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By Colleen Isherwood, editor
SMYRNA, GA—A select group of media previewed the new Holiday In Express prototype in a warehouse in Smyrna, GA late last month. Formal announcement of the new design came later that day at The Hunter Investment Conference in Atlanta, GA.
Jennifer Gribble, head of the Holiday Inn Express Brand, the Americas at IHG, showed the journalists artist renderings of the exterior, the floor plan and the new lobby, and gave them a sneak peak at a model guestroom.
The new prototype is suitable for new builds, but elements were also designed with conversions and retrofits in mind.
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The brand sought input from a group of owners, and stressed guest input throughout the process. Inside the warehouse, they set up foam core models that could easily be changed as participants suggested modifications.
Innovative features include a barn-door style rolling wall that separates the living and sleeping areas from the washroom and coffee areas, so that one person can get ready while the other sleeps in.
The guest room entrance includes pegs for clothes, plus ledges where guests can drop their keys or plug in their phones or even their hair dryers.
The environment and a good night’s sleep were top of mind in the new prototype, which was prepared with the help of Shea Design out of Minneapolis. The rolling wall, the headboards and wall structure were all designed to minimize noise, while drop-down blinds and the rolling wall help block out light.
On the other hand, there is lighting where it is most needed. The desk looks like an architect’s table, with task lighting directly overhead. This gives a clean, uncluttered look for the desk. All of the lamps have the on/off switches in the same place, and the rooms have eight to 12 plugs to accommodate guest devices.
The seating area is located by the window and more importantly, away from the halls, so that noise from four-to-a-room sports teams, for example, is as far away from the corridors as possible.
The owners’ group worked on the new design for just seven months, and two of those owners were on hand at the warehouse to talk about their involvement in the project.
“IHG and the owners’ group worked hand in hand,” said Punit. R. Shah, president and CEO of Liberty Group based in Tampa, FL. “We understand who the guests are and the return on investment.
“We have valuable real estate on the ground floor, so we moved the business centre to the main area, and combined a meeting room with the breakfast room, so it doesn’t just go dark after breakfast.”
“We wanted to keep the noise away from the guestrooms and lobby,” noted owners’ group member Asad Malik, president and CEO of Amerilodge Group, Rochester Hills, MI. Laundry, the pool and change rooms are all in a corridor along an exterior wall so noise from those amenities doesn’t affect guests trying to sleep.
Some of the design features are especially suitable for Canada’s harsh winters, said Joel Eisemann, IHG’s chief development officer, The Americas. The new entrance features a substantial porte-cochère. “When it’s snowing, raining or cold, this covered area makes it easier to enter the building,” he told CLN.
Bringing the pool indoors was also good for Canadian owners. “There are a lot of environments where an indoor pool is really important,” Eisemann added.
Eisemann said there is no deadline for properties to implement the new prototype, and that elements can be incorporated piece-by-piece in existing properties or conversions.
IHG plans to roll out the prototype at the end of June, “but we’re already talking to owners today,” said Eisemann.
“Holiday Inn Express was already a powerful brand—the new prototype will position it even stronger going forward.”
As of year end 2013, there are 84 Holiday Inn Express hotels (8,655 rooms) open in Canada and 18 more in the pipeline.