REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Brand executives are revamping their suite products in a pitch to appeal to developers and guests.
Whether adding larger footprints, shifting color palettes or building out social spaces, the goal is to blur the lines between hotel and home to create a more enticing—and profitable—accommodations experience, sources said.
For example, InterContinental Hotels Group in May* of last year opened its first Candlewood Suites in North Little Rock, Arkansas, with the new interior design scheme Haven created with graduate students at Savannah College of Art and Design. The design scheme plays off the feeling of home or a “safe haven,” said Robert Radomski, VP of global brand management of extended-stay brands at IHG.
“The concept of Haven was put together because we were looking at a guest who’s staying for long periods of time, and while there’s no replacement of home, the feeling of home is what we try to recreate,” he said. “We designed these rooms knowing there were certain things the guest has been saying.”
The Haven concept comprises two different color schemes: Harbor, which exhibits calming blue tones; and Nest, which contains more greens and browns.
In addition, 61 properties in Candlewood’s 299-hotel portfolio are undergoing renovations, which include updating kitchens and baths, new case goods, new art work, new lighting and new flat-screen TVs, Radomski said.
Staybridge Suites, IHG’s more socially oriented, upscale extended-stay brand, is also revamping 19 of its 189 hotels.
Owner Hospitality Properties Trust invested $165 million in the renovations, according to Radomski. “It’s really taken our entire estate and modernized it,” he said.
Executives at Marriott International sought a similar upgrade when it launched its “home office” concept five years ago in the TownePlace Suites brand. The additional shelving, counter space and filing cabinet appealed to the brand’s frequent business guests, which include those who need to relocate for a job, government business, visiting professors at universities and colleges, medical professionals and even dental hygienists on six-week assignments, said Loren Nalewanski, VP and global brand manager for TownePlace.
“The rooms allow the guest to completely unpack and set up shop no matter how long you’re going to be there,” he said. “(It) makes it easy for business to happen even though they might not be at their workplace.”
The enhancements are not just limited to traditional extended-stay players, however. Companies such as Best Western International are looking to break into the suite segment as well. The Phoenix-based membership organization has developed a preliminary prototype that includes extended-stay rooms as part of the mix.
“More space is probably the main reason brands are adding suites to their names as much as they can,” Nalewanski said.
Developers responding to guests’ search for space with new extended-stay and suite products, said Corry Oakes, founding partner, president and CEO of OTO Development, an upscale select-service hotel development company.
“If you have a product that captures premium market share and it is able to deliver very high margins, you have a great chance of high (return on investment),” Oakes said. “The consumer is really migrating toward this select-service product that happens to carry a great brand that the consumer has some confidence in.”
Year-end results showed extended-stay revenue per available room rose to a record high of $58.80 in 2012, according to The Highland Group, a hospitality consulting and research firm. In addition to record breaking RevPAR, the segment reported 11,648 rooms under construction at the end of 2012, almost double the number from a year ago.
But brand executives are not resting on the laurels of their recent success.
Embassy Suites Hotels introduced its Design Option lll in 2009 to spur interest in desirable urban markets, said John Rogers, the brand’s new global head. The prototype allows developers to build more efficiently with less land while maintaining the brand’s key pillars: two-room suites, complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast, welcoming atriums and complimentary evening receptions.
The Embassy Suites Hotels “Design Option III” model features a side-by-side suite design that fills the rooms with more natural light and greater sense of space, as well as giving business travelers separate work and relaxation areas.
Design Option lll has allowed Embassy to capitalize on a variety of development plans including conversions and adaptive reuse projects, Rogers added.
Embassy Suites Hotels
“Most of what we’re building now is Design Option lll, with 11 already built and three under construction,” Rogers said. Future plans for the prototype include key markets such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, he added, which is part of the brand’s plan to expand its portfolio by 25% in the next three years in the Americas.
While the suite product is not as prevalent in countries outside of the U.S. with the exception of Canada and Mexico, Rogers said Embassy will continue to consider global expansion if land was affordable and interest was high.
Embassy has 211 properties in its portfolio, including five hotels operating in Latin America and two in Canada. The brand also has plans for a property in the Dominican Republic, Rogers said.
*Correction, 27 February 2013: An earlier version of the story stated the first Candlewood Suites was opened in August.