Aimbridge names Craig S. Smith new CEO

Aimbridge Hospitality has revealed that Craig S. Smith will join the global hospitality management company as CEO effective March 18.

As only the third CEO in Aimbridge’s history, Smith is expected to leverage decades of deep operational experience and proven leadership with Marriott International to solidify Aimbridge’s position as the frontrunner in comprehensive, performance-backed hotel operations, the company reports.

“Aimbridge’s reputation as a trusted global hotel operator and the team’s desire to outperform at every turn is what excites me about taking on the CEO role,” said Smith. “There is still tremendous opportunity to enhance our service offering to consistently deliver outstanding results for our owners and further drive brand expansion across all verticals domestically and abroad. As we go forward, we’ll put even greater emphasis on strengthening operations and simplifying our approach to be built around the GM, activating operational efficiencies that leverage our scale and create material value for us and our partners, and doubling down on our commitment to recruit, develop and train the best people in the industry, including helping the next generation of talent thrive.”

Having begun his hospitality career in hotel operations, Smith became a GM before being tapped for top executive spots in several international markets, culminating with his rise to helm Marriott’s entire international business prior to his retirement from the brand.

As group president/managing director—international at Marriott, Smith:

  • Oversaw more than 2,500 hotels worldwide—two-thirds of which were brand-managed—across 28 brands in 136 countries and territories
  • Led a diverse workforce of more than 230,000 hotel and regional support center associates with direct responsibility for operations, development, brand acquisitions, sales and marketing, legal and HR across the entire international business
  • Spearheaded the realignment and resourcing of the company’s international markets, including reorganizing the division into four autonomous regions, resulting in faster growth and $23 billion in sales
  • Provided direct oversight of four international presidents and their teams with proven results in driving best-in-class topline growth, GOP, guest satisfaction and associate culture
  • Served as lead strategist for Marriott’s global growth plan and managed a development pipeline of more than 1,000 projects around the world, including new and emerging markets

Smith is expected to leverage his experience to design and accelerate plans at Aimbridge that put the GM at the center, drive greater value at scale, result in superior property performance and create an industry-leading culture, the company reports.

The company is also making changes to its board of managers that will provide active support to Smith and additional CEO-level hospitality experience.

Effective immediately, Steve Joyce, who joined the Aimbridge board in November 2023, will assume the role of executive chairman.

Joyce, a long-time global hospitality leader with more than four decades of multi-brand and franchisee experience, including a 10-year run as president/CEO of Choice Hotels International, is expected to work closely with Smith and the company’s senior management team to advance strategic plans, including finalizing the previously announced streamlined structure in the U.S. and broaden the company’s global footprint.

“There is no doubt in my mind that Aimbridge can—and will be—the best third-party operator in the world, and it starts with embedding a seasoned leader with a deep track record of driving outsized performance across all key metrics—that’s Craig S. Smith,” said Joyce. “If you look at what Craig has achieved during his 35-year career as a hospitality leader, it’s clear that he knows how to develop winning strategies, set superior operational standards, and most critically, motivate and activate teams to get the best out of his people. In my role as executive chairman, I look forward to supporting Craig as we take Aimbridge to the next level and work to deliver the best product offering the industry has seen to date.”

Joyce succeeds Glenn Murphy, who has served as chairman since 2019 and will remain on the board.

Joining Joyce and Murphy on the board is Michael Barnello, managing partner/founder of Badlands Hotel Capital and the former president/CEO of LaSalle Hotel Properties. The company expects to tap into Barnello’s understanding of the hospitality real estate market and leverage his unique, owner-centric point of view as it looks to ignite worldwide growth and build out its newly announced owner relations team, including standing up an owners advisory council.