During the 2017 Skift Global Forum in September in New York City, we heard from a host of the travel industry’s top leaders from across every sector. And after first speaking to them on stage in front of an audience of more than 1,100, we took another few minutes with them to get more insight in our backstage Skift Take Studio.
In our behind-the-scenes conversation, Keith Barr, CEO of InterContinental Hotels Group, shared his thoughts about why he expects to see more hotel brand proliferation, how technology should be used to address travel friction points, and the evolving needs of business travelers.
Barr said the company is seeing business travel continue to grow around the world, especially in emerging markets.
“You’re seeing actually more specialized needs around business travel as well,” he said. For example, he said, as the service economy grows, travelers need more long-term stay options. And the need for flexible meeting spaces instead of traditional meeting rooms is growing.
“You’re seeing business travel continue to accelerate and companies changing how they meet those needs differently,” he said.
Barr said that while the parent company is pleased with the success of its mainstream Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express brands, he said the company realized that there was still room for growth in the midscale category.
“We recognized that there was a real unmet consumer need,” he said. “About 14 million customers — about $20 billion in revenue in the U.S. alone — are saying that there’s not a consistent great brand experience out there today at the price point that they want.”
That, he said, was the genesis of the new Avid Hotels brand.
“We took a customer-centric approach of saying, ‘What do customers want, what do they want to pay for and how can we deliver that experience in unique ways?'” he said.