IHG means business with Crowne Plaza investment

ATLANTA—IHG apparently really means business when it comes to its corporate-traveler-centric brand, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts.

Over the next three years, the global lodging chain will infuse $200 million into the upscale brand in The Americas, focusing on enhancing performance and heightening guest experiences.

Dubbed Crowne Plaza Accelerate, the strategy will use design and technology, as well as service to address and manage business travelers’ expectations, while also increasing sales and marketing efforts.

“The Crowne Plaza brand is all about making business travel work for the modern business traveler,” said Eric Lent, VP/Holiday Inn/Crowne Plaza/The Americas.

Phase one of the Accelerate plan includes hotel-level actions to embed brand standards around connectivity, sleep and fitness to improve guest experience, the executive noted. “Additionally, in 2017 the brand will build on its sleep solution by adding new pillows, new in-hotel collateral and new uniforms for all staff. Finally, training for service delivery and food and beverage will be delivered through a series of summits for all properties in the United States and Canada,” he said.

Lent observed the brand has seen “strong performance over the past 18 months” and the initiative was developed to accelerate that momentum.

“The plan was created based on analysis and testing on how to improve guest experience, [along]with feedback from Crowne Plaza brand owners,” said Lent.

The Crowne Plaza WorkLife Room’s configuration creates space.

He noted Crowne Plaza is innovating through design, with two concepts—the WorkLife room and Flex Meetings—developed to better address travelers’ needs to be productive while also having the ability to relax and recharge

The WorkLife guestroom features an angled bed that helps create useable space; a multi-purpose nook for relaxing, dining or informal meetings; a desk for focused work; integrated power throughout; and abundant lighting.

The latest guestroom design is available for new and existing hotels to purchase right now, according to Lent. He did not comment on how much of a premium—if any—there is over the current FF&E package.

IHG worked with Pearson & Lloyd and Guild 13 on the rooms’ concepts.

The first property to install WorkLife rooms is the Crowne Plaza Atlanta-Midtown, which is tandemed with the Staybridge Suites Atlanta-Midtown.

Long known for its propensity to attract meetings and group business, Lent said Crowne Plaza remains focused on providing a seamless experience for all formal and informal meetings and events, and is expanding on this with Flex Meetings. The new concept provides technology-enabled public spaces designed for solo work and/or small group meetings with on-demand services such as an iPad installed in the gathering space.

“Using the iPad, guests can order and pay for light bites, cocktails or even a coffee, which can increase the food and beverage revenue,” noted Lent.

“There are multiple spaces for different size meeting groups and needs, from solo working to groups of 10-12 individuals,” he said. “The spaces include pods, huddle spots and nooks for a group of up to six to connect, review a presentation or eat/drink. [There’s also] the Apartment, a space for private meetings. Currently, the only bookable space is the Apartment, which is booked on demand by the hour. Guests can book time online, with the staff or through a tablet in the hotel lobby.”

A space of one’s own is part of Crowne Plaza’s Flex Meeting offerings.

The executive, who described Flex Meetings as “a revolutionary approach to enable meetings between the meetings,” said 15 Crowne Plaza hotels will pilot the program this year and by mid-2017, the meetings solution would be available for all hotels.

The Crowne Plaza Accelerate plan includes the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Today’s modern business traveler craves a hotel experience that helps them blend work and relaxation and boosts their productivity with a bit of inspiration. They need to be productive and get their work done efficiently, and they need moments of restoration so they can be productive the next day,” said Lent, noting IHG worked with California-based design and consulting firm IDEO on the Flex Meetings concept.

It was unclear if the concept would become a new and/or mandatory brand standard.

As part of the multimillion-dollar investment, IHG will continue to examine key markets for the full-service brand throughout the Americas region, where currently it has 13 properties in the pipeline (84 globally), including the Crowne Plaza Midtown Manhattan, which is scheduled to open in New York City in 2017. It also will put “significant” funds behind sales and marketing efforts, including the launch early next year of a new marketing campaign that will focus on brand awareness across multiple channels, including online, television and print.

“The Crowne Plaza brand’s target guest will not change,” said the VP. “These guests are energetic and energized by their careers, but view success more broadly than the impact they make solely in their jobs. They are ambitious, goal oriented and climbing the ladder of success. Overall, the modern business traveler lives in a state of work/life blend vs. work/life balance.

“There is not a hotel brand that has been holistically designed to help guests integrate their work and life. This is the Crowne Plaza brand’s opportunity to be at the forefront of the new way of doing business, by being design led, culturally relevant and technology enabled,” said Lent. HB

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