When James Millar was offered the opportunity to be director of architecture and interior design for Choice Hotels’ upscale Cambria Hotels and Suites brand, he jumped at the chance. Not only would the position allow him to utilize all his previous roles in hospitality, design, and construction, it would also allow him the chance to put his stamp on an emerging brand.
Millar found his way to hospitality through an estimator position in the architecture and construction department at Marriott. In comparison to his design and construction experiences with architecture firms and the government, he found hospitality much more fascinating. “If you sit next to someone on a plane, and you tell them you design office buildings, they might say, ‘Oh, that’s nice,’” he says. “But if you say you design hotels, they’ll have a follow-up question because everyone is personally connected to hospitality. I found that aspect of it very engaging.”
In his new role since March 2014, Millar describes his position primarily as support for owners and outside developers who wish to build a Cambria hotel. Millar works with them to hire an architecture firm, reviews the architecture and construction in the process, and makes sure that Cambria’s prototype architects stay on brand—while at the same time helping them fit into their particular market.
Part of that brand is Choice’s hotel-wide “Room To Be Green” program. At the property level, the initiative has a recycling-and-waste-reduction component that includes a designated recycling area and a sorting program and a range of energy- and water-conservation practices, including low-flow fixtures and customer-communication opportunities to save.
For Millar, an opportunity to enable further change within Cambria’s sustainability platform is a branding shift that includes a name change (it was formerly just Cambria Suites) and the development of a new hotel prototype that, at the time of press, was due to be completed at the end of 2014. The effort is in support of targeting the next generation of travelers who have “grown up with green initiatives” and have come to expect sustainability when weighing their buying decisions.
“We’re laying the groundwork for where [Cambria] needs to go,” Millar says, “so that’s an exciting position [to be in].”