If you asked Choice Hotels International CEO Stephen Joyce about the hotel company he leads, he’d tell you it’s just as much a tech firm. Would a pure hotel company sell its Sky Touch cloud-based
property management system to third parties? And
while we were at it, Joyce also told us about Choice’s
goal to grab corporate travel business.
Travel Procurement: Why are you sharing your tech-
nological achievements with competitors?
Stephen Joyce: When you are [software as a service]-based,
everything is in the cloud and interconnected. It is easier to
do everything, and the cost is dramatically lower. That’s why
we went into the business. All of our franchisees [who also
work with] other brands kept asking, “Why can’t I use your
technology platform with my other X-brand company?” I
said, “Your X-brand company wouldn’t like that.” We did
start letting some independent hotels buy the system, but
then several of the brand companies started calling, and we
said, “This really isn’t a proprietary advantage. Why don’t we
make it available to everybody?” Our franchisees and owners benefit because the more people we have on it, the more
rapidly we can do bigger and better things with it. We have
several hundred [non-Choice] hotels at this point and a
pipeline of several thousand.
TP: That’s a serious business.
Joyce: Yes it is, but a lot of analysts are still scratching their
heads. It’s a little different for a brand company. We are developing things for our own business, but there is a pretty broad
application for this, so why wouldn’t we make it available?
TP: Does it work for just any franchisee?
Joyce: The product strategy stretches to 300 rooms and a
couple of outlets. When you get above 300 rooms and lots
of outlets, you probably want a different system. But [the
product is suitable for] 80 percent of the hotels in the world.
TP: How far-reaching is implementation of the sys-
tem in Choice hotels?
Joyce: Soon we will be in 35 countries. There are obstacles from German privacy laws and French tax codes, but
we’re in Mexico and most of our properties in Australia.
It’s going into most of our properties in Europe. We are
actually working on India, and then we’ll make it available to our folks in Japan.
TP: You’re also taking the reservation system to the
Joyce: We are rolling out a state-of-the-art reservations
system this year, which is the next generation. It’s what
everybody else wants to get to because it is completely non-property based and completely able to adapt to any other
technologies you want to hook it to. The biggest problem
right now is that every time you want to do something like
[rolling out Choice’s] virtual card [solution], you have to tap
into lots of other systems. If you are on an old technology, it
just means the patch is a lot more difficult. With this technology that we’re bringing to bear, the patch is really simple
because it’s built to plug and play from an open source that
draws from many places. We’ll be able to do a lot of other
things with it because it is not a hotel reservations system
but a product sales organizer.
TP: Just how important is the business traveler to
the growth of Choice?
Joyce: We’re the weekend champions. … [The mix] is two-thirds leisure, one-third business. We see business travel
as our big opportunity. We have had some strong business
brands. Comfort Inn in particular has been strong, and …
Sleep Inn also has been getting a lot of business travel. With
the addition of Cambria and Ascend, we’re getting a lot of
customers we weren’t getting before. The locations where we
are putting them, while they are strong leisure locations, also
have the potential for huge business-demand generation.
TP: Outside the United States, where are you going
to find this corporate-segment market share?
Joyce: Choice has almost no investment in China, but we
have a partner in China that is building 10 or so hotels a
year. We are big in Japan. Europe is our primary target, and
it is ripe for flagging for a lot of the same reasons Ascend
worked: We are one of the better converters of hotels in
the business, and that’s where we are going to put most of
Choice’s Property Management
System Is Available To Other Brands