Q&A with Michael George Crescent Hotels & Resorts

Career hotelier Michael George, founder, president and CEO of Crescent   Hotels & Resorts, has grown the Fairfax, VA, management firm from a concept he had in 2001 to currently more than 100 properties in the United States and Canada, with an additional 14 under development. The firm has a diverse portfolio that includes properties within the resort, upper-upscale, full-service, convention and premium limited-service segments with a variety of product from major chains that include Carlson Rezidor, Choice Hotels International, Hilton, Hyatt Hotels Corp., IHG, Marriott International and Wyndham Worldwide, as well as soft-brand affiliations.

The company also operates a collection of independent and lifestyle hotels and resorts under its Latitudes Collection, Lifestyle by Crescent umbrella.

Prior to founding Crescent, George served as SVP of operations for Destination Hotels & Resorts, which operated at the time such signature assets as Hotel del Coronado, Eden Roc Resort and Royal Palms Resort & Spa.

Other rungs on his career ladder include serving as COO for Sunstone Hotels & Resorts, SVP of operations for Capstar/MeriStar Hotels and Resorts (forerunners of Interstate Hotels & Resorts), and serving as general manager at hotels and resorts with Hilton, Westin and Sheraton brand affiliations.

He currently serves on the owners advisory boards of Marriott and Hilton.

How is Crescent Hotels & Resorts shaping its management portfolio to meet the needs of owners? Crescent’s business model is laser-focused on institutional owners. Our core clients are REITs, private equity firms and major developers. There are no client diversity challenges for Crescent; all clients expect quality engagement and exceptional results.

Have owner requests vis-à-vis management companies shifted significantly since you founded Crescent? What’s top of mind for you that you need to address? S.D.S. That’s Speed. Data. Specialists. Crescent’s clients expect a responsive manager who makes smart decisions with data to back them up. Crescent is purposely stacked with hotel specialists to differentiate and positively impact performance.

What makes a property attractive to Crescent Hotels & Resorts in terms of its own goals? The more moving parts and complications to a property, the better. Crescent is not a passive caretaker; Crescent is a high-impact operator with the best talent in the industry.

Crescent Hotels & Resorts wrangles both franchise brand product and independent hotels, the latter under the Latitudes Collection. Where do you see advantages/challenges in handling each? No challenges, only excitement. Crescent understands and operates each property for [its] distinct reasons. Crescent’s track record in successfully operating hard brands, soft brands and pure independents is a differentiating factor.

Like many in the industry, Crescent Hotels & Resorts is embracing lifestyle hotels, and you recently added the Hotel PUR in Canada to the Latitudes Collection. Why is this direction a good fit for the company? Crescent’s Latitudes team has extensive experience in “creative and independent lodging”—an intriguing option for clients. The business model is certainly not applicable for the vast majority of locations and products, but with Crescent’s Latitudes team of experts, it’s easy to capitalize on the potential of these assets. Crescent has successfully operated more than 50 lifestyle hotels.

How extensive do you expect the lifestyle portion of your management business to get within the company? Intentionally, every year Latitudes gains a greater portion of Crescent’s portfolio. Demand is driven from Crescent’s reputation, and the Latitudes team is focused on relevant trends that make the positioning of the hotels unique and successful.

Crescent Hotels & Resorts recently repositioned the more traditional Westin Las Vegas. What advantage does this bring to the portfolio? A bull’s-eye for Crescent. We assisted a great client with repositioning the hotel through product improvement, design and creative programming into the largest non-gaming full-service hotel in Las Vegas—and the market leader. We removed the existing casino and transformed the space into a home-run F&B concept created by Crescent’s culinary [team].

Is Crescent Hotels & Resorts being more opportunistic or more strategic in making growth decisions? The number-one strategic responsibility for Crescent is to preserve Crescent’s reputation as a manager and employer obsessed over client satisfaction. Quality growth is a by-product of this focus.

How is the company balancing its portfolio, either segment-wise or brand-wise, in terms of what its recently done? Crescent is client-centric and dedicated. Well over 60% of Crescent’s historic growth is driven by existing clients, and Crescent’s focus is aligning with and retaining the right clients. A quality portfolio is a result of putting great clients first.

Where do you see opportunity ahead for Crescent Hotels & Resorts, and what’s the vision for the next five years? Major urban and resort mixed-use development projects have become a significant portion of Crescent’s pipeline. Currently, Crescent is involved with seven $200-million-plus, mixed-use development projects. Crescent has extensive experience in aligning with developers to design, program, develop and quickly ramp [up] these mega projects. [We also will] remain dedicated to being best in class. The gap between major- and minor-league operators is widening and premier owners and brands have taken note. HB