|By Hannah Sampson, The Miami
HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
June 25, 2012--In his 16 years with the InterContinental Hotels Group, Kirk Kinsell has overseen some fast-growing areas.
He was president of the company's Europe, Middle East and Africa division from late 2007 until the middle of 2011, where he oversaw 700 hotels with more than 121,000 rooms.
In his latest role as IHG's president of the Americas, his responsibility includes almost 3,500 hotels in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean.
That portfolio includes eight brands, including well-known names such as Holiday Inn Hotels and Resorts, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts and Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts as well as the newer Hotel Indigo and EVEN Hotels.
In an email interview, Kinsell talked about hotel growth in Latin America and how that affects Miami.
Q. How are changing economies in Latin America affecting the hotel business, especially in your company?
The next 25 years will bring exponential hotel growth in the region because of rapidly increasing demand -- foreign, regional and intra-regional. A true, emerging middle-class, particularly in countries like Brazil and Colombia, will serve as the fuel for that rapid expansion. There are literally hundreds of cities in Latin America that can support branded hotels which currently do not have them. We will see much more sophistication in those markets, with a greater presence of global brands, hence better hotel products. As for IHG, we have had a continuous presence in the region since the first InterContinental Hotel opened in Belem, Brazil in 1946, and are now present in 20 countries. We believe that a decades-long history of success across multiple countries ideally positions our organization.
Q. What is the most common type of property being built right now? Are new hotels targeted at business or leisure travelers?
Without a doubt, midscale hotels are the most common within the arena of new construction, which for us, means the various Holiday Inn products. In Brazil alone, literally millions of people have entered the middle class in the past five years. It is similar to the phenomenon our company is experiencing throughout China and India. These individuals are part of an evolving workforce that is particularly strong intra-regionally, for example, within the Andean region, and in the Southern Cone. Countries are pro-actively looking for opportunities to do business with each other, and it is reflected in the increased demand for hotels.
Q. What features are standard now in new hotels that you wouldn't have seen 10 or 15 years ago?
Clearly technology is at the forefront of amenities that need to be standard. We are also seeing much more interest in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, for which IHG launched a completely new brand earlier this year, called EVEN Hotels. While we do not have any in Latin America at present, I'm confident it will ultimately evolve to that region due to health-conscious demands from both international and domestic travelers. In any case, increased focus on healthier food options and access to exercise facilities are now a given.
Q. As growth slows in Argentina, and cools somewhat in Brazil, how do you plan for future hotel projects with so much uncertainty around the world?
We work with a broad array of owning companies who ultimate build and own the physical properties that we manage of franchise. While some areas will cool and others will heat up, we believe that the overall momentum will continue moving forward. As I noted above, there are literally hundreds of cities in the region that can sustain branded hotels that currently do not have them. In Brazil, there are 41 cities with a population of 500,000 residents or more, many of which do not have any branded hotel products. The challenge for hotel developers will be in large urban centers such as Rio, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Bogota and others. But just as in large North American cities like New York in-fill construction exists, we see the same phenomenon increasing in Latin America.
Q. With Latin America targeted as a major growth area for IHG, what kind of spillover effect does that have for Miami?
Miami is where our Latin America regional office has been located for 50 years. This city is unique in its appeal as a gateway to both Latin America and the Caribbean. The spillover is in the exponential increase in international visitors. The same individuals who are fueling hotel growth in the region have a tremendous affinity for Miami. The city has a special place in the region, so I anticipate the international arrivals into Miami from Latin America will continue to grow at a healthy pace well into the foreseeable future.
Q. What's the best hotel meal you had in the last year? Where was it?
Theo Randall Restaurant -- InterContinental Hotel Park Lane. His calamari is to die for.
Q. What class should every college student be required to take? What about students with plans for a career in hospitality?
I believe that classes that expose students to multiculturalism should be required irrelevant of a student's major. The world is simply getting smaller, as the global economy touches almost everyone. To that end, hotel schools, due to the nature of the business, have traditionally been conscious of that phenomenon. In Miami, Florida International University's hospitality school has distinguished itself and continues to gain acclaim across the globe. Having an understanding and appreciation for multiple cultures is an absolutely given in hospitality. If a student is interested in working within a homogenous environment, hospitality is probably not for them.
Q. What was your first job?
First job was flipping burgers at age 16. First job out of college was sales of computer solutions to the hospitality industry. Both taught me to be a lifelong learner that I remain today.
Q. What's the last book you read?
Nelson Mandela's autobiography. Great book for lessons on leadership -- and to admire the struggle for equality. I particularly admire his commitment to integrity, courage and hope in the face of great adversity.
Q. Tell us something about yourself that would surprise your coworkers.
I was an avid surfer as a kid and stand up paddle board now -- the old man's version.
Q. How would you write your own biography in six words?
Make the love of work equal the love of life. (In 10 words.)
(c)2012 The Miami Herald
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