TORONTO — The Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, was packed with 5,000 Choice hotel owners and executives this week, from May 15 to 17, at the company’s 58th Annual Convention, which presented an optimistic outlook and “All-In” slogan.

“This is the right time and the right place for every one of us to go all in by accelerating growth, performance and profitability,” said Steve Joyce, president and CEO, upon welcoming owners and operators to the convention’s corporate business session. “For Choice, going all in is embedded in our DNA.”

The high-energy opening, which included a 3-D introduction, set the stage for a number of positive announcements. “With every passing month, the recession is further in our rear-view mirror,” said Joyce. “We’ve seen year-over-year occupancy rates increase across all of our brands. This year, we continue to see the momentum that began in the second half of 2011. RevPAR was up about eight per cent for the industry in the first quarter of 2012.”

The Choice Corporate session focused on company strategies, including an update on the success of the Choice Privileges reward program, which has grown threefold in five years to nearly 15-million members; new marketing initiatives; a look at the triumphs of the Rates Center management training; and a recap of the company’s Room to Rebuild charity work, which saw the completion of 12 rebuilding projects in 2011.

Meanwhile, announcements were made throughout the show at brand sessions. Brand executives discussed the Sleep Inn and Comfort Inn redesigns; new marketing initiatives at Quality and EconoLodge; and refreshed social positioning at Clarion.

Most notable, however, was the announcement to create a dual Sleep Inn and MainStay Suites prototype and a new Ascend Collection image, with the new “Let the Destination Reach You,” tagline. “Ascend properties enable travellers to visit each local destination like a native,” said Michael Murphy, SVP, Ascend, of the focus that the tagline should impart. “It’s a reflection of what we already do.”

One of the conference highlights was the keynote address by Christopher Gardner, author and inspiration for the Will Smith film, The Pursuit of Happyness. He recounted his personal struggle to overcome homelessness while working toward his dream job in finance while raising his son as a single father. “The most important thing I’ve ever done in my life is break the cycle” of a father who wasn’t there, said Gardner, emphasizing the driving force behind his “all-in” life strategy.

The 59th Annual Choice Convention will be held in Los Angeles next spring. For more details on the 2012 convention, check out the June issue of Hotelier.


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