Despite a strong overall recovery in the hotel industry, the midscale and upper midscale tiers have lagged behind in revenue growth. According to data from STR, the two sectors drove RevPAR growth of 4 percent last year, trailing the overall increase of 5.4 percent. As a result, midscale and upper midscale brands have launched new design prototypes to appeal to developers, drive up room rates, and stay relevant to today’s traveler.
Since March, La Quinta Inns & Suites, Wingate by Wyndham, and Holiday Inn Express have all revealed new brand evolutions. And according to Kristin Mayle, project designer at The Gettys Group, it’s the right moment for midscale and upper midscale brands to bring new designs to market.
“In order to compete effectively in their individual markets, now is the perfect time for these brands to be releasing more current, updated prototypes,” Mayle says. “Having an outdated design will hinder their occupancy and average daily rate, especially with today’s consumer and the millennial traveler entering the marketplace in greater numbers.”
These new mid-tier reinventions share similarities. They bring in fully functional, open-concept lobbies, clean geometric lines, and they place a strong emphasis on eco-friendly materials and amenities. Most of the new prototypes follow the lead of luxury and upscale properties that underwent significant design changes and rebounded strongly with the uptick in the economy.
Less is More
The just-released offerings from La Quinta, IHG, and Wyndham put an emphasis on purpose-driven multifunctional spaces that transform to fit a guest’s needs. The lobby designs call for flexible seating for socializing, relaxing, or working; ample natural light; and integrated technology that keeps pace with today’s multi-device traveler.
Guestroom designs are also doing away with big, bulky furniture and opting for simple, dual-purpose pieces. “Clean-lined, one-piece, multifunctional case goods are becoming the standard in quite a few prototypes,” Mayle says. “This provides guests with a cleaner look while still serving all of the functions they have come to expect.”
As more travelers focus on sustainable practices, hotel companies are implementing smart choices into new options for owners. These eco-friendly additions and changes resonate with earth-conscious consumers while also providing efficiencies and cost savings for franchisees.
The new Wingate by Wyndham model was designed to be LEED-certifiable and includes LED lighting, low-flow fixtures, and optional outdoor parking areas specifically for car-charging stations. The Holiday Inn Express prototype also calls for LED lighting throughout to help reduce energy costs. And La Quinta’s Del Sol prototype has low-flow showerheads, high efficiency water heaters, larger fixed picture windows with low-emissivity coating, and a white membrane roof that decreases the impact of the building as an urban heat island.
“Trends come and go, but energy efficiency, green practices, or doing what is right for the earth—however you phrase it—it’s here to stay,” Mayle says. “The initial investment of these initiatives is much smaller than in the past, often having a payback to ownership within a year and a countless payback to the planet over the life of the asset.”
Flexibility for Financial Efficiency
Midscale and upper midscale brands are not only launching new prototypes to appeal to millennial travelers and loyal guests, they are also designing flexible hotels to win over owners.
The new prototypes from La Quinta, IHG, and Wyndham all tout scalable options and cost-saving benefits that maximize ROI for franchisees. Wingate’s new-build design promises a 10 percent savings compared to the brand’s previous prototype, while the Holiday Inn Express option is cost-neutral for franchisees. La Quinta Inns & Suites is also marketing their new prototype to existing and potential owners as a design that maximizes revenue-per-square foot and operational functionality that reduces expenses over time.
Modular design, durable materials, and the ability to pick and choose certain add-ons or features—such as an outdoor pool with the Wingate plan—all make these new prototypes affordable and attractive for franchisees.
“The brands worked closely with their franchisees during the downturn to provide guests with a consistent experience while understanding the financial realities of the market,” Mayle says. “[Now] there is a focus on maintaining the brand pillars—the items that need to be consistent from property to property—but working with each owner to understand what is important to their guests, at a local level.”