At annual conference, La Quinta addresses elephant in room

SAN DIEGO—Half a century ago, La Quinta founders Sam and Phil Barshop opened the brand’s first property in San Antonio, across the street from HemisFair ’68. Today, the brand has 900 properties across six countries, and there are more than 250 properties in the pipeline. All that being said, Wyndham Worldwide’s pending acquisition of the company’s hotel franchise and management businesses sparked questions, and La Quinta did its best to answer them at its annual conference.

“We truly believe that things are getting brighter for our brand, and that’s been the case for half a century now,” said Keith Cline, president and CEO of La Quinta, who also pointed out the conference’s theme this year: “Brighter.” Afterward, the brand’s top executive tied the theme back to the brand in a joking manner. “Of course, what would you expect from a business that has the sun as part of its logo?” he said.

Reading the room, he cut to the chase for those in attendance: “Probably one of the brightest, and currently most talked about developments in our company’s history, is the topic that I’m sure is on all of your minds right now, so I’d like to address that elephant in the room,” Cline said. “This merger is a result of the hard work you have all done to make La Quinta the iconic brand that it is today. Our future partners at Wyndham recognize and appreciate that La Quinta is an exceptional brand focused on driving product consistency and delivering some of the highest customer engagement levels in our industry.”

La Quinta had been looking to separate its real estate business from its franchise and management businesses a year prior to its agreement with Wyndham. “One of the key reasons for this separation was to enable greater strategic clarity and allow us to take advantage of growth opportunities that would naturally flow from each side of our business,” he said. The Irving,TX-based brand believes the transaction between the two companies will help it grow revenue, increase footprint and develop La Quinta overall. (Cline will take up the post of president/CEO of CorePoint Lodging, the spin-off of La Quinta’s owned real estate assets.)

As for why Wyndham will be able to help La Quinta accomplish its goals, there are several reasons, according to Cline: La Quinta will become Wyndham Hotel Group’s flagship midscale and upper-midscale brand; the Parsippany, NJ-based hotel group will provide La Quinta with new distribution channels and access to Wyndham Rewards loyalty program; and Wyndham has a strong focus on digital and overall product quality.

“All of this sounds like a significant opportunity for the future growth of our brand,” he said. HB