Choice Hotels International’s Cambria
brand is looking to finally step into the mainstream consumer consciousness with a slew of new changes set to better adapt the upscale brand to current and future consumer and development trends. Though always a real sold product, the nascent brand debuted just prior to the Great Recession, derailing the company’s expansion plans for years as new hotel development all but ceased.
But that’s a thing of the past now as Choice management has seen opportunity surge as the hotel industry economy has exploded. Now it’s preparing the brand for a huge expansion as it plans to have 23 hotels open and another 30 in the ground by the end of the year.
It’s not a lofty goal either as major companies are seeing the brand as a strong alternative backed by a powerful reservations delivery system. Companies like Concord Hospitality made a deal to build three, with its first of that trio recently opening in Washington, D.C. They have two more set for the NY metro area.
In all, the brand will see six properties open this year, according to Michael Murphy, SVP Upscale Brands, with Choice Hotels. However, that is not really the big news. (In journalism, this is what we call burying the lead.) Here’s the real scoop.
During its annual conference last week, Choice debuted a new name for the brand – Cambria
Hotels & Suites – as well as new guest focused elements and a new visual identity as it looks to upgrade the overall Cambria
It’s all encapsulated with its new positioning dubbed, "Cambria. Where everybody is somebody.”
“We are no longer catching up, we are playing to win,” said Murphy.
According to Murphy, the brand’s RevPAR index stood at 90.4 for 2013, a jump of 3.4 and Murphy said the opportunity they’re looking to take advantage of will raise it even more.
“There is an opportunity in front of us that has occurred only three times in my career.
Demand for the upscale tier is higher than any other segment and it is currently outpacing supply and the largest generation in our history is about to hit us like a Tsunami,” said Murphy referring to the oft cited Millennials.
The brand will also shoot for the capturing the mid-week business traveler who travels less than 20 nights per year.
To grab both these markets while also not shunning the Baby Boomer market, Murphy said the brands needed, “unpretentious service, an egalitarian approach to everything we do, unexpected delights during their stay, flexibility and choice and a light hearted environment.”
Rebecca Mervis, Director, Brand Strategy & Marketing, Cambria Suites at Choice Hotels International, said there is ample opportunity to meet customer needs and wants that Cambria’s competition does not.
“No one ‘owns’ attributes that are important to guests like flexibility, humanity, warmth, and approachability,” said Mervis. “So that’s where we’re going to go; that’s our niche. Based on these insights, we put together a positioning concept to test with our target guests.
To Mervis and the Cambria team the “unloved and unattached are up for grabs” because they have less status and fewer points and are medium frequency travelers who what to feel important.
“No one owns an attribute like human approachability and warmth. That is our niche and that is where we are going to go,” said Mervis.
Mervis said Millennials are looking for choices and this growing generation of travelers don't want to be told how to experience anything, they want choices and options. Hence the addition of traditional hotel rooms to the new build prototype and the brand’s name.
The new visual identity is meant to accentuate an upscale experience and it will be rolled out starting the first quarter of next year with conversions. New signage will be mandatory in 2016 unless a hotel transitions earlier and all new brand collateral will roll out this year as well. New build hotels will immediately get the new look of the brand both inside and out with the transition already beginning with the brand’s newest hotels in West Fargo, ND and Washington. DC.
And by the end of the year the brand will be offering more instant rewards for customers as well.
“This environment and this experience will be the hardest thing for our competitors to match,” said Senior Director of Brand Operations Michael Lusick.
Lusick said rooms will feature “one of the best mattresses in the industry” and will feature high thread count linens as the bed is more of a multi-use area for Millennials. Also, rooms will be about allowing guests to use their own content, via the TV or even the bathroom mirror, which will have blue tooth connectivity. Wake up calls will go straight to the cell phone and the phone will also be able to change room lighting and temperature too.
They’re also changing service and training standards so employees will better be able to connect with guests to personalize the experience.
“We are aggressively expanding in desirable, profitable urban markets not to just get in the game but to win. We will continue to invest and grow this brand leveraging Choice’s balance sheet with targeted developers,” said Choice Hotels’ CEO Steve Joyce. “We’re playing to win by bringing new deals, in upscale urban markets and owning the entire process.”