As part of the Americas Lodging Investment Summit’s Patron sponsorship program, conference organizers asked IHG’s Ginger Taggart eight timely questions as we prepare for the 21st annual event taking place January 24-26, 2022, at the JW Marriott/Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles L.A. LIVE. Following are her responses.
With your strong background in brand strategy and marketing as a backdrop, what’s the most effective message to communicate with the different levels of post-pandemic expectations from upscale hotel customers?
The global travel industry faces a nearly unprecedented level of pent-up travel demand from premium travelers with desire for leisure, bleisure and business trips. As our industry welcomes these travelers, we have the opportunity to connect more deeply with our guests as we share our mutual celebration of the return of travel, empathetically set expectations of the travel experience and continue to prioritize health and safety as we maximize trip enjoyment through our strong service and experience offerings.
What does the development pipeline look like for IHG’s Upscale brands, and in general, is new-build construction or conversion the predominant way that upscale brands across the industry are expanding their footprints?
We’re extremely proud of our teams’ collective commitment throughout the pandemic, acting quickly and with empathy to drive market share, competitive advantage and drive growth.
In our continued effort to expand our luxury and lifestyle offering to our growing loyalty members, IHG has launched six new brands in the last five years including voco, our premium conversion brand, and our newest premium/entry-level luxury collection brand – the Vignette Collection. The opportunity for hotels to join IHG, benefit from our broad enterprise support and quickly ramp to drive effective commercial results and gain market share has fueled the growth of voco as one of the fastest in our history.
In the first half of 2021 we signed more than 200 hotels and, during the last year and a half, conversions grew to a quarter of overall signings. This strong momentum coupled with continuing demand, both new build and conversion, for our existing upscale portfolio echoes the power of IHG’s offering to new and existing owners.
How are increasing costs—from raw materials to shipping to labor—affecting the overall industry development pipeline, and how long do you expect those higher costs to remain an issue?
IHG continues to drive benefits and solutions to our owners to ensure that their commercial returns and hotel GOP flow through remain as strong as possible. From adapting our standards with new solutions that still deliver on guest and B2B account and meeting planner needs to working with our global procurement and design teams to offer enhanced and expediated offerings, we have worked with our owners on solutions for all aspects of the hotel experience critical to success in the recovery and beyond. This includes programs in F&B, design, housekeeping, bulk amenities, meetings and events and service to name only a few.
What’s your advice to owners for handling the labor crisis?
During the past five years, one in four new jobs globally were created by the travel and hospitality sector. While we know that access to quality labor remains a core challenge for our industry coming out of the pandemic, we are confident we can bounce back and return to those levels.
We are working hand in hand with our owners to address the current labor challenges, collaborating with the federal government and key industry associations such as the AHLA to connect our owners with agencies and staffing organizations, as well as partner on initiatives like the ‘Hotels are Hiring’ campaign to showcase the benefits and career trajectories available within hospitality and bring new colleagues to hotels. Within IHG, we provide owners with solutions for recruitment, as well as training and problem resolution tools to attract and retain talent.
What do you think will be the mindset of lenders in general for the next year or so? Will lenders’ purse strings loosen during that time?
The travel industry remains a strong, long-term industry for investment. It has survived countless impacts and the economics and demand drivers remain strong. As more guests head through the doors of our hotels, more of our owners start to turn their thoughts to growth and opening new hotels with us – and the conversations they're having with banks and lenders are more productive than they were a few months ago. We do see owners moving forward with significant investments which require lending, and we look forward to lenders continuing to open opportunities for increased credit to drive industry growth.
As we all look to proceed onward and upward, what one word best describes what the hotel industry needs to do to ensure long-term overall success, and why use that word?
At the best of times, it is easy to be caught up with all of the competing priorities and enticing opportunities. Both during a crisis and in the exciting period of ramping back to growth, focus remains even more important. It is during this time that we can target our collectible energies on key levers that will meet the evolving needs of consumers today from solutions for sustainability to innovative ways to drive guest satisfaction – ultimately driving industry growth and gains in owner market share and return.
Beyond what you have already addressed, what challenges and opportunities will emerge on the hotel development front during 2022?
There are multiple opportunities and a strong growth trajectory ahead. The pandemic constrained travel demand to historic levels, while underscoring the importance of the connection and personal impact that travel provides for millions of travelers who are now getting back on the road. Savvy developers are now preparing for future growth – in the longer term through new build hotels and, more immediately, through conversion opportunities. Owners are recognizing the value of partnering, for the first time or in an expanded capacity, with IHG and our enterprise worldwide loyalty program, global sales teams and technology solutions which provide quick and effective commercial ramp, market share growth and strong owner ROI.
As the travel industry rebounds, there’s an unlimited opportunity for us to be a catalyst for impactive change. Collectively, branded hotel companies can prioritize travel as a force for good and drive leadership in key areas of sustainability, equality and humanitarian issues.
What is one takeaway people should know about Ginger Taggart?
I’m passionate about pioneering growth, the humanitarian good that comes from travel and see tremendous potential ahead for our industry. As a cultural enthusiast and adventurer, I’ve lived internationally for 14 years, travelled to nearly 100 countries and can be packed in an hour. Where to next?