Fred Schwartz talks about the company and its hotels celebrating 30 years of treating guests like family.
Today’s Hotelier spoke with former AAHOA President Fred Schwartz, senior vice president development – midscale for Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, to learn more about Country Inns & Suites and why it’s so successful.
Q: This year marks Country Inns & Suites 30th Anniversary. How has Country Inns & Suites evolved over the years?
We now have over 460 Country Inns & Suites throughout the Americas. It is a much sought after brand by developers and guests. We have revitalized the brand with a very attractive contemporary design. Our tools and resources to help support our franchisees keep getting stronger, such as our digital marketing initiatives, and our recent launch of IDeaS G3 revenue management system.
Q: Looking back, why do you think Country Inns & Suites has succeeded for 30 years?
We are fortunate to have great franchisees who treat guests like family. As a company, we also pride ourselves on being business friendly, flexible and responsive. We always say that when you franchise with us, you may be in business for yourself, but not by yourself. We stand by those words daily in interacting with our franchisees.
Q: What differentiates Country Inns & Suites from other hotels in the upper midscale hotel segment?
We have a service philosophy that truly makes the guest feel at home. It’s this service experience and caring spirit that’s been part of our brand for 30 years. And, of course, the look and feel of our hotels with our Generation 4 hotel design projects warmth and comfort while exuding a contemporary feel. We are a great brand for repositioning opportunities through conversions, in addition to new construction.
Q: Looking into the future, what do you see for Country Inns & Suites?
Our focus is on growth, quality and creating an even stronger value proposition for our owners and guests. While we are growing rapidly throughout the U.S., there are still 14 of the top 50 markets where we don’t have a presence. This offers us a great opportunity to expand our brand in those markets, along with taking advantage of the right opportunities in secondary and tertiary markets.
Q: What is the growth strategy of Country Inns & Suites in the next 5-10 years?
We are now part of a dynamic global Fortune 500 company. This is a new and exciting chapter in our company’s history. There is a lot of enthusiasm and momentum as we create a stronger value proposition for our stakeholders and accelerate our growth across all our brands. We still have ample white space, and are targeting a cross section of markets throughout the Americas for phenomenal growth.
Q: What do customers love about Country Inns & Suites? What keeps them coming back?
There is a service philosophy with Country Inns & Suites that is key to every guest’s stay. Guests feel this when they walk through our front doors with the friendly welcome they receive at reception, to the comforts of home with a cozy lobby fireplace, to a Read it & Return Lending Library, to a tasty breakfast, to a comfortable and pleasing room.
Q: What does it mean to be a founding member of AAHOA?
We are proud to be one of AAHOA’s founding members, an organization comprised of some of the most well-respected hotel operators, owners and developers in our industry. The Founding Membership provides us an opportunity to interact with a wonderful and unified community of AAHOA members, who own over 50 percent of the hotels in the U.S. For me personally, my many years as AAHOA’s president has brought me so many personal and professional relationships that will always mean a great deal to me. I am thrilled in my Country Inns & Suites role to once again be of service to AAHOA members when the need arises for new builds or repositioning opportunities.
Q: What insight does being a past president of AAHOA give you into the industry?
It’s easy to understand the vitality of our industry, and the immense contributions we make to our economy. Recent figures from an STR study show that our industry contributed $590B to the U.S. GDP. As an industry, though, it’s important that our unified voice is heard at the federal and local level, so that we can share with our elected officials the importance of protecting and advancing small businesses, which make up 33,000 of the 54,000 properties in the U.S. I know AAHOA and the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) do a great job in representing our voice in protecting our industry, but it’s important to recognize that we all have a role to play in these efforts.
Q: Tell us how Country Inns & Suites began. What are the similarities between the hotels now and 30 years ago?
The brand has evolved to a much more modern aesthetic but still embodies the warm, homelike atmosphere it’s always been known for. It was founded on the idea that great hospitality means treating guests like family and that approach remains.