A Word with GHN Advisory Board Member Chris Hartley
2019 Priorities and Growth Aspirations
Current priorities at Global Hotel Alliance?
As the alliance celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, we have a very firm foundation in place to focus on growth, in terms of scale – passing 14 million guests as members in our loyalty programme, DISCOVERY – and the number of brands that we serve in the alliance, targeting 50 brands by our 20th anniversary in 2024. With Minor Hotel Group, Pan Pacific and Corinthia electing to become shareholders in GHA, this has further strengthened the alliance, with our shareholder brands now accounting for over 60% of the hotel rooms in the alliance. And as our member brands grow organically and through acquisition, with Minor’s acquisition of NH Hotels for example, DISCOVERY is now growing at 200,000 new members each month.
Through continued re-investment into GHA and our platform, we are realising our potential by leveraging our proprietary technology and member base, with DISCOVERY as our engine, to become a low-cost distribution channel for our brands. Each year we send our member brands millions of dollars of incremental room revenue as guests stay at different brands across the alliance, benefiting from each other, and helping channel shift away from more expensive third-party channels that dominate the independent brands.
The alliance has grown fairly organically over the years, as word has spread amongst independent brands looking for ways to compete together in face of industry pressures from the major brands, but also in response to the increasing complexity and cost of hotel distribution. With significant investment, and GHA’s global team in place following key hires over the last 18 months, the emphasis is now to actively invite upscale and luxury brands who we know will receive considerable “cross-brand” business, complement our existing member brands, and have the ability to grow into new regions or markets, enhancing our global coverage.
Led by James Simmonds, who joined as Global Head of Development in 2017, we have been busy raising our profile in the hotel ownership community, as well as tradeshows, industry events and our 15th anniversary celebrations; the next ones coming up at the NYU conference then HICAP. We are in discussion with more brands than ever, and we are seeing more enquiries than before, as our message is reaching the market. We launched our B2B website recently with a specific focus on the transparency of the alliance, how we are self-governed and act in the interests of the brands we serve; it is a truly collaborative environment between the member brands (www.globalhotelalliance.com).
To be clear though, it is not growth for growth’s sake. In growing the alliance brands carefully, focused on quality over quantity, we ultimately offer our DISCOVERY members even more choice, globally, choosing from a variety of individual brands that reflect their locale and deliver truly authentic experiences. If you look at the recent backdrop of consolidation, and the mega-chains’ attempts to mass market authenticity, GHA’s approach to encourage member brands to retain their own unique personalities has proven to be a recipe for success – within the alliance and with their guests.
What to expect from Global Hotel Alliance in 2019/20?
We expect to be announcing more brands joining the alliance over the coming months, as we gain momentum. The feedback is that brands are attracted by our business model, which is commission-based with no fixed fees, and alignment of interests. We recently announced Capella Hotel Group is joining the family, which I am particularly excited about. Not only does Capella bring some exquisite hotels into the alliance, led by a world-class management team, I think it also highlights the growing interest we are seeing in the luxury segment. This is also evident by Corinthia becoming a shareholder and taking a seat on our board.
For many years, independent luxury brands only really had the representation companies to choose from. As distribution has moved on, driven by changing guest behaviour, new technology and the power of data, the old fixed-fee business model is proving to be less popular. We are seeing more brands approaching us, attracted by our proven room night production, higher marketing ROI and ultimately the collegial spirit of the alliance. For this reason, I think you will see the Ultratravel Collection – the alliance’s elite segment of individual luxury hotels and brands – continue to grow in popularity and attract more brands to the fold.
About Global Hotel Alliance:
Global Hotel Alliance (GHA) is the world’s largest alliance of independent hotel brands, bringing together more than 30 upscale and luxury brands with over 550 hotels in 75 countries. GHA uses a shared technology platform to drive incremental revenues and create cost savings for its member brands. GHA’s award-winning loyalty programme, DISCOVERY, provides 14 million members exclusive opportunities to immerse themselves in local culture wherever they travel. GHA’s hotel brands currently include: Alila, Anantara, Atura, Avani, Capella, Corinthia, Discovery Destinations, Doyle, Elewana, GLO, JA Resorts, Kempinski, Leela, Lungarno, Marco Polo, Meritage, Meydan, Mysk, Niccolo, NUO, Oaks, Omni, Outrigger, Pan Pacific, PARKROYAL, QT, The Residence by Cenizaro, Rydges, Shaza, Solis, Thon, Tivoli, Ultratravel Collection and Viceroy. For more information, visit www.globalhotelalliance.com
About DISCOVERY Loyalty:
A memorable trip demands more than a comfortable stay. DISCOVERY, an award-winning global loyalty programme, provides 14 million members recognition and perks across over 550 hotels, resorts and palaces in 75 countries. Elite members have the opportunity to immerse themselves in local culture through Local Experiences, distinctive activities that capture an authentic taste of each destination. For more information, visit www.discoveryloyalty.com