InterContinental Hotels Group intends to add more high-end hotels
by acquiring luxury brands.
CEO Keith Barr said during the company's fourth-quarter
earnings call that IHG is looking to buy a luxury brand that is "small"
and "asset light," meaning that it would be primarily a managed
brand that doesn't own its real estate.
He added that IHG has had talks with a number of brands.
"We see a real opportunity to round out our portfolio and
add other luxury brands at a price point above InterContinental and potentially
also in the resort space," Barr said.
InterContinental is IHG's lone luxury brand, although IHG
also considers Kimpton a luxury brand. (In its chain scale, hotel research firm
STR classifies Kimpton as upper-upscale.) IHG calls InterContinental the world's
largest luxury brand with 194 hotels worldwide, but its price point is
generally below Ritz-Carlton, Waldorf Astoria and Four Seasons.
As for Kimpton, a boutique brand IHG acquired in 2014, IHG
is looking to accelerate that brand's unit growth while integrating its
food-and-beverage expertise into other brands' F&B operations.
Barr also didn't rule out franchising overseas to grow
Kimpton. Currently, the brand's hotels are 100% Kimpton-managed.
"We're thinking creatively about Kimpton. We understand
it better. We've had it for a number of years," Barr said.
At about 79,000 rooms combined, InterContinental and Kimpton
account for about 10% of IHG's global room count.
With more than 5,300
hotels totaling almost 800,000 rooms, IHG trails both Marriott International
(1.26 million) and Hilton (about 856,000) in room count, though boasts the
world's largest brand by room count in Holiday Inn Express.