BETHESDA, MD—Urgo Hotels & Resorts attributes its success to its culture and people. To continue its momentum, the hotel management company is focusing on a single initiative for 2019: growth.
“Oftentimes, [institutional investors]come to us when they have issues with other properties that are being managed by others, and they ask for our advice, and we give it to them,” said Kevin M. Urgo, principal and managing partner, Urgo Hotels & Resorts. “We do that as a favor or a service at no cost, but we’re not looking to take over management from others because we just don’t do that. We won’t do that. We won’t be one of those companies that does that, until somebody makes a final decision that they’re going to replace their management company.”
Today, Urgo Hotels & Resorts manages 44 properties with 6,527 rooms. “In addition to the management, we’ve invested a few hundred million dollars of equity into hotel real estate,” he said. “We’re very careful and thoughtful about our investments, and we’re going to continue to invest money in real estate over time and grow this third-party management business.”
The company third-party manages 32 properties and has an ownership stake in 12.
“We’re pretty comfortable with the breakdown right now,” he said. “We’re really focused on management. The guys do such a great job. We have not marketed ourselves as a third-party manager, but I think that might change going forward. We do such a good job that I think it’s just a disservice to ourselves and all the owners out there, especially the multi-unit owners who are looking for quality management.”
Geographically, the majority of Urgo Hotels & Resorts properties can be found up and down the East Coast in the United States. It does also have properties in Nevada, Colorado and Montana. The company recently closed some deals in California and Texas, specifically Houston and Dallas.
The management company also has properties in Canada—specifically in Quebec City, Montreal and Mont-Tremblant. More recently, it signed a deal for a property in Vancouver.
The team develops, builds and operates its own properties and provides third-party management, asset management services, development, acquisition, accounting and HR services for independent hotels and resorts, and international brands, including Marriott, Hilton, Choice Hotels and IHG.
The company’s leaders average 30 years of experience in all aspects of the hospitality industry, including hotel and resort development, acquisition, financing, operations, and sales and marketing.
The management company is a family business. Donald J. Urgo Sr. is president and CEO; Donald J. Urgo Jr. is principal and managing partner; and Collin D. Urgo is principal and SVP of operations.
The company’s leader, who has more than a half century of experience, asked family members to join him in launching the family business in the late 1990s. His son, Kevin Urgo, joined the company in 1998 after a three-year stint as VP of acquisitions and development for Sunburst Hospitality Corporation, a spin-off of Choice Hotels International and Manor Care Inc.
“It’s been a great business,” Urgo said. “We’ve done it under the radar, very quietly; it is very much a family business and that’s the culture we operate under, so everybody in the corporate office as well as the properties are considered part of the family.”
In 2018, Urgo Hotels & Resorts generated $310 million in gross annual revenue, up more than 5% from 2017.
“It’s about delivering service and results beyond any of our peers,” Urgo said. “We’ve been able to do that today, and no matter what it takes, we will invest all the money necessary, all the time necessary to make sure that we are always a cut above everybody else in the business.”
The industry’s labor shortage is one of the biggest obstacles the company is currently facing. “As we’ve seen incredible employment growth around the nation, it’s become more and more difficult to find quality folks who will stay with you for the long term, so it has been a huge challenge,” he said.
To overcome labor issues, Urgo Hotels & Resorts continues to invest in its people and culture. “If people need help, we help them,” Urgo said. “We provide benefits that are certainly best in class. We perform extremely well. We invest a lot of money back into the business to protect that cultural competition among the folks who are within the company; not only are they competing against folks in the brands, but they’re competing against each other. They love each other. We include everybody.”
The hospitality company also invests in training for its employees. “We have a view of things where folks don’t work for us,” he said. “We work for them. It’s our responsibility to provide all the resources they need to be successful.”
On a quarterly basis, Urgo Hotels & Resorts brings in outside consultants to review specific areas of expertise and train employees.
“Then, we follow up,” he said. “We don’t just do it and call it a day. There’s constant follow-up, so folks are putting into practice all the things that they’re learning during these training sessions, and if they’re not, they’re being held accountable for it—that’s the key.”
Urgo Hotels & Resorts’ top initiative for 2019 is growth. “There’s a big focus on growth right now,” Urgo said. “We had a big growth spurt. We’ve got five or six hotels opening this year. We’ve got maybe six hotels opening next year, and a couple after that already.”
“The phone is ringing off the hook,” he said. “They’re looking for assistance from quality operators. We’re being somewhat selective about what we’re doing, as we have always been. We’re always careful about the owners and the markets and the properties that we get involved in.
“If we’re not value-add, we’re not doing it,” he continued. “We’re a commodity management company. We’re not looking to just add properties. We’re looking to get involved at properties where we continue to add value.” HB