Naples Hotel Group (NHG) is a prime example of a family business, one that now includes not just founders and managing partners Mike and Hayley Bou-Sliman, who have been married for 37 years, but also their children Andrew, executive vice president of acquisitions & development, and Brittany, executive vice president of marketing. When LODGING spoke to Mike at this year’s Lodging Conference in Phoenix, he described his company’s family culture, which extends far beyond his actual family; its focus on proactive planning; and its current growth trajectory via development and hotel management. He also touched on its approaches to building relationships as well as hotel properties—practices that helped NHG transition to becoming a full-service boutique management company in 2010 and subsequently navigate the challenges of the pandemic period.
LODGING’s discussion with Mike at The Lodging Conference took place just weeks before Hurricane Ian struck his company’s offices in Naples, Florida. Fortunately, Mike reports that the damage was minimal to the offices and NHG properties—even a hotel 1.5 miles from the beach in Naples was able to reopen shortly after the storm. “The hurricane has luckily not impacted our business in any way,” he says. “We know how to prepare our hotels for hurricanes and are in full compliance with the unique building codes we have in Florida/Gulf Coast towns that ensure our buildings can withstand the intense weather.”
From Ownership to Management
Mike entered the hospitality industry via the food service business in Ohio in the late 1980s. In 1998, he and Hayley took on their first hotel project, building a Hampton Inn on Immokalee Road in Naples. The hotel opened in February 2000. Mike and Hayley proceeded to develop and open hotels on their own in South Florida and, in the process, established a successful hotel company, where Hayley focused on human resources and Mike concentrated on the development of multiple upscale limited- and select-service hotels. Yet, during the economic downturn of 2008, they began contemplating a different way to grow. “We had already established an extensive amount of expertise in building hotels, having built seven of our own, so we understood construction as well as operations,” he explains. “Then, too, we had been approached over the years by other owners with requests to manage their hotels, so we figured that would be a good way to propel the company to the next level.”
And grow they did. Naples Hotel Group is now exclusively a third-party business with no ownership in any of the hotels in its portfolio, and their plan is to continue growing that way, Mike says. “To maintain the culture of family and trust, we’ve grown our portfolio at a strategic pace of anywhere from one to three hotels a year, a pace that allows us to maintain our focus on what’s important to each operation,” he says, adding, “We don’t say ‘yes’ to every opportunity that comes our way, only the right ones in mid- to upper-scale limited- and select-service hotels in good markets.” This selective approach, he says, has enabled the company to maintain excellent relationships with their brands. “It’s important that we have time to understand each project and the people involved to ensure the success of each hotel. We have over 30 years of experience between Hilton, Marriott, and IHG, and we are proud to have them as partners as we grow our company.”
Notably, NHG’s third-party business growth—even during COVID—has also been facilitated by confidence from owners in Florida as an investment. Many of those owners had already purchased the land prior to the pandemic.
Best Practices for Building
Mike stresses the importance of establishing trusted relationships and advance planning when it comes to building a hotel on budget and on time. “We work only with hotel contractors we trust and who have a proven track record with the kind of properties we specialize in,” he says. A particular lesson of the pandemic period was the importance of planning even farther ahead than in the past. “We’ve learned to line up contractors and materials well ahead of time and are now warehousing many of the things we’ll need—especially for FF&E—rather than expect them to be readily available,” he explains. In fact, at the time of the interview, he was expecting to begin three projects in the coming two months and had already finalized the purchase orders and lined up the main contractor (Orlando-based Pinkerton & Laws) three months prior. The projects include a Fairfield by Marriott in Orlando at The Mall at Millenia and a Home2 Suites in Winter Haven near LEGOLAND.
NHG’s growth is due in no small part to a caring corporate culture. “We are firm believers in taking care of our team members,” Mike affirms. The success of that approach can be seen in NHG’s staff retention. “We’ve had less than 5 percent turnover on our corporate team. Out of our corporate team of 30 people, this year we’re celebrating two 10-year anniversaries and eight five-plus-year anniversaries,” he relates.
“The team members in NHG have honored the culture of family and trust to help build a place where people want to work,” Mike concludes.