10 Growth Chains

Extending the brand beyond its Texas roots, franchisees eager to develop more than one property and a push to plant its flag in gateway cities made La Quinta the fastest-growing chain last year. With 16,092 new rooms, La Quinta Inn/La Quinta Inns & Suites posted 33-percent growth, a striking number even for today's sizzling lodging environment.

Eight-year-old Americas Best Value Inn failed to post a fifth consecutive year at the top, coming in third after Starwood's upscale Westin flag. Westin added 8,604 rooms, for a growth rate of 27.30 percent, while ABVI notched 9,623 new rooms, representing a 27.19-percent expansion.

The Starwood chain posted the most flags in the top 10 growth chains; besides Westin, the ranking includes Sheraton and Four Points by Sheraton.

La Quinta executives credited their franchisees with much of the flag's success. “When we ask our franchisees to invest money in the brand of their product, we're investing right alongside them, in the $3 billion-plus in real estate that we own and operate,” says Wayne Goldberg, LQ Management president and chief executive officer. “Most of our competitors view their franchisees as their customer. At La Quinta, we view our franchisee as our partner. We share the same customer, and that's the guest.”

Although La Quinta owns and operates 368 of its 585 properties, it has 158 franchises in the pipeline. “We've seen phenomenal growth on the franchise side and we're seeing pretty significant growth on the corporate side as well,” Goldberg says.

“We continue to focus on key markets like Chicago, New England and major markets in California,” says Rajiv Trivedi, La Quinta's executive vice president of franchising. “Ninety percent of our pipeline is new construction in franchise, and 91 percent of that is Inns & Suites, a higher level of product that competes more effectively with the Hamptons and the Holiday Inns.” High-profile hotels in Boston and Chicago signify La Quinta's expansion beyond its Southwestern base.

“We're going to continue on our growth path at an even greater pace this year,” vows Trivedi. “This year, we will execute 100 agreements minimum, 30 percent more than last year.”

Roger Bloss, president and CEO of Vantage Hospitality Group, painted a rosy picture of Americas Best Value Inn (ABVI), Vantage's largest brand, even though it slipped from the top position: “When you reach way beyond critical mass like we have and still achieve growth of that magnitude, yet not have extraordinary growth percentages, that tells me my properties are complementing each other instead of competing with each other. It's a refresher that we're still on the right track.” There were 725 ABVIs as of the beginning of May.

The top 10 growth chains posted a combined increase of 61,943 — more than the total Residence Inn chain. Lodging Hospitality editors calculate the 10 Growth Chains by comparing the yearly gains in the number of U.S. hotel rooms for the top 50 hotel chains. Each brand's numbers appear in the March 1 issue and are based on information supplied to the magazine by brand companies. Sixteen of the brands reporting lost numbers, including Hyatt and Homewood, which placed in last year's top 10 listing.

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