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Ascend Collection creates dedicated membership development team

Ascend Collection creates dedicated membership development team

The Ascend Collection membership program from Choice Hotels International is poised for record growth in 2012 with the creation of a dedicated membership development team, comprised of hospitality industry veterans Bill Balletto, Joe Dreiske, Dennis Wynn and Jose Salvador Icaza.

“Expanding the Ascend Collection footprint is a top priority for Choice Hotels,” says David Pepper, senior vice president of global development. “We exceeded our goals last year. To maintain – and build on – that momentum, the company is backing growth in Ascend Collection with one of the most experienced and successful membership sales teams in the industry. We look forward to unprecedented growth in 2012.”

The portfolio of upscale, independent hotels has been a success story for Choice Hotels. Launched in late 2008, Ascend Collection ended 2011 with 69 properties, located throughout the United States, Canada, Costa Rica and the Caribbean. During the past 12 months, Ragland says the portfolio increased by 21 hotels or 50 percent.

“Interest in joining our Ascend Collection is predicated on Choice’s ability to deliver high-value reservations to member hotels through our central reservation system, Choice Privileges loyalty program, and group demand through our Global Sales organization,” says Stacy Ragland, the program’s vice president of operations. “Member properties that joined the system after June 30, 2010 saw on average more than 58 percent of their business delivered via Choice Hotels channels, the highest contribution rate of any brand in the company’s domestic system*.

“Ascend Collection has enabled Choice to offer guests booking on and our other reservations channels a portfolio of properties in high demand locations, such as city centers and resort markets, that we historically have had limited distribution,” Ragland continues. “Hoteliers in turn gain access to one of the most robust lodging distribution platforms while maintaining their unique local identity. Based on the strength of this unique business model and our new dedicated membership development team, we are confident 2012 will set new records for growth.”


* Source: See Ascend Collection Franchise Disclosure Document dated April 1, 2012. For the 29 hotels that were included in the sample, 11 hotels or 37.9% met or exceeded total Choice contribution. Actual results may vary.

Introducing the new Ascend Collection membership development team:

Bill Balletto, Director, Membership Development–Ascend Collection, Northeast and Midwestern U.S.
A 40-year hospitality veteran, Balletto brings to Ascend Collection a depth of experience, having worked in a variety of roles including hotel and restaurant operations, multi-unit hotel management, real estate acquisitions and franchise development. Over the past 22 years, he has consistently been among the top franchise sales associates for Choice, having sold franchises for all of the company’s brands. Balletto is a recipient of the Victor G. Trapani Award for Sales Excellence, the company’s highest honor in sales achievement.

Joe Dreiske, Director, Membership Development–Ascend Collection, Western U.S.
Dreiske grew up in the hospitality industry, part of a family that owned and operated hotels throughout the U.S. His career spans more than 25 years and encompasses all aspects of the industry, including hotel management, operations, finance, acquisitions, design, development, ownership and franchising. In addition to working in the family businesses, Dreiske has served as a regional operations manager for a third-party management company, chief financial officer for a privately held hotel group and member of the Board of Directors of the California Lodging Industry Association.

Dennis Wynn, Director, Membership Development–Ascend Collection, Southeastern U.S.
Since joining Choice Hotels in 2006, Wynn has worked director of franchise development for the company’s brands. In recognition of his record of achievement, he has been named four times to Choice Hotels Presidents Club for excellence in franchise sales.

Jose Salvador Icaza, Director, Membership Development, Caribbean
Icaza is responsible for the development and growth of Ascend Collection throughout the Caribbean. Previously at Choice Hotels, he held director of franchise sales and development positions for the Cambria Suites and Sleep Inn brands. Before joining Choice Hotels, Icaza was vice president of operations for the Columbia, Maryland-based management company Star Hotels. Earlier at Hilton Hotels, he served as a director of franchise development as well as general manager for hotels across that company’s brands.