InterContinental Hotels Group is investing $200 million to accelerate the performance of the Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts brand in the Americas over the next three years.
The investment will focus on marketing initiatives, dedicated incremental support teams, and owner incentives to help Crowne Plaza hotels rapidly improve quality and performance across the system, said Eric Lent, VP for the brand in the Americas. “In addition, we are also going to increase our pace of investment to support individual owners who are ready to use our new design solutions as they relicense and grow with us.”
The $4.3 billion Crowne Plaza brand is one of the top four global upscale brands with the third largest active pipeline. Of Crowne Plaza’s more than 400 properties around the world, there are 171 in the Americas. The new plan, which was unveiled during the Americas Crowne Plaza Conference last week in Atlanta, builds on the brand’s existing business strategy. “The plan is intended to help us show our owners and guests how Crowne Plaza is leading the way in challenging conventional wisdom in how a hotel can meet the needs of the modern business traveler,” Lent said.
Crowne Plaza research revealed an unmet need for a hotel that blends work and relaxation in such a way that boosts guests’ productivity, inspires them, and helps them feel more in control. The brand sees this as an opportunity to pioneer a new way of doing business, which is design-led, culturally relevant, and technology enabled.
The brand will launch a marketing campaign in the first quarter of 2017 to reintroduce Crowne Plaza to the modern business traveler. In addition, a new dedicated commercial support team will help individual hotels improve and drive groups and meetings business.
The plan will roll out in three phases. If owners join the program early, IHG will offset the cost to implement these solutions through a fee-release program. The first phase, which begins immediately, is focused on embedding Crowne Plaza’s standards around service, food and beverage, first impressions, and Internet connectivity. The brand also unveiled a new mattress, a new cleaning method, and a PTAC maintenance and refresher program, all which will promote a better night’s sleep for guests.
For phase two, in the first half of 2017, the brand will introduce a new set of pillows that performed the highest in its sleep research. Other upgrades will include new collateral that reflects the brand’s modern design intent, as well as new uniforms, which will be created in partnership with a notable fashion designer. The uniforms will be unveiled during New York Fashion Week in September.
The third phase will be focused on enhanced training around service and food and beverage to better meet the holistic needs of the modern business traveler.
“All of these are designed to really drive a step change in performance and trajectory of the business, guest experience, marketing, and innovation in a way that will allow us to have guest-preferred solutions that are owner developed and owner-endorsed,” Lent said.
Other innovations shared at last week’s conference included Crowne Plaza’s WorkLife guestrooms and its flex meeting offerings. The next generation guestroom, which features an angled bed design, a flexible nook area, and a multipurpose workspace, has been in development for the last two years as the company tests and refines the product. The flex meeting offerings for the public space include a cozy workstation for four with laptop connectivity, a display screen, and an iPad for placing food and beverage orders. Another option is a communal table, also with an iPad nearby for F&B orders. These options tested well in research so far, Lent said. Crowne Plaza will scale to an additional 15 hotels for the next stage of pilots, and then make the option available to all hotels in late 2017.
“It can drop into any existing hotel, it doesn’t require a big redesign of your public space, and it automatically increases the utility and value of that space to a hotel guest,” Lent said.
IHG first planted the seeds for the brand’s evolution about two years ago, Lent said. Since that time, Crowne Plaza has already seen improvements in performance.
The brand has grown revenue generation index in 15 of the past 18 months, and grew revenue per available room more quickly than any other upscale brand last year, according to Lent. “That was done by being surgical in focusing on marketing investments where it matters most and using data to optimize where we were spending those dollars in a way that drives performance.”