When opening a hotel in Florida, particularly when it is a national hotelier unveiling a new brand concept intended to boost the company to bigger heights, it is not too much to ask for a little sunshine, is it?
This is the Sunshine State, after all. The capital of tourism. Why else would you show off a new property if not to capitalize on the idea of fun and sun?
That’s probably what Extended Stay America was thinking when it decided to hold an official ribbon cutting for its new, and ballyhooed, Premier Suites brand in Tampa. Instead, the 60 or so soaked executives and dignitaries who showed up on a gray, rainy Tuesday morning in early August might as well have been in Seattle.
But the rain did not dampen the enthusiasm the company feels as it begins to roll out the Premier Suites brand — an upgrade to the chain’s standard hotel. That includes amenities the North Carolina hotel company is already known for, along with signature bedding, upgraded design features and larger screen TVs to create crisper and more modern rooms.
The company has built or fully renovated 25 Premier Suite branded hotels so far, including a dozen in Florida.
Extended Stay says the new brand “offers guests a premium experience based on what extended stay travelers value most according to extensive guest research.”
Kelly Poling, executive vice president and chief commercial officer for Extended Stay, says the company is working to figure out the next steps, including the new brand's ultimate footprint.
"We were fortunate in a sense because we probably outperformed every other hotel company, arguably, in the world." Kelly Poling, executive vice president and chief commercial officer for Extended Stay America
For those unfamiliar with Extended Stay, the chain’s mission is right in its name. It’s a hotel designed for travelers looking to stay long periods of time. Rates are discounted for longer stays, rooms come with kitchens and the hotels have laundry facilities.
Like all hotel chains, last year’s pandemic battered the bottom line. According to Extended Stay’s 2020 annual report released in February, the chain’s revenue per available room — a key industry indicator known as RevPAR — decreased 15% in 2020 to $42.91. RevPAR fell 47.5% among all hotels nationwide last year, according to industry research firm STR.
Overall, Extended Stay’s total revenue fell 14.4% in 2020 to $1.04 billion.
The company, which Blackstone Real Estate Partners and Starwood Capital Group acquired earlier this year for $6 billion, owns 652 hotels and has 71,800 rooms in 44 states.
Despite taking a pandemic hit, Poling says, “we were fortunate in a sense because we probably outperformed every other hotel company, arguably, in the world.” Proof comes from this nugget: it has not close a single hotel in the pandemic.
Poling, in person in Tampa for the concept's debut, credits the chain’s amenities for getting it through the downturn without being hit worse —having kitchens in rooms meant hotel guests did not have to wander off to restaurants in a strange city. Plus, she says, while a lot of companies turned to Zoom there are industries such as medicine and construction where moving into a virtual world was not an option. “The fact that we clearly serve those markets has facilitated our performance as well.”
It was amid the pandemic, in May 2020, when Extended Stay began to work on the idea that would become Premier Suites. Poling says the company wanted to understand the segment better and how it could reach new customers.
The embodiment of that work was on display at the Premier Suites official launch at the renovated Tampa Extended Stay just off Interstate 4, about two miles west of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Poling says it is no coincidence a Florida property was chosen to introduce its new brand to the world.
Florida is known for the large number of leisure travelers who visit every year. But the constant development and growth in the state also means Florida attracts just the type of traveler Extended Stay aims for.
These are travelers who “are in the midst of some life transition,” people relocating for a new job or who have sold their home and are waiting for the new one to be finished, Poling says. That’s in addition to those who come to the state for business and stay for a long period of time to complete projects — construction crews, temporary medical workers and IT consultants.
“For all those different reasons, Florida is a place where there is a lot of demand for what we offer,” Poling says. “Florida is one of our favorite places to be.” Rain or shine.