Within the last two years, two Hampton Hotels’ franchisees in Georgia and Arkansas have converted their exterior-corridor hotels into state-of-the-art interior-corridor hotels featuring upgraded rooms, additional space and brand-new fixtures – all while keeping the original hotel structure.
The cost-effective renovations were a huge undertaking, the owners say, but they’re already reaping the benefits, including attracting a newer generation of travelers and increasing ADR and average occupancy rates. In addition, they say, they’ve been able to retrain their Hampton Inn brand flag.
“This is a major overhaul,” Greg Turton of Tifton, Ga. says of his project. “It made me think out of the box. It made me realize what was possible.”
Transforming an exterior-corridor hotel into an interior-corridor hotel is much like performing delicate surgery, the franchise owners say. Without the research, proper planning and expert input, the project could be doomed before it ever gets started.
“This is not for everybody,” Turton says, adding it’s important for owners to hire skilled professionals who have experience with this type of construction. “I don’t try to scare people away from doing it. I tell owners that they have to be realistic. You have to be committed. To me, you cannot do this halfway.”
Turton and his team decided about four years ago to renovate their 90s-style, exterior corridor property when Hampton executives were beginning to rebrand the hotels. Difficulty with financing a new build in challenging economic times contributed to Turton’s decision to renovate his existing property.
“When Hilton would have suggestions, we would incorporate them. We made it as close to the prototype that we could,” he says. “I told Hampton I will make this building look brand new.”
The previous exterior corridor property underwent a complete renovation, leaving only the building’s cement structure. He created new interior corridors, larger guest rooms, additional suites with two king size beds per room and additional parking; updated public spaces; and installed new HVAC and plumbing. The hotel now includes 96 rooms total, up from 83, Turton says.
The $7 million, 10-month project, which began in April 2012 and wrapped in February 2013, was $2 million less expensive than a new hotel build would have been, Turton says. He closed his franchise during construction, a move that initially concerned him but worked out in the end.
“I was nervous and couldn’t sleep every night (during construction),” he says. “The challenge was any time you close down a viable business, you ask yourself what in the world are you doing? We were at 83 percent occupancy rate the month before we closed. We reopened on Feb. 5, 2013, and that first night we were running around until 1 a.m. trying to get rooms available. We were full on the 11th day.”
Turton, who hired the same architect and builder who constructed the original building, adds he was able to increase his ADR by $20 in February, and it’s fluctuated between $18-27 since then, depending on the month.
Don Houseworth of Blytheville, Ark., who has completed several exterior corridor hotel conversions, boasts similar increases since completing upgrades on his hotel in June 2012. His ADR is up $20, and the hotel’s occupancy rate is up 10 percent, he says.
Houseworth’s aging Hampton hotel, built in 1973, needed major upgrades, but, with a weak local market, it was more effective to renovate than to undertake a new build, he says. He partially closed the hotel during the $4.2 million, eight-month project, which included a nearly complete demo and created 70 much larger rooms, down slightly from 87.
“We left nothing but the concrete cubicle,” he says. “The important thing to realize is that everything must come out of that room. You’ll save 30-40 percent over building a new building, and you’ll come back with the same perception like it’s a new property.”