FULL STEAM AHEAD FOR LA QUINTA

Contrary to perception — and rumor — La Quinta is bullish, even aggressive, on franchising, according to Rajiv Trivedi, executive vice president of franchising at the Dallas-based limited-service chain.

In January, following the closing of The Blackstone Group's $3.4-billion acquisition of La Quinta Hotels & Resorts, rumors began to circulate that La Quinta was taking its foot off the franchising pedal. Not so, says Trivedi, suggesting those were started by competitors eager to take advantage of the corporate change.

In fact, he says, La Quinta has opened 25 new franchises in the first six months of 2006, the highest number of new franchises since it entered the field in 2001.

“Today, we have 175 franchised open properties, with 130 in the pipeline,” he says. “We have signed year-to-date 22 new agreements, and we have an additional 20 or so in various stages of the approval process.”

As of last year, 55 percent of La Quintas were owned; the rest were franchised. Blackstone, La Quinta's new owner, endorses the franchising drive and La Quinta plans to open at least 50 franchised properties by year's end.

La Quinta plans to expand its presence from the Southeast throughout the country, particularly in the Northeast, Trivedi suggests. It is making inroads with new properties in Albany and Islip, NY and has started a new-construction property at the Baltimore airport.

“Competition takes advantage of situations,” says Trivedi. “As the saying goes, a man throws a stone at the tree with the highest amount of fruit.”

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