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Choice Hotels has pushed the reset button on its Comfort Inn brand during the past year which it thinks will get the company’s overall room growth back to where it belongs, Choice CEO Stephen Joyce said this week.
Comfort Inn is the latest to join the list of hotel brands brands its own leaders have described as tired, as Starwood did last week with Sheraton. Joyce largely blames the focus on improving Comfort Inn for the company’s first quarter flat room growth but says the brand leads the 40% increase in Choice’s construction pipeline for the quarter year-over-year.
But overhauling traveler’s perceptions of Comfort Inn will require a lot more than growing its room numbers, Joyce said.
“Our efforts to rejuvenate the Comfort brand include the implementation of higher standards for hotels joining the Comfort brand, requiring meaningful property improvement plans at contract windows and targeting underperforming Comforts for termination and replacement with new construction product,” Joyce told investors during the company’s earning call Wednesday. “These efforts are helping to fuel growth of our development pipeline for the Comfort brand family, which increased 25% from March 31 of last year, primarily driven by new construction projects.”
Comfort’s executed franchise contracts increasing 150% during the quarter and its likelihood-to-recommend guest ratings reaching an all-time high during the past year are two signs Joyce points to for proving success in Choice’s strategy so far.
If Choice excluded the impact of its Comfort strategy, domestic room growth for its economy brands would be 2.6% for the quarter year-over-year and room growth for its upscale brands including Cambria Suites and Ascend Hotel Collection increased 9% year-over-year.