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Crowne Plaza Getting Massive Makeover

Fresh off the reinvention success of Holiday Inn, InterContinental Hotels Group laid out plans to revitalize Crowne Plaza. Here’s our report from the IHG Conference.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011
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InterContinental Hotels Group is riding high with confidence. And they should be!

The company is feeling gobs of love from developers, owners and customers after the uber successful reinvention of Holiday Inn and executives are also feeling confident they have a hit with Hotel Indigo. Additionally, the company has a healthy development pipeline both here and abroad and its reimagined executive team has really hit its stride.

So execs looked deeper into their portfolio to see what other gold they might be able to spin from the proverbial straw. Next up for a wholesale reinvention is Crowne Plaza. Announced here last night – but we’ve all known it’s in the works for the last year –at the IHG Americas Investors & Leadership Conference at the Venetian/Palazzo Las Vegas, company leaders finally shared a little more of how they see the brand transform in the next few years.

Dubbed a global repositioning, the three year plan is designed to clarify what the Crowne Plaza Brand is, make it more relevant to the customer, and finally create something where owners can push rates higher and more quickly. Already the brand generates $3.5 billion in gross revenues for IHG globally.

“This is huge opportunity for quality growth in same store sales and adding new hotels to the system. There is a lucrative market segment for this brand and competitors haven’t truly delivered an experience guests want,” said Richard Solomons, IHG’s CEO. “Until recently the brand has not been defined as crisply as other brands.

Solomons said that like with the Holiday Inn reinvention where 1,200 hotels left the system and was replaced with 1,500 new hotels, IHG is willing to pull the plug on hotels that do not follow along for what he described as “the journey.” He added its critical the company move forward with this multi-tiered plan to take advantage of what he sees as a huge opportunity for quality growth with a stronger brand.

According to Kirk Kinsell, IHG President, Americas, the plan is to put heightened emphasis on what the guest really craves while also giving hoteliers the tools they need to drive revenue. “The payoff will be significant and well worth the effort. You can expect same discipline, dedication and commitment with Crowne Plaza as you saw with the re-launch of Holiday Inn,” Kinsell said.

The multi phased reinvention is taking place in three phases dubbed “Freshen Up”, “Move Up” and “Shine”.

Here is what the company describes in detail about the phases. The first “Freshen Up” phase is underway and focuses on raising product quality and consistency, primarily in the Americas, driving revenue and performance across the portfolio, refreshing the Sleep Advantage® program in the Americas and launching a new brand identity with a modern look and feel. Crowne Plaza hotels are currently underway in the “Freshen Up” phase; activity will continue into 2012.

The second phase, “Move Up”, will elevate Crowne Plaza to focus on a new customer and deliver enhanced products and services to meet their needs. Activities within this phase will include a new global branded service training program, development and distribution in major gateway cities and resort markets, increasing trial and brand awareness, and delivering on key drivers of guest satisfaction. This will be the brand focus throughout 2012 and 2013.

In the final “Shine” phase, Crowne Plaza will be clearly differentiated from competitors through new and innovative brand hallmarks that will be rigorously tested across the globe. This final phase will take place in 2013 through 2015.

Kevin Kowalski, IHG’s SVP Global Brand Management said the company will not make hotel owners spend money on initiatives until the basic fundamental problems with the brand have been fixed.

Glenn Squires, new chairman of the just renamed IHG Owners Council (formerly the IAHI) is also bullish on the brand revitalization plan. “Crowne Plaza is at the beginning of its journey and as we continue, we will take what we learned from the Holiday Inn experience and work closely with IHG to move Crowne Plaza forward. When you start with guests and see what they want and need and are willing to pay for, you can get a great ROI.”
“The Crowne Plaza global portfolio has doubled since 2003 to nearly 400 hotels, and our global pipeline has increased fourfold to 115 hotels,” said Janis Cannon, vice president, Global Brand Management, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts. “Momentum is building for Crowne Plaza, and the future is bright.”

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