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Industry CEOs Share Design Secrets to Success on HI Connect® Stage

The industry’s top leaders have gathered this week for HI Connect®, taking place here through Friday in Nashville.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014
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It’s all about changing the game. That is, reinventing what others take for granted to create an exciting new dialogue between the guest and the hotel. It’s the notion of rethinking everything, absolutely everything, to more effectively make that critical emotional connection with the guest so that customer keeps coming back again and again.

That’s the philosophy of HI Connect®, which is being held this week in Nashville, TN with a record breaking crowd. Right now they are experiencing a revolutionary re-imagination of the tradeshow experience in a way that better connects and stimulates attendees by presenting products and designs in a new and creative way; and the same is true of the companies featured in our educational sessions.

So rather than look at the usual suspects, we took a different approach – this is our mantra - and invited presidents of hospitality industry brands we think are breaking through the clutter to better relate to their target consumers. And hopefully in the process make cadres of new and loyal customers.

At the HI Connect® Design opening general session this morning we had presidents from four companies we think espouse this new ethos. And we explored exactly how they are looking to reinvent themselves, and in the process reimagine their businesses.

Take Vantage Hospitality. As one of the largest hotel companies in the world because of their Americas Best Value Inn brand, a few years back the company debuted its upper midscale Lexington Collection. Now the company is in the midst of creating a brand new construction prototype that meets the needs of the modern traveler, said Founder, President & CEO Roger Bloss. The company launched in 1999 as a membership organization to give hotel owners an opportunity for something other than a typical hotel franchise scenario.

“We’re in the final stages of developing this now and we’re hewing closely to lifestyle trends we see emerging,” said Bloss. That includes a heightened on elements such as fitness and health. Bloss and his team are seeking additional input from industry insiders here at HI Connect® to get a better understanding of the best ideas out there to incorporate into the new prototype. Expect to see touches that localize the hotel too as well as more outdoor space with elements such as fire pits that people crave.

At Red Roof Inn, their new design initiative Red Roof PLUS was highlighted as part of the discussion as the company looks to redefine the design aesthetic of the economy segment. The new initiative will revamp all hotels as they come up for renovation and is already in several dozen hotels.

“We asked our customers what they wanted and they overwhelmingly told us they wanted confidence, so our design became a combination of fit, form and finish,” said Andy Alexander, President & CEO of Red Roof Inn.

Newly refreshed properties include sleek, modern furniture, flat screen TVs with 36 HD channels, vessel sinks, wood-like floors, additional electrical outlets, a 100% smoke-free designation. High end bedding is featured too, as is an in-room red accent wall and renovated lobby featuring stone accent wall. Outdoors there is more seating and a heightened emphasis on nature.

Meanwhile, Cobblestone Hotels is one brand that is quickly on the rise and its President & CEO Brian Wogernese shared his story about how the company has shot from a few properties to 39 in just a few years. They also have 14 under construction and astounding 45 more in the pipeline.

They’re focusing on smaller towns and right sized hotels for specific markets and created an upper midscale product with hotels that are typically 50 rooms or less. “If you don’t need additional rooms, don’t build them. We are focusing on an overall experience so guests will have the same experience as they would if they were staying in a major city,” said Wogernese.

That includes elements such as an activated lobby with eight seat wine bar and lobbies with lots of connectivity for guests so they can work and be social. He added that as time goes by their building will evolve but they’re also currently adding important lifestyle elements like offering healthy food choices as well pizza and working on revamping their fitness centers since more people are focusing on personal exercise regimens.

Finally Sean Worker, CEO of BridgeStreet Global Hospitality shared how his 50,000 serviced apartments in 63 countries focus on personal preferences.

“We think about personal choice and then design in what they need,” said Worker, noting that guests stay anywhere between three days and three years. “Comfort and personalization are key to an exceptional experience.”

Part of that experience, as it turns out, is getting to know your neighbors. In many cases BridgeStreet takes over complete building so the company offers happy hours and other experiences to encourage sociability between guests. He is also a huge proponent of interactivity within the guestroom. “We learn what you like as a guest and create that personal experience. We want to set the stage to create memories because ultimately that is what brings guests back,” Worker said.

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