PASSIONATE. IT’S THE word Elie Maalouf, president and CEO of InterContinental Hotels Group, Americas, used to describe the attitude of the hoteliers who advised on the development Avid Hotels, the company’s new midscale brand.
Six of the eight advisers are Asian American.
“Asian American hoteliers are a deep part of the industry,” Maalouf said in an interview with Asian Hospitality on Jan. 22 during the Americas Lodging Investment Summit in Los Angeles. “The hoteliers in the advisory group stayed with us throughout the whole journey. It was very inspiring.”
Likewise, said Bruce Patel of Dabu Hotels in Dallas, Texas, and a member of the group. A former AAHOA chairman and an IHG franchisee, Bruce said, “I was pleasantly surprised at the IHG Avid team’s desire to incorporate the owner advisory board’s opinions at various stages of building the Avid prototype.
“One of our concerns in the beginning was making sure this product is not in the same wavelength as the Holiday Inn Express, from the exterior to the public space to the guest room.” Turns out, IHG felt the same way. “As a result,” Bruce said, “the IHG Avid team is really dedicated to making sure they get it ‘right.’”
In getting it right, IHG picked up on a practice used by other major hotel companies who have recently developed new brands – turning to the Asian American hotelier community for guidance. Best Western Hotels & Resorts included Asian owners in the planning of GLō, a midscale brand it introduced in fall 2015. It was an Asian owner who suggested GLō’s guest room have a center-loaded bathroom to save on space, thereby cutting construction costs.
Hilton Worldwide invited Asian Americans to weigh in during its development of Tru, a midscale brand the franchiser launched in 2016. Hilton also worked with the owners on signing agreements months before the brand rolled out. As a result, nearly every Tru that has opened or is under development is licensed by an Asian American.
At IHG, Avid Hotels owners advisory board weighed in on “key areas,” Heather Balsley, senior vice president, Americas brand and marketing, at IHG, has said in a previous interview. The advice included “optimizing the room size for guest experience, efficiency of build and ensuring furniture design and selections are operationally sound – a smart layout and easy-to-clean surfaces, for example,” she said.
“Between all the owners on the advisory board, they have built hundreds of hotels, and we know that their experience with construction and their operational knowledge is invaluable as we launch this brand.”
Members of the Avid Hotels advisory board are Champ Patel, Champion Hotels; Harshil Patel, Champion Hotels; Bruce Patel, Dabu Hotels; Chet Patel, Baywood Hotels; Mitesh Patel, Paragon Hotel Co.; Bruce Patel, Fusion Hospitality; Joe Larkin, Larkin Hospitality; and John Klimpel, Lincoln Hotel Group.
IHG rolled out Avid Hotels in September after announcing in June its intention to launch a midscale brand. Balsley said the early heads-up gave owners of other IHG hotels time to consider investing in the new concept. So far, more than 150 developers have indicated interest and more than 75 contracts have been signed for hotels in the U.S. and Canada.
Maalouf said nearly all the members of the advisory council have signaled their intentions to build an Avid, in some cases more than one. The same goes for other IHG owners.
“Advisory board members are each enthusiastic to build a hotel,” said Maalouf. “There is quite a bit of multi-site interest. Many have sites and see the need in market. They have been waiting for this to happen, for another IHG midscale product to arrive. We don’t want to disappoint them.”
Two members of the advisory group have already put a shovel in the ground. Champak Patel, founder and CEO of Champion Hotels, and his son, Harshil, have begun construction of an Avid in an Oklahoma City suburb.
Projected to open in the third quarter of this year, the four-story 87-room hotel is going up in an Oklahoma City suburb called Quail Springs.
The title of first is not new to Champion Hotels. It May 2017 it was the first hotel developer to open a Tru by Hilton, a midscale brand rolled out in January 2016. The Tru is near the Will Rogers International Airport in Oklahoma City.
IHG said Champion Hotels’ commitment to build an Avid puts the franchiser’s plans ahead of schedule. “Avid Hotels is scaling rapidly,” Maalouf said at Champion Hotels’ ground-breaking ceremony in December.
In the interview at ALIS, Maalouf said, “We could not be more pleased with Champion Hotels being the first to break ground. Champ is a long-term owner and operator and is experienced with IHG has many hotels across multiple brands.”
Bruce said he commended Maalouf for putting a great Avid Hotels team together, adding his experience as an adviser was positive. “The end result is one I think the industry will embrace,” he said. “But more important, one that everyday travelers will appreciate.”