High Hotels

High Hotels Residence Inn

High Hotels Ltd. aims to become an industry leader by leading the charge for innovation.

By Bianca Herron

High Hotels Ltd. is an affiliate of High Real Estate Group LLC and part of the High® companies – a multi-faceted group of businesses with a longstanding tradition for quality products and services since its founding more than 80 years ago.

Launched in 1988, High Hotels develops, acquires, owns and operates award-winning select-service and extended-stay hotels in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Today, its properties are franchised through Hilton Hotels Corp. and Marriott International Inc.

High Hotels infoThe Lancaster, Pa.-based company is vertically integrated, benefitting from an array of in-house expertise including development, architecture, and construction. President Russell Urban says the company is also a long-term owner of its hotels, meaning it rarely sells any of its properties.

“We’re in this for the long haul,” he says. “We build high-quality product that withstands the test of time.”

Urban adds his firm is “very much about viewing every decision with the eye of holding everything forever and developing our talent from within.”

Keys to Success

High Hotels has an agile team of 500 employees. “We control all of the decision-making,” Urban notes. “So we can be very nimble and entrepreneurial, which allows us to have best-in-class and institutional rigor and be flexible at the same time.”

High Hotels prides itself on staying ahead of its property improvement plans, which has been critical to its success, according to Urban. “We tend to be very proactive and are very involved with our brands through various committees so that we can help to enact change,” he says. “We’re not the biggest franchisee of any brand, but we try to have a powerful voice within the brand families.”

High Hotels Hilton Garden InnThe company recently completed several renovations, including its Hampton Inn’s in Middletown, N.Y. and Lancaster, Pa. and Hilton Garden Inn in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. “We are just completing a $4 million renovation of our Hampton Inn by Hilton in Lancaster,” Urban notes. He adds that the hotel is approaching its 30-year anniversary and High Hotels recently signed a long-term renewal with Hilton for the property.

Next year, High Hotels will renovate two of its Courtyard by Marriott properties – in Ewing, N.J., and Middletown, N.Y. – and its SpringHill Suites by Marriott in Ewing as well.

Seeing Growth

High Hotels opened a new SpringHill Suites by Marriott in Mount Laurel, N.J., in June. It will debut another SpringHill Suites in Allentown, Pa., in the coming weeks, which will bring its property total to 15.

High Hotels aims to grow by adding two new hotels annually. “Our plan is to grow no further than a four-hour drive from our offices in Lancaster,” Urban says, noting that the company is very “hands-on” when it comes to management of its properties. “We like having properties that are clustered together so that we can get the benefits of higher-quality talent and, therefore, stronger performance within those markets,” he says. “We’re very ‘high touch’ and for the foreseeable future we’re going to stick to that paradigm for growth.”

High Hotels is also focused on becoming an industry leader in terms of innovation. For example, Urban notes he’d like the company to be the first to eliminate traditional front desks and be completely keyless.

“This front desk function, in my mind, is a cumbersome and technologically unnecessary part of the check-in experience,” he explains. “By going keyless, we can provide an even higher level of customer service.”

High Hotels would replace the “transaction noise” of the checkout experience with what Urban calls “lobby concierge personnel.”

“These are people that greet you when you walk in the door and ask if you need any assistance,” he explains. “So it is a more personalized service as opposed to dealing with the mechanics of a transaction. I think that’s a far more fruitful way to interact with guests. Ultimately, we want to be cutting-edge and I think this industry needs more of that in the middle market segments.”

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