Last month, InterContinental Hotels Group formalized Formula Blue, its long-gestating Holiday Inn Express design prototype. With a design that puts sleep quality, simplicity, and ease of maintenance at the center of its concept, compliance with Formula Blue is mandatory for all future renovations and new-build Holiday Inn Express properties, which is a first for the brand.
In development for nearly two years, Formula Blue was born through the combined efforts of IHG and the IHG Owners Association, with the final product focused on both owner interests and guest satisfaction. According to Punit Shah, CEO of the Liberty Group in Tampa, Fla., a member of IHG Owners Association and the chair of its Formula Blue Task Force, discussions regarding a new design concept began in 2013 at the IHG Americas Investors and Leadership Conference. Holiday Inn Express’s previous design option was just reaching 15 years old, and both IHG and the Owners Association recognized that the brand needed to be updated to remain competitive. “Owners and guests alike demanded a modern, more relevant hotel offering that would be able to cater to our evolving generation of guests,” Shah says.
In particular, Formula Blue is meant to appeal to Holiday Inn Express’s target guest—the “smart traveler.” Jennifer Gribble, vice president of the Americas for Holiday Inn Express, explains that this guest is both self-sufficient and independent, so Formula Blue was developed to encourage this mindset. “For example, our public space is wide open so guests can immediately scan the area when they walk into the hotel and understand where everything is without having to ask for help,” she says. She mentions that another design element that supports the smart traveler is a headboard that minimize noise transfer between rooms, ensuring this busy demographic is able to get a restful night sleep.
In order to more easily facilitate the rollout of the new concept, IHG has delivered new tools to drive both consistency and owner ROI across the portfolio, including detailed prototype documents; standard room decor for guestrooms and public spaces; an optional turnkey procurement solution; and a renovation design guide, which helps owners understand the flexibility the design offers, especially in terms of custom soft fabrics.
The first full Formula Blue Holiday Inn Express opened in Salt Lake City, Utah, the first quarter of this year, and already more than a dozen hotels that have incorporated elements of the concept into their design. Based on current IHG projections, 80 to 100 hotels will open in 2015 featuring some aspects of the Formula Blue design. These properties will be a mixture of new build and conversions. Additionally, based on current license agreements, nearly 150 Holiday Inn Express hotels are expected to go through property improvement plans this year, which would require them to renovate to the Formula Blue design.
Although April 1 was the mandatory compliance date, more than 80 percent of owners going through property improvement plans opted into the Formula Blue design, which, according to Gribble, has created a great momentum for the new design roll out.
Even as the concept is adopted by more and more properties, the Formula Blue design parameters have been left open to further enhancements. “We don’t want the design to ever become stagnant, so owners can expect us to keep making tweaks that keep the design fresh,” Gribble explains. “It’s all about listening to our guests and delivering on their expectations.”