As we posted in the news section of our site on June 22, Home2 Suites by Hilton officially opened its third mid-tier extended-stay property in Baltimore, Md. Prior to the announcement, I had discussed the progress of the brand with Bill Duncan, the global head of brand management of Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites by Hilton, while at the Asian American Hotel Owners Association annual conference in Las Vegas June 15 to 18.
Home2 Suites has seven properties currently under construction that are slated to open this year or in early 2012, including San Antonio, Texas; Lexington Park, Md.; Jacksonville, N.C.; North Charleston, S.C.; West Valley City, Utah; D'Iberville, Miss.; and Nashville/Vanderbilt, Tenn. And growth is happening quickly ever since the opening of its first property in Fayetteville, N.C., in February, and second in Layton, Utah, in March. The brand has 52 properties in design and another 40 in development. If all goes to plan, Home2 Suites is projected to open its 100th property by 2014.
When the Fayetteville property first opened, it saw more transient guests than extended stay, but Duncan said it hit the brand target of 55 to 60 percent extended-stay travelers in its third week. “We know every market is not going to be like that,” he admitted. The goal as a brand is to reach this range within eight months of opening each individual property.
Although Home2 Suites is striving to be a prototypical brand in order to move fast in growth, with mostly new builds in the pipeline, Duncan said there had always been plans to tackle adaptive reuse projects. The Baltimore property, originally an apartment complex, marks the first adaptive reuse project and urban space for Home2 Suites. The San Antonio property is located within a historic bank building.
Particularly in urban environments, Duncan said the brand has more latitude and customers have a more forgiving mindset. In suburban regions, however, the brand will continue to strive for a more prototypical and relatively consistent experience. The design is tight and building costs efficient, he said, but the reuse projects require additional work and money, especially when measures need to be taken to preserve the existing property. The hope is, however, that these types of properties have character and stories to tell. When entering the San Antonio hotel, Duncan describes it like “Dorothy going from black and white into color.”
In coming up with an overall brand concept, Home2 Suites looked to purposeful design with a hip and stylish but extremely comfortable feel. “That’s where we came up with the mantra of ‘hip and humble,’” Duncan said. “Where we were really focused was the fact that most of the competitors didn’t have a lot of public space. And what we were hearing in our research is that guests really wanted a breath of fresh air.” The result was the Oasis, a public space where guests can mix and mingle, or have alone time as activity unfolds around them. There is also a long, communal table in the breakfast area. The purposeful design appears to be working for the brand. According to Satisfaction and Loyalty Tracking scores (SALT), Duncan said the first two hotels were at the highest level of any of the Hilton brands at 72 percent.
The future is bright for Home2 Suites, Duncan said. There is a lot momentum with applications, and the team is seeing a lot moving into financing, which will get the properties under construction. North America is the primary focus for the next couple of years, but Duncan said the brand has significant international potential.
— Megan Sullivan, Managing Editor, Lodging