|The brand will introduce new concepts in breakfast, guestroom and lobby (pictured) during the next two years.
BOSTON—Emerging from the economic downturn, Choice Hotels International wants Comfort Inn franchisees to prepare for “go time.”
That’s what Christina Williamson, senior director of brand planning and management for the Comfort brand family, told attendees at Choice Hotels International’s 57th annual convention at the Boston Convention Center.
“We haven’t asked you to invest, just maintain rooms in good condition,” she said. “But we’ve spent the last 18 months examining the guest experience.
“We’ll be stepping up the guest experience in every aspect.”
The results of research show Comfort Inn already has great brand awareness—99% of survey respondents know the name. But the challenge is in the brand’s likelihood-to-recommend scores, Williamson said. “It’s what we hang our hat on. We held steady in 2010, but our (competitive) set is now gaining.” She said Fairfield Inn, a Marriott International brand, and Holiday Inn Express, an InterContinental Hotels Group brand, have the highest likelihood to recommend scores in the competitive set.
Williamson said they learned guests believe Comfort Inn’s upper-midscale segment competitors are updating faster. The brand’s plan to catch up: the Truly Yours guest experience program.
“It’s going to be clear throughout the guest experience,” she said. “Guests want something contemporary and safe, warm and welcoming. They want it to look like they thought it would based on photos of the hotel. If it does, they relax on the first impression, they restore in the guestroom and they renew with fitness center, the breakfast and coffee, and the lounge.”
It was 2004 when Choice last embarked upon an update of the brand when it updated the logo and released a prototype for new builds.
The Truly Yours program, which was developed by the Gensler design firm and modified using guest and owner feedback, will also bring Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites products into a cohesive family, Williamson said. There will still be a Suites premium, but they will share brand promise attributes. The two brands represent 2,621 properties worldwide.
The total cost to implement the Truly Yours program was not revealed, though Choice indicated the refurbished breakfast, which will include hot items, is approximately US$2,800 for a Comfort Inn owner.
Research shows the new look doubles intent to stay, Williamson said during a tour of the concept rooms at the Marketplace expo area.
Highlights of the Truly Yours design:
- Your Choice pillow program (rollout to be completed in 2013 for existing owners);
- a “Welcome Wall” behind the reception desk featuring a stone backdrop with soft candle-like lighting (rollout to be completed in 2012 for existing owners);
- lobby fireplace; and
- guestroom flat-screen TVs.
Sherry M. Chaudhry, owner of the Comfort Suites Alamo/Riverwalk in San Antonio is happy with the new look and how it competes in the marketplace. “They take what the other brands are doing and they made it more functional,” she said.
The ability for both areas of the suite to see one TV was a huge innovation and cost saver, Chaudry, also a member of the Choice Hotels Owners Council, added.