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La Quinta CEO Wayne Goldberg Expects More Leisure Guests as Economy Grows

Stocks in this article: LQ BX HLT

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Summer driving season is here, but Wayne Goldberg, chief executive of the mid-sized hotel chain La Quinta  (LQ) says he's not worried about rising gas prices.

"I don't think oil prices will have a significant impact on our business," Goldberg said in an interview with TheStreet. "They have not historically and we've seen oil prices significantly higher than they are today."

La Quinta's stock has gained 8.8% since being taken public in a transaction led by private equity giant Blackstone Group, which held onto a 63% stake in the company. Goldberg said Blackstone is a supportive, disciplined partner and certainly well-versed in the hotel business since it also successfully completed a $26 billion leverage buyout of Hilton (HLT) in 2007, before returning the company to the public market in December 2013.

"We see consumer confidence continuing to improve and with that, we see demand continuing to outpace supply," said Goldberg, whose business is evenly split between business and leisure travelers.  "We are early on in this cycle and believe we have a good runway left based on all of the data points thus far," he said.

Goldberg said the lack of new rooms hitting the overall mid-sized hotel market, coupled with higher occupancy rates, has strengthened La Quinta's pricing power, as well as that of its chief rivals, Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn  and Comfort Inn.  The La Quinta CEO said he is trying to differentiate his chain from his rivals through loyalty programs, service and technology.

"At La Quinta, we focus on driving loyalty and engagement through differentiation, and we've done that with a number of creative and very technological solutions," Goldberg said. "Today it isn't just about giving the guest all of the technology; it's about giving them the capability of leveraging the technology that they are traveling with."

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