Holiday Inn global rebranding coincides with travellers going mid market

26 Oct 2009

Refreshing the iconic Holiday Inn brand will be completed across Asia-Pacific by the end of next year, coinciding with a global migration of corporate travellers to the mid-market hotel sector.

The InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), which owns the Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express names, has spent an estimated US$1billion on refurbishment, changes in service delivery (dubbed the "Stay Real" culture that highlights treating guests in a natural and genuine manner) and a new corporate image across more than 3,125 existing properties worldwide. There are a further 1,000 or so properties in the pipeline over the next two to three years.

This is the first major revamp of the brand since 1952.

Jan Smits, regional managing director of IHG southern Asia, Japan, Korea and the Pacific, said that the timing of the new look fitted with a shift by business travellers away from luxury to both full-service and limited-service brands such as Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express respectively.

Smits also said that the brand was perfectly placed to become embedded in Asia-Pacific’s developing markets such as India, where domestic business travellers lacked the budget for upscale accommodation.

“In my region, 31 Holiday Inns have been refreshed out of around 125, and we are on course to complete them by the end of 2010,” Smits said.

"Early signs are that guest satisfaction is on the upswing compared with the non-refreshed properties,” he added.

 One downside for business travellers is that the rebrand may see a marginal rise in rates as it has in the US, where refreshed properties have seen revenue rise for IHG by around five percent.

“What a downturn does is make you focus on your loyal customers that support your brand,” Smits said, adding that the economic slide over the past 18 months had shown “many customers don’t want ‘luxury’. They have looked toward the mid market and moved to Holiday Inn.”

IHG executives noted that many business travellers were comfortable using Holiday Inn because the brand could be found in so many different parts of the world, reassuring the customer of consistency of quality and service.

Smits said that IHG’s extensive study, which involved 18,000 customer surveys, indicated that there was no danger of cannibalisation of IHG’s other brands InterContinental and Crown Plaza.

”Research tells us that someone staying in a Holiday Inn probably wouldn’t stay in an InterContinental or Crown Plaza, unless it was to burn loyalty points.”

Smits said: “The brands are differentiated by such things as room size, number of bathroom facilities, the weight of the linen on your bed and the size of pillows. This is a whole group of physical things, but it is really about the customer feeling comfortable within their respective brand.”

In Asia, one of the Holiday Inn properties to have recently emerged from the global makeover is Holiday Inn Golden Mile Hongkong, which renovated 85 percent of its guestrooms (new bedding pictured top left), the fitness centre, the Executive Club Lounge and the Crystal Ballroom that’s been equipped with state-of-the-art Gobo lights, an intelligent lighting system, surround-sound audio and Wi-Fi and opened the new Bistro on the Mile all-day dining and Osteria Ristorante Italiano (above right).

In China, according to Keith Barr, IHG managing director, Greater China, there are 71 Holiday Inn- and Holiday Inn Express-branded properties, with a third of the inventory refreshed."That's roughly 23 hotels. The rest will be relaunched by the end of 2010."

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Kenny Coyle and Julian Tan

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