“Our goal is to offer brands that meet the needs of the ever-evolving mainstream traveler while also driving performance for our hotel owners,” said Heather Balsley, SVP, global marketing, mainstream brands, IHG. “Extensive customer research, coupled with frank and transparent conversations with our owners, have helped us identify the right solutions for our brands to better fit owner needs and give guests an elevated hotel experience.”
The prototypes were introduced at IHG’s Investors and Leadership Conference in Las Vegas. “Having all of our mainstream owners and operators in Las Vegas for our conference was the perfect platform to unveil these new prototypes,” said Balsley. “Owners had the chance to tour model rooms and meet with our design teams to learn more about how these new prototypes can be adapted to existing hotels and incorporated into new-build construction plans.”
The reimaginations were heavily researched using a variety of sources, including each brand’s owner advisory boards. “These passionate groups of owners were instrumental in identifying areas of opportunity to better meet guest demand, as well as opportunities for increased ROI,” she said.
The company also spent time meeting with each brand’s target guests in a focus-group setting, as well as at its design center here. “As a brand, it is important to hear directly from guests what they find useful at our hotels—their feedback and insights can be seen in many of our design elements,” said Balsley. “For example, Candlewood Suites guests made it clear that comfort and space to settle in is crucial to their satisfaction during a hotel stay. With this in mind, we enhanced the brand’s signature recliner, included larger TVs and added king beds in all new development prototypes. Guests also shared that they needed more space in the kitchen, along with storage, so additional space was added there as well.”
While each of the prototypes has differences that make it unique to each brand, a sense of community weaves its way into each. “Throughout our guest research, it became clear that there is significant value in having well-designed, spacious communal areas throughout the hotel,” she said. “All of our new prototypes include flexible, open public spaces where guests can work or socialize… Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites both feature reimagined communal spaces to give our extended-stay travelers more flexibility and space to settle in for longer stays.”
The new look for Staybridge Suites, Next Generation 7.0, which rolls out in October, includes a new exterior design with a front porch to create a more vibrant sense of arrival, according to Balsley. “We also focused on updating our guest suites to create a more comfortable and modern space,” she said. “We created distinct zones for working, relaxing and sleeping, ample storage options, contemporary kitchens and furniture that is easy to move so that guests can make the space their own.”
For its part, the new Holiday Inn H4 prototype, which is currently available for new-builds and renovations, was designed around flexibility. “The new prototype provides owners with a more modern and efficient building that can flex up or down to meet the needs of individual markets,” said Balsley. “For example, multiple restaurant concepts and adaptable meeting space can be tailored to both business and leisure traveler demands, allowing owners to build the hotel that is right for their market—with flexibility for larger or smaller meeting spaces, full-service restaurant and bar, and more rooms where needed. The smaller site requirement (2.5 acres) and unified room sizes allow for cost-effective construction methods, as well.”
In addition to the new open public spaces, which allow for seamless transition from work to socializing, the guestroom design includes “thoughtful touches for a great night’s sleep, abundant connectivity points and the brand’s signature ‘Welcome Nook,’ providing versatile, multifunctional storage for a welcoming arrival,” she said.
The Beacon 4.0 solution for Candlewood Suites—available in December—includes significant updates to both the interior and exterior of the hotel. “Our distinctive building exterior offers storefront windows that let in more natural light, and we have completely refreshed our signature Gazebo Grill to have spacious bar-like seating,” she said.
In addition to the new communal areas offering a variety of seating, a refreshed “Candlewood Cupboard” (the brand’s convenience store) is integrated into the lobby itself rather than a room off to the side.
The new prototype also includes a welcome perch in one-bedroom suites, where guests can drop their bags or take off their shoes. “The wall hooks in the existing Candlewood Suites prototype get a ton of use; our guests love somewhere they can easily drop a bag, jacket or hat,” said Balsley. “It was apparent that having a designated area for guests to drop their belongings when they enter the room, in addition to the hooks, was something important for the extended-stay traveler.”
She continued, “One feature of the welcome perch is a bench designed for guests to stop and take their shoes off—and when we tested the perch in the model rooms, every guest went straight in and used the space for exactly this purpose.”
The new perch has a benefit for operators as well. “We noticed in existing hotels that there is a lot of collateral that is placed throughout the room, but it can be challenging for our hotel teams to maintain,” said Balsley. “The shelving on the perch is a smart solution to this problem and serves as a place where hotels can put collateral and other important messages for guests.” HB
In addition to unveiling a new design prototype for Candlewood Suites, IHG has also introduced a new logo for the extended-stay brand.
“As we continue to evolve the Candlewood Suites brand, we saw an opportunity to do something extra that really symbolized our transformation,” said Heather Balsley, SVP, global marketing, mainstream brands, IHG. “Our new logo sends a powerful signal to our guests that this brand is continuing to modernize our design and enhance our overall brand experience. The new logo is more contemporary and is a complementary touch to the new exterior prototype. We look forward to seeing the new logo signage on all new hotels and on our existing hotels as they go through renovations.”