HB ON THE SCENE: My Place touts growth, reveals new loyalty program

SAN DIEGO—My Place Hotels of America LLC has more hotels open than ever before, has significantly increased the number of franchise agreements, and has launched a new loyalty program for guests.

Currently, My Place has 45 operating properties—with 50 only a couple of months away, an achievement President/CEO Ryan Rivett is ready for. “I’m excited about that milestone—to see 50 properties open and operating—but I know that going from 50 to 100 is going to happen twice as fast as the first few, maybe even more,” he said at this year’s brand convention, held here at Hard Rock Hotel San Diego.

There are no plans to shift the company’s strategy to hit 100 operating properties. “What we’ve been doing is working really well,” Rivett said. “One element that gives you a lot of confidence that we’ll grow quicker in the future is that we’ve got established franchisees with business plans to do more than one or two.”

My Place has sold 75 franchise agreements, with another deal in the works. The hotel chain can be found in 21 states today, but with 16 projects currently under construction or in pre-construction phases, Rivett said that number is “going to grow a significant amount.”

Where the brand doesn’t have any properties is the Northeast, but there are plans to change that. “2019 is the year we need to introduce the brand to the Northeast,” he said. “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be as well accepted as it has been in any other area of the country.”

In 2018, My Place saw an 8.5% increase in occupancy and a 15% increase in RevPAR.

“On top of that, there’s a 32% increase in revenue coming through our brand.com website,” he said. “That represents a big success. We’ve been working hard on how to convert OTA traffic and third-party booking engine traffic to our own booking engine, and what we saw was a corresponding increase in bookings year-over-year through our myplacehotels.com website.”

And 2019 will see even more change.

“2019 is going to be a big year of rolling out programs, and training franchisees and their operators on these programs, and really experiencing the fruits of the development labor that we’ve had over the past couple of years,” Rivett said.

My Place launched Stay Rewarded, a loyalty program with 7,000 pre-registered members. “I believe that Stay Rewarded is a loyalty program that will balance the demands of today’s guests with the operational objectives of our hotels,” said Irene Roberts, director of brand loyalty at My Place. “As a points-based program with immediate perks, it’s sure to further our connection with loyal guests while enticing new guests to join and stay rewarded wherever they find us along the way.”

The program is expected to launch at every hotel in My Place’s portfolio on June 3.

To continue its growth as it evolves, the brand expects to continue investing in all kinds of development.

“It’s not just in real estate development,” Rivett said. “It’s not just in technology development. It’s in people development. It’s in communications development. The product is good. You don’t go on changing the product. We don’t go changing our approach because it’s working really well. It’s the evolution of the people, the understanding, communications that we have. Those things are a daily evolution.”

Panelists on the All-Star Panel discussed numerous topics, including ADA compliance, increasing construction costs, opportunities with My Place and finding labor.

The lodging industry is still combating frivolous ADA-compliance lawsuits. Many hoteliers agree on the following: While more needs to be done at the federal level to ensure individuals with disabilities are provided unfettered access to properties, additional legislation needs to be considered to protect hoteliers from money-hungry lawyers looking to make a quick buck.

“If you think of the entire landscape of the American industry, there’s no industry that does more to comply with the ADA and assist people with disabilities than our industry,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA).

One of the top issues for AAHOA is tax reform. “We want to make sure that the tax reform stays in place,” said HP Patel, then-chairman of AAHOA (now, the former chairman). “When it was passed two years ago, that really helped AAHOA members and small business owners with the tax deductions.”

Another challenge on AAHOA’s radar is human trafficking. “That’s one of the big initiatives that we took on last year: to make sure that we train all hoteliers, not just AAHOA members, [so]everyone is aware of the human trafficking awareness signs at hotels,” he said.

Construction costs in the industry continue to increase.

“We’ve got two projects in the permitting [stage]right now,” said Joe Dinger, VP of development, Pacific Northwest, My Place. “Looking at those numbers and where we’ve come from, our construction costs have increased 15-20%.”

Labor costs in the construction industry are continuing to rise, and that’s where additional project costs are coming from. “It’s tough to find contractors right now,” he said. “You’re paying a premium to get them there.”

It doesn’t hurt to know people. With the right support—from brand employees and city managers—hoteliers can navigate increasingly costly environments easier.

“You’ve got to figure out how to control those costs,” said David Gustafson, president and owner of Heavy Constructors Inc. “Workforces are short.”

Some hoteliers are turning to My Place for its perspective on hospitality. “As an owner of multiple brands, I’m concerned about the rising tide of guest expectations,” said Mike Johnson, president, Management Consultants Inc. “This brand just brings us back to the fundamentals.”

The size of the standard My Place property is appealing to developers, especially when space is limited. “In a scenario like this property, there’s not a lot of empty pieces of property here,” said Craig Larsen, president of LDG and managing partner of HB Legacy Design Group & Hotel Baron. “Occasionally, you get a little pocket of land you can stick a My Place on. Sometimes, you can make some deals with your neighbors and get some shared parking, and you can squeeze it into a small piece of property.”

Another benefit of owning a My Place property? It doesn’t take that many people to run, which is attractive to hoteliers when labor costs are high.

“If you can keep your employee count under 15, it’s a win,” Patel said.

With qualified help being so hard to find, keeping the employee count low at properties is important. “We have to get creative,” Johnson said. “We have to be thoughtful. We have to provide an environment and a compensation package that makes it worth being there.” HB

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