Standard International CEO wants to accelerate global expansion through local communities

quick take

Hotel companies, many of which saw big drops in foreign guest numbers during the pandemic, realized they needed to attract more local residents to boost revenue. Therefore, they are increasing their efforts to make their properties feel like home for local communities.

Rashaad Jordan

Standard International has expanded significantly around the world in recent years, opening properties in Ibiza last week and Bangkok Mahanakhon earlier this month. But CEO Amber Asher said the company’s goals aren’t simply to attract foreign visitors to those hotels, but rather to become a focal point of the destinations it sets up shop in.

“We want the local community to feel as much at home in our spaces as the traveler (who is) visiting New York down the street,” said Asher, who was named CEO last October, in a discussion moderated by Sean, editor Skift Hospitality Senior. O’Neill at Skift’s Future of Lodging Forum in New York.

Asher cited an example of his new hotel in Ibiza, where Standard spent a lot of time scouring the area to find, among other things, local DJs.

“We’re not going to take our brand and say, ‘You’re going to love this version of Standard from New York or California.’ We interact with local designers, chefs, musicians. We moved people to different places so that they were part of the community.”

Appealing to local communities has been a successful formula for Standard. Asher said that 90 percent of the company’s food and beverage clientele in the New York area are members of the local community.

“We build for the community and we understand that our guests will appreciate it,” Asher said.

In addition to international expansion, Standard is also targeting US cities outside of major international gateways, such as Nashville, Chattanooga and Austin, where it has opened five hotels that are part of its Bunkhouse brand, for growth.

“The people (that) were our clientele that came to Standard have moved from the big cities…that energy has moved elsewhere,” Asher said.

Asher also touched on the biggest challenges facing the hospitality industry since the start of the pandemic: filling vacant positions, especially as hotel companies are still dealing with labor shortages ahead of the busy summer season. She said that Standard is casting a wide recruitment net.

“We need some people to come from hospitality, but not all of them to come from hospitality,” Asher said, adding that Standard has hired workers who come from fields like public relations, fashion and music. “We were lucky enough to keep our great team going through Covid…but we had some key positions to hire when Covid ended.”

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