Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts has struggled in the past with developing a strong brand identity. But at the annual IHG Americas Investors and Leadership Conference held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. last week the global hotel company made it clear that revitalizing the Crowne Plaza brand was a top priority.
Gina LaBarre, Crowne Plaza vice president of Americas brand management, explained to an audience of owners, general managers, and sales directors that the brand has defined its target guest and will be implementing new initiatives to attract that guest to Crowne Plaza hotels in the Americas and around the world.
“Crowne Plaza is the perfect brand for the millions of guests who have already achieved some success, and are on their way up,” she said. “These are the people who are climbing the ladder of success and they see travel as a necessary, and important, part of advancement.”
To attract this guest, defined by LaBarre as “the striver,” Crowne Plaza will focus on six areas moving forward: improving quality; delivering a unique and consistent service experience; refreshing the brand’s sleep experience, driving more meetings business; updating the brand look and feel; and focusing on environmentally friendly programs and amenities.
LaBarre said that over the past year, IHG and Crowne Plaza leaders have identified nearly 9,000 deficiencies in hotels across the U.S. and Canada, but stressed that the owner community has already corrected half of those issues. LaBarre acknowledged that fixing the basics is an essential first step in moving the brand forward and increasing profitability.
“Hotels that perform well on the basics, the top 10 percent of our estate, generate an average RGI of 110 versus 87 for the rest of the estate,” she said. “So getting these basics right means higher RevPAR, higher RGI, and higher profit. But to be number one with our target guest, we can’t be satisfied with passing quality evaluations. A score of an 85 is still a ‘B.’”
Crowne Plaza will move to upgraded amenities within its properties, which include a new Sleep Advance bedding system, mobile check in procedures, and in-room Temple Spa bath and sleep enhancing products.
Janis Cannon, vice president of global brand management for Crowne Plaza, said the brand would also work on making improvements to the guest arrival experience, food and beverage programs, and fitness and recreation offerings.
As part of experimenting with a new smart lobby concept, Cannon says Crowne Plaza is debuting mobile check in procedures and introducing a new Lobby Host position in test hotels across the country. This new host position will function as a point of contact for hotel guests who need to find a meeting room, check their bags, print presentations, get a claim check, etc. “Creating this position is a clear signal that the hotel is set up for business, “ says Cannon. “This is not a concierge—our guests tell us that feels stuffy and old-fashioned. Instead, we’re looking to give our guests functional executive services as well as a warm greeting.”
But besides creating a targeted brand and marketing campaign and refreshing hotel amenities, LaBarre explained that Crowne Plaza is making strategic moves in cutting underperforming hotels from its portfolio. LaBarre said that in the first half of 2012, Crowne Plaza cut 16 hotels, and plans to cut another 25 properties in the next few years. She said that underperforming hotels do not serve the interests of the owner community because they dilute the brand standards that Crowne Plaza is trying so hard to implement and maintain.
“All of IHG is rallying behind Crowne Plaza,” said LaBarre. “Every team is focused on the same agenda—making Crowne Plaza bigger, better, and stronger.”
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