Shawn Govind is a principal at Beechwood Pinnacle Hotel Group, where his role includes site selection, branding, investor relations and real estate management. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he earned a business degree in finance and real estate.
Prior to joining BPH, Shawn was a real estate manager for Walmart Inc., where he led the planning of 38 stores in the New England region.
How did you get into the hotel business, and what makes it appealing?
My family has been in the business ever since I was born. My father bought his first motel in south Arkansas in 1979. After attending the UA and having a career in corporate real estate development, I decided I was better suited to take over the family business and grow it further. I do not consider hospitality to be my business; it’s actually a part of my life and my passion.
Pinnacle seems to be growing both by acquiring existing properties and developing new ones. How do you decide when to buy and where to build?
Each market and deal is different. Our goal is not necessarily to add more rooms in a city; many times we see a product that may be tired, may be at the end of its life cycle, but with renovation and rebranding opportunities we can reposition the asset for the next 20 years. However, if there is not a hotel that fits our acquisition profile, we will build the product from the ground up or take an adaptive-reuse approach to introduce a new product suited to the market.
We absolutely intend to grow outside of Arkansas. Our recent merger with Beechwood Hospitality gives us the bandwidth to own and operate out-of-state hotels. As a matter of fact, I am excited to announce our first out-of-state development project in downtown Kansas City’s Power & Light District.
Is Airbnb a continuing threat? Has business travel been curtailed in the age of Skype?
I feel Airbnb is the same to hotels as Uber is to taxicab services. It has absolutely affected the hospitality industry. A major concern, aside from simply more competition, is that we are not on an even playing field. Hotels must be built in commercially zoned areas and must meet life-safety and Americans With Disabilities Act standards and have minimum insurance coverages; however, the person renting a home or apartment faces none of these standards and many times is not paying sales taxes to municipalities.
In addition, entrepreneurs are buying multiple homes or apartments and converting them into Airbnb properties, causing a housing shortage in many metropolitan areas. On the other hand, I do not consider Skype a threat. There are still a number of traveling guests who are meeting face to face.
What’s the biggest challenge for the hospitality industry?
Labor is at the top. Increasing labor costs, recruiting service-oriented associates and having a team that shares the passion of a career in hospitality — all are a challenge. Understanding the needs of guests, a priority for our team, can be challenging.
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Technology is an ongoing concern because it has changed the landscape of booking rooms. Airbnb and Expedia, along with many others, are marketed as online travel agencies. They have no vested interest in any of the properties that are being marketed, however. They either displace our guests into houses or apartments or make deep commissions on the rooms that are booked through them without owning an actual brick-and-mortar property.