SCOTTSDALE, AZ—Known abroad, GreenTree Hospitality is lesser known in the U.S. marketplace, especially outside of California and Arizona. Aware of this, the hospitality group is planning to push its boundaries (literally) to expand its geographic footprint.
“I would say that over the last couple of years, coming to the United States was a pivot for us,” said Kevin Brooks, GreenTree Hospitality Group’s managing director.
Founded in 2004, GreenTree has more than 2,600 properties globally—many of which are located in Asian markets, where the hospitality group is well known. “We continue to grow our base in Asia, and want to take the success we’ve had there and apply it to what we know travelers want here in the U.S.,” he said.
The most logical place to begin expanding within the United States for GreenTree was Arizona, where the brand’s headquarters is based.The hospitality group has six properties across the state: GreenTree Inn Flagstaff; GreenTree Inn & Suites Florence; GreenTree Inn & Suites Phoenix; GreenTree Inn & Suites Mesa/Phoenix; GreenTree Inn Prescott Valley; and GreenTree Inn Sedona.
“We are looking to expand our footprint and grow strategically in gateway cities throughout the Southwest and West Coast,” Brooks said, noting the hospitality group’s extensive relationships and experiences within the region. “We believe that controlled growth will allow us the opportunity to continue managing our brand.”
In addition to the Arizona properties, the brand has two locations in California: GreenTree Inn & Suites Alhambra and GreenTree Pasadena Inn.
“It is our goal to grow the GreenTree Inn brand here in the U.S. as we did so successfully in Asia,” Brooks said. “In the fourth quarter of 2017, we added three new franchise properties, and our goal is to continue growing through both owned and managed properties, and the franchise model.”
The hospitality group currently doesn’t have any plans to expand its brand portfolio beyond GreenTree Inn and GreenTree Inn & Suites for the U.S. “There may be opportunities where we partner with a group to bring the GreenTree experience to conference/resort properties,” Brooks said. “However, our continued initial goal is to focus and build GreenTree Inn and our GreenTree Inn & Suites brand.” For the time being, what this means for the hospitality group is it will continue to leverage its expertise and resources on only select-service properties within the United States—with the goal of “delivering value-based lodging with a high level of personalized service,” he said.
“Our commitment to our guests, the communities we operate in, and the environment through our green initiatives helps us [differentiate] from other brands,” Brooks said. “Instead of a one-size-fits-all model, we try to capture the essence of each area our hotels are in, as we recognize that’s why people choose that destination—to get the local flavor and embrace the local area.”
The current hotel market in North America is “ripe” with opportunity for GreenTree. “One of the deciding factors for us in determining the right timing to launch in North America was the last few years of consistent growth in travel, both transient and corporate,” Brooks said. “All the major hotel groups are launching multiple brands, and they appear to be overlapping the market segments.” This is where the hospitality group’s concentration on select-service comes into play, and it’s where the company expects to thrive.
“We think this is a niche that we can deliver value to our guests and franchisees,” he said. “Regardless of the market cycle, being able to deliver value to both groups is always in vogue. Saving money and providing a good value always plays well.”
For GreenTree, consistency in the level of service to major traveling profiles is what’s currently missing in the hospitality space—and that’s how the hospitality group is planning to set itself apart from the rest. “At GreenTree, we pride ourselves on our customer service through personalized interaction, as well as embracing technology,” Brooks said. “We realize there is still a traveling segment that prefers the traditional, service-based model, yet also knows how important it is to adapt to the tech-savvy traveler.” Traveler profiles have been evolving, and needs are shifting to personalization.
“While we love to show off our hotel and the local areas that we operate—whether it be through local restaurants, activities or experiences in the market—we also realize the need for technology, and, if the guest chooses, limited interaction with the staff,” he said. “We’re able to easily adapt and create that personalized experience for both traveler profiles, and meet the needs of our guests.”
To establish a loyal guest base for its properties, GreenTree launched GiveBack Rewards in 2018. “A different model than most, we continue to establish a loyal guest base,” Brooks said. “The GreenTree Giveback Rewards is a paid-in membership offering different benefits than the traditional hotel rewards programs.” Last year, the hospitality group gave out cash rebates, vouchers for future stays and other perks to rewards members.
Between GreenTree Hospitality Group and corporate-owned properties, the hospitality company has more than 125 team members in the U.S.; however, GreenTree’s global team has more than 30,000 members. Aware of the ongoing labor shortage in the industry, the hospitality group has done its best to liven company culture and boost morale. The landscape has become competitive, and GreenTree is ready to compete.
“We strive to be a place people not only want to work in but stay in as well,” Brooks said. “We have strong relationships with each of our properties, both owned/managed and franchises. Our teams truly care about our guests and know they want to ‘check-in to check out’—whether for meetings or to explore the local area. We work hard in every department to ensure our employees focus on hospitality, service and pride in the brand.”
GreenTree this year launched its Employee Education Assistance program, where eligible employees have the opportunity to go back to school, earn a degree and/or a certification, or take classes designed to help them grow in their current company roles.
“We listen closely to our team members and work hard to ensure we remain competitive,” Brooks said.
As with any brand or business, the company is faced with challenges ahead, but its leadership is confident in the brand’s ability to push through and overcome roadblocks.
“Whether it’s changing technology, features guests are seeking, or competing with other properties for top-quality team members, GreenTree will continue its forward momentum,” he said. “We listen to our guests as well as our team; with that, we believe challenges will be opportunities to grow. We continue to build on our success with smart growth and expand geographically into areas our customer base wants.” HB