OKLAHOMA CITY—“Welcome to the first Avid hotel on Earth,” said Jennifer Gribble, VP, global, Avid Hotels, mainstream growth, as she led a cadre of journalists on a hard-hat tour of the new Avid Hotel Oklahoma City–Quail Springs, which, at press time, was nearing completion.
A purposeful choice for the midscale hotel brand’s name, the word “avid” is characterized by enthusiasm and a vigorous pursuit, according to Merriam-Webster. IHG identified what customers in this particular segment need and desire, and sought to bring something fresh and new.
“We chose Avid with lots of intention because this brand is passionate about a great night’s sleep and is passionate about delivering an experience consistently so that our guests know exactly what to expect each and every time,” said Gribble.
Like many origin stories, IHG’s team noticed something was missing in the market and, according to Gribble, their research confirmed it.
“IHG did a segmentation study of travelers, and what we uncovered was that there was about 14 million underserved travelers out there, representing about $20 billion in annual travel revenues,” said Gribble. “What these travelers were telling us was that there was no brand that was meeting their needs today consistently. While there’s some great hotels out there, there was no brand that they could actually trust. This brand was very much needed from a guest standpoint and owners were saying that they were looking for a new option as well; they were interested in a brand that could uniquely target a guest, meet their needs and drive strong owner return.”
Owned by Oklahoma-based Champion Hotels, one of the largest privately held hotel operators in the U.S., the four-story, new-build Avid hotel is located here at the intersection of 138th St. and Joel McDonald Dr.
“We’re excited to be opening the first Avid here in Oklahoma City because we have a great sponsor in Champion Hotels, and that was the most important thing for us as we considered where to open our first Avid hotel,” said Gribble. “You need a great owner that’s committed to the vision of a new brand.”
Property highlights include 87 guestrooms with sound-reducing features and bright, shiny new baths; IHG Connect WiFi and the ability for loyalty members to be automatically connected for all future visits; complimentary breakfast and marketplace options; as well as an on-site fitness center and pool.
Bringing the first Avid Hotels property to market in the state of Oklahoma is significant for Champion Hotels & Development CEO Champ Patel, as it’s where he was first introduced to franchising in 1981 and, as the story goes, he never looked back. His company and family are firmly rooted here.
“Being an American and an Oklahoman for 38 years makes me very proud, and I would not want to kick off this brand anywhere else,” said Patel. “Our excellent relationship with IHG is the number-one reason we wanted to be the first to build an Avid hotel. Being a member of the advisory board was a great experience and I appreciate the ability to provide input on the concept.”
One of the brand’s taglines is “where the essentials are done right. Every time.” According to Gribble, it was important to call out the brand’s standards to show potential guests what sets it apart from the rest.
“It was important for us to make sure that guests understood that we’re committed to getting the essentials done right each and every time because today, these guests aren’t getting a very consistent experience where they stay,” she said. “We wanted to assure them that’s what they’re going to get when staying at an Avid hotel. Everyone on the team is committed to making sure that we deliver the entire experience—from beginning to end—very consistently to meet those expectations.”
Getting the basics right the first time is one way the brand is signaling a thoughtful, consistent level of diligence on the part of team members to guests.
“The team is able to execute that promise to our guests with our Avid Hotels guarantee, which tells the guest: ‘If you show up in your room and it’s not what you expected, the hotel team is committed to getting it right each and every time,’” she said.
Before the design renderings were drawn or the ceremonial shovels were dug into in the ground to herald construction, IHG set out to fully understand the wants and needs of travelers in order to create the new Avid brand, enlisting industry experts to weigh in and provide guidance.
“We created an owner advisory board made up of really experienced developers and operators to make sure that we got great feedback along the way as we developed this brand, so we could deliver a product that could be easily maintained, that could be successfully operated and, at the end of the day, generate a strong return,” Gribble said. “And so, we’ve been successful in doing that to date and we continue to be committed to engaging with this group to make sure it continues to be successful out in the market.”
Having a role on the brand’s owner advisory board is a source of pride for Patel. “Being on the advisory board has been an honor, and the IHG team has been a wonderful partner,” said Patel. “I am proud that both myself and my son, Harshil, have had the opportunity to work with IHG in this capacity. They have listened to our recommendations and incorporated many of the entire board’s comments and thoughts into the overall brand prototype.”
Upon entering the lobby, there are cheerful pops of color—a soothing aqua blue and a bold, energizing red, combined with warm neutrals, await guests’ first impression. The lobby houses the front desk and a market for quick snacks and drinks, while a nearby breakfast area or “beacon” offers a variety of seating, as well as a selection of quick-food options. A self-serve coffee station enables guests to customize their cup of Joe.
Defined as “refreshingly easy,” the aesthetics of the public spaces and guestrooms strive to be “simple, straightforward, yet never sterile.” It’s visually evident that Avid is designed for a different mindset, with a balance between price and quality.
“We’ve been very thoughtful about the design of Avid Hotels because we wanted to make sure that we delivered on all the guests’ needs,” Gribble said. “We also wanted to have an experience that was contemporary, modern and provided thoughtful touches of colors that make our guests understand that this is a very fresh experience. We’re taking a completely new approach to hotels within this particular category.”
Value engineering also was in focus, with the brand engaging its owner advisory board to help track its cost-per-key build target.
“As we designed the hotel, we were constantly checking back to understand if we were hitting that target,” she said. “It helped us make certain decisions about the design, so we knew what we could and couldn’t deliver to guests. But, what was always most important was making sure we were delivering the right expectations on quality and understanding if there were any trade-offs that needed to be made along the way.”
Gribble noted that guests expressed a willingness to have less space in the guestroom if it meant an upgrade in the quality of the sleep experience. The Avid team listened, and it’s evident in the mattress, duvets, linens and blackout shades, which minimize noise.
In terms of technology, Avid Hotels has implemented solutions to better serve guests and streamline back-of-house operations.
“One of our brand hallmarks for Avid Hotels is about delivering a simple and smart booking process,” she said. “We wanted a booking process that’s easy to do and is also very transparent. That’s been a very important part of the design. Also, we have technology in other places. In the guestroom, we have a 55-in. flat-screen TV with easy casting, which is a real guest satisfier.”
For Patel, the process from concept to new-build has been a labor of love, and he’s grateful for the strong relationships forged along the way. He expects this first Avid hotel to open in just 199 days from slab pour.
“This is only possible due to the great efforts of our construction team led by Hitesh Patel, as well as the outstanding partnerships we have established with our subcontractors,” he said. “We are fortunate to have low turnover, and when the same people are building on your team, you can do it faster and faster with each new project.”
As for the future of Avid? Gribble is optimistic. “We’re looking forward to seeing how Avid scales,” she said. “With more than 100 signed deals, it will grow quickly, and we’re looking forward to supporting that growth and seeing it expand not only here in the U.S., but we’ve recently launched Avid Hotels in both Canada and Mexico. We’re quickly looking to understand how we can scale this brand globally.” HB
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