Intercontinental Hotels Group has unveiled its new-look Holiday Inn Express.
Originally announced two years ago (see news, March 2013), the redesign includes the hotel lobby, dining area and guestrooms, and a new food and beverage offering.
Natalia Perez, Holiday Inn's director of brand management in Europe, said that after extensive research with travellers, including visiting them in their homes, the focus was on three basic needs — a good night's sleep, somewhere to work effectively and somewhere they can relax.
Speaking at the Hotel Investment Forum in Berlin, Perez said: "The last time we went through a comparable process was six years ago.
"Everything we did was based on guest insight. We conducted extensive research along with design agencies IDEO and Forpeople and talked to guests within the hotels and went to their homes."
The new rooms are all fitted with smart TVs, allowing travellers to stream their own media from their own devices using the in-room wifi. IHG members have free wifi at a basic level, but pay for high-speed access.
The old work desk has been removed, freeing up space in the room. Instead, there is a "flexible work/rest corner" with a chair and moveable table.
There are also plenty of power sockets, including outlets by the side of the bed.
Taking inspiration from business class seats in the air, the aim was to make the functions simple and all able to be operated from the new, wider bed (increased from a width of 140cm and 160cm), including a master switch to turn off the lighting.
The new beds have comfortable padded headboards that IHG says also improves noise reduction.
Other innovations being rolled-out include mobile check in for IHG Rewards Club members where guests are shown their room location and its proximity to the stairs, elevators and emergency exits on tablet screens at check-in.
IHG says guests will be offered a choice of room where possible; this is easier with the Holiday Inn Express brand since all rooms are of a standard size.
There is a minimum brand standard room size of 19.6 sqm presently, although this minimum is being reduced to 18 sqm in new builds.
IHG says this is possible because of the new design and lack of traditional workdesk. More conventionally, but probably just as welcome, the brand is introducing an iron and ironing board to all rooms.
Also new are the Express Cafe & Bar, an integrated lobby, restaurant and bar with a modern continental style cafe/bar offering "pit stop" food for guests. Breakfast is either the Express Start breakfast in the Express Cafe & Bar or a take-away bag. This cafe and bar also offers all-day food options.
The roll-out of properties has IHG aiming for one in every four European properties to have the new design by the end of 2017. Launched in 1991, the Holiday Inn Express now has 220 properties open in Europe and over 40 in the development.