Industry NewsBrandsAt Brand Conference, IHG Maps Out Route to ‘Be No. 1’

At Brand Conference, IHG Maps Out Route to ‘Be No. 1’

At this week’s IHG Americas Investors and Leadership Conference, Kirk Kinsell, told the crowd of approximately 4,200 the company’s plan to “Be No. 1”—the theme of the show.

“We have to work together as a team to deliver consistent brand experiences,” said Kinsell, president of the Americas, at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas. “And that’s what this conference is all about: helping you do a better job of delivering to your guests, so you can outperform to win against the competition.” He said IHG as a whole must focus on six vital business areas: quality, digital, IHG tools and resources, loyalty, technology, and food and beverage. Kinsell also spelled out some promises for the coming year, including IHG Marketplace, a new procurement solution to launch in January.

“It’s a true one-stop shop for everything from technology to FF&E to specific products and services we recommend, or mandate, through our brand standards,” he said. “It’s no exaggeration to say that if you buy it for a hotel, you can find it in the IHG Marketplace.”

Kinsell also said the company will continue its commitment to doing business responsibly. As of Jan. 1, IHG will provide access to Green Engage, its online environmental platform, at no charge.

“This will help you track, measure, and reduce energy, water, and waste, so you can conserve energy and save money without compromising the guest experience,” he said. “It’s a true win-win.”

Focus on OTAs
To ensure more customers book direct (and always get the best price when they do), IHG is fine-tuning its focus on strict compliance to the pricing and distribution standards, said Chief Commercial Officer Keith Barr.

“We’re significantly ramping up our efforts to stop OTAs, wholesalers, and other third parties from distributing B2B rates directly to consumers,” he said. “These rates are supposed to be packaged, bundled, and not publicly sold. But when those rates are put out on the Web and sold directly to our customers—unpackaged and unbundled—they violate our agreements, undercut your hotel’s consumer pricing, and confuse customers.”

In fact, Barr said, it makes guests believe OTAs really are cheaper than direct channels.

To stop this from happening, IHG is rolling out a new wholesale umbrella agreement globally, which penalizes non-compliant companies.

“You will continue to determine the price you charge the OTAs and customers,” he said, noting IHG will have teams shopping online daily looking for those violating the distribution terms.

“If companies don’t want to sign up for this agreement, we won’t do business with them,” he said. “If they violate the agreement, we will stop doing business with them. Period.”

IHG isn’t turning its back on wholesalers or OTAs, Barr stressed. “We really value the relationships we have with these companies. It’s profitable business for many of our hotels, so long as it’s sold the right way, to the right customer.”

The key, he said, is to use these channels selectively to acquire incremental business and then convert these guests to IHG’s own channels for future stays.

New Look for Crowne Plaza Guestroom
After two years of research, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts unveiled its next-generation guestroom at the conference. Featuring a unique angled bed design, which reduces noise levels and supports sleep, the room is designed to meet the needs of today’s business travelers, the company said.

The new room allows guests to move freely between three key areas: a cocooned bed, a flexible “nook,” and a streamlined workspace. IHG said the room’s benefits include:

Rest. The angled bed has a padded, curved headboard, which along with insulated wall panels on each side of the room, reduces noise levels and encourages better sleep. Consumer testing showed a 30 percent improvement in noise reduction compared to a typical hotel room, IHG stated.

Connectivity. The nook area offers a multipurpose and comfortable space to hold informal meetings and doubles as an area to socialize and relax away from the traditional workspace.

Space. The dedicated, multipurpose workspace features a clutter-free surface with accessible outlets and adjustable lighting. It creates a productive environment for work and caters for vanity needs with a hairdryer in the drawer and mirror above the desk.

The new guestroom will launch in the Americas in 2015 at the Crowne Plaza Atlanta Midtown and with other early adopters. The company said there’s an opportunity for a global rollout in the near future.

Creating Change
Also announced at the conference, Holiday Inn will co-produce a six-episode original series, Growing America: A Journey to Success. Hosted by Ty Pennington, of Trading Spaces and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition fame, the show will premiere Nov. 16 on HLN.

The documentary series follows teams of MBA students from the MBAxAmerica program who are given one week to use their expertise to transform businesses and positively affect cities across the United States. Companies featured include a barbershop striving to become a community centerpiece in Detroit and a family-owned café in Little Rock, Ark., aiming to become a leader in the local organic food movement.

As part of the brand’s “Journey to Extraordinary” campaign, Holiday Inn had worked with Casey Gerald, co-founder and CEO of MBAxAmerica, in one of its “Signature Stories.”

“Everyone finds themselves on a journey somehow, someway, and they end up intersecting with Holiday Inn,” said Maurice Cooper, vice president, Holiday Inn, the Americas, explaining the birth of Signature Stories. “We want to be able to talk about not only what their personal story is but how Holiday Inn helps them along on that journey. When we do that, we give people the opportunity to see us in an authentic light.” With excitement and page views building around Signature Stories, HLN approached the brand on ways to amplify that message even further, specifically with Gerald and MBAxAmerica, Cooper said.

“Entrepreneurship is the backbone of Holiday Inn,” Cooper said. “It’s our story. Our founder Kemmons Wilson was the quintessential entrepreneur. He believed in not only delivering a great guest experience but transforming communities as well. We’re happy to carry that legacy forward.” Plus, having Pennington on board made for a perfect fit, he said. “His brand is all about volunteerism and transformation.”

When asked to host, Pennington said he didn’t hesitate. “Young business minds have an opportunity to advise people that wouldn’t normally get that expertise—it’s genius,” he enthusiastically told Lodging at the conference. “You’re going to meet real characters that don’t just want to succeed and make money. They really want to make a difference in the community that they’re proud to be part of. Whenever you can have a TV show that highlights people with character, that have drive and a passion about doing positive things, it’s going to succeed.”

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