LAS VEGAS—It might not have come with the same pomp and circumstance as the Holiday Inn relaunch, but InterContinental Hotels Group said Monday on the first day of its Americas Investors & Leadership Conference that a repositioning of the Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts brand is getting the same discipline and same commitment.
“This is where it really starts for Crowne Plaza and our repositioning, and we can do it together,” said Janis Cannon, VP of global brand management for Crowne Plaza and Hotel Indigo.
IHG is in the first of a three-phase brand renovation that will ultimately bring a renewed focus on staff training and an improved bedding program for Crowne Plaza, as well as remove 10% of underperforming assets and reposition the brand to the upper-upscale segment.
Moving forward, the brand will target a young, successful business traveler dubbed “the striver,” who represents 9% of all annual consumed roomnights and typically is unsatisfied with his or hotel stay, brand executives said.
Kirk Kinsell, president of the Americas for IHG, told the record-breaking audience of 6,135 directors of sales and GMs the Crowne Plaza repositioning will bring the same results as the recent Holiday Inn relaunch and promised Crowne Plaza will be a part of IHG’s “legacy.”
One of his main goals for the brand is to grow its portfolio size across the globe, which sits at approximately 400 properties. “You can take the president out of development but you can’t take development out of this president,” said Kinsell, who formerly oversaw European growth for IHG and then took over for Jim Abrahamson when Abrahamson left the company earlier this year.
Richard Solomons, also in a new role as CEO after taking over for Andy Cosslett earlier this year, said Crowne Plaza is already a strong brand but, until recently, that strength has not been expressed as clearly.
“We’ve clarified the positioning,” he said. “IHG’s commitment to Crowne Plaza is a huge opportunity for quality growth with the brand. We’re adding new hotels to the system as there is a clear market segment for the brand.”
Solomons said IHG is prepared to take a financial hit from hotel owners who cannot or will not inject the necessary capital to better the brand. “There is no stronger commitment for any of our brands,” he said. “We’ll be successful when we see increased market share, same-store hotels will increase revenue, pipeline will increase and satisfaction will increase among guests, employees and owners.”
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How to get there
In researching the correct position for Crowne Plaza, IHG executives discovered a new traveler they will target with the brand—“the striver.”
The striver, Cannon said, is a businessperson climbing the ladder of success; a person who sees travel as a necessity to grow. By advancing in his or her career, the striver is able to advance in life, too.
“They want to be recognized for what they’ve earned,” she said, “and they want a hotel experience that will restore them physically and mentally. They want things to be easy and reliable.”
Kevin Kowalski, senior VP of worldwide brand management for the Crowne Plaza brand, described the striver as business travelers who have success as a goal. He equated them to drivers of the BMW 3-Series.
Kowalski described the three phases of the Crowne Plaza repositioning to target this growing traveler segment:
1) Freshen up (2011 and 2012)—Crowne Plaza will work to meet expectations, such as working Internet, clean rooms and a positive and attentive staff.
2) Move up (2012-2013)—Crowne Plaza will implement new guest-experience programs, a new training program and will open new hotels in gateway markets and resort areas.
3) Shine (2013-2015)—Crowne Plaza will introduce brand standards that will set it apart from its competition. It’s critical that “shine” is the last step, Cannon said, because “we can’t just jump into spending money without getting the basics fixed first.”
Three brand consistencies will be implemented right away: IHG Priority Club members will receive more recognition, hotels will build better fitness centers and there will be an increased focus on food and beverage.
To address “sleep scores” on guest comment cards, Crowne Plaza owners have committed to providing higher thread-count linens and king-sized pillows for king-sized beds. The deadline for the new bedding compliance is January 2013.
By the end of 2011 hotels will be required to introduce new collateral and stationary into the guestrooms. By the end of 2012 a new service-training program must be implemented.
There will be no new signage requirements until an owner’s product improvement plan is due.
“If we do these things in the ‘freshen up’ stage, we’ll be building great hotels guest love,” Cannon said.