industry it has never been a question of if, but always when, Kinsell would take the reins of the company’s largest operating region.
On a personal level, I was happy to hear that Kirk was coming back to the states. Back in the mid 90’s, he and I collaborated on a number of franchise development marketing initiatives. Mind you, this was during a time that most trade advertising concepts were about as exciting as watching paint dry. He was, and I am sure continues to be, an outside-the-box thinker, always looking for new and innovative ways to sell franchises.
For example, it was in 1995 and 1996, during his tenure as president of the Franchise division at ITT Sheraton, when he led the creation of the Four Points Hotels concept. Our companies worked on multiple projects including a wall calendar featuring the first 12 Four Points Hotels that had joined the system, as well as split front covers, gatefolds and custom published supplements. Today, these concepts are regularly featured in trade publications. This definitely wasn’t the case 20 years ago.
By far my favorite project was a “Field of Dreams—Build it and they will come” advertising concept featuring Kirk in an open field posing next to a Four Points Hotels sign (pictured below).
Most recently Kirk was president of IHG’s Europe, Middle East and Africa region (EMEA). In his role he was responsible for 700 hotels, consisting of 121,000 rooms and operating under six IHG brands. Before taking this position he was senior vp and chief development officer, IHG Americas, co-leading the launch of the Hotel Indigo brand in 2003.
In 1997, Kirk became President and COO of Avado Brands Inc., which during his tenure operated more than 220 high growth branded restaurants. More recently he served as President and CEO of Micell Technologies. Under his leadership Micell Technologies was recognized as the 2001 Entrepreneurial Company of the Year for North Carolina. From 1988 to 1995 Kirk served as SVP of Franchising for Holiday Inn Worldwide, a predecessor of IHG. In that capacity he led the launch of Holiday Inn Express.
Now, nearly 25 years later Kirk Kinsell is president, the Americas of InterContinental Hotels Group.