InterContinental Hotels Group’s venerable Holiday Inn brand celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2007 like a lot of people do: with a makeover.
The company did a survey of 18,000 consumers to find out what guests were looking for in their hotel stay, and used those findings in order to address the changes that needed to be made, and then embarked on the industry’s largest relaunch in history.
Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express together is the world’s largest hotel brand, and have been a part of not only the cultural landscape, but a part of people’s live for decades. And with over 652,000 rooms and 4,400 in 100 countries and territories around the world, there will not be one reader to say he or she hasn’t stayed in a InterContinental Hotels Group hotel or know of someone who has.
“Bold companies make bold moves,” says Gopal Rao, Regional Vice-President, Sales and marketing, IHG Canada. In 2007, Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express made a bold investment in the future of the brands, investing over $1 billion globally in revitalizing and repositioning the brand, the biggest ever project of its kind in the history of the hospitality industry, relaunching more than 3,000 hotels.
The company also lost about 1,200 hotels that “just would not have made the cut” in the process but, Rao is quick to add that the brand also had a record number of signings (1,500), resulting in net growth for the brand. The number of hotels IHG has in its pipeline alone it would make it the ninth largest hotel chain in the world.
“It reduced the average age of the hotels, as well,” says Rao. “We became a younger brand as we went through the relaunch process. Every brand wants to make sure it continues to remain relevant for the new generation. As generations change, so should brands. You have to make sure they apply to Generation X and Y, and you only do that by constantly revisiting and questioning what your customers really want.”
Canada’s largest Holiday Inn
One of those new hotels is Canada’s largest Holiday Inn property with 513 rooms, more than 23 floors and featuring 9,000 square feet of modern, multi-functional event space. The Holiday Inn Toronto Downtown Centre demonstrates the positive changes of the relaunch program on a large scale which includes a renewed focus on quality, improved arrival & welcome features, enhanced bedding and showers, a “Stay Real” service culture and a new, up-to-date look including a redesigned logo and signage.
“The opening of the Holiday Inn Toronto Downtown Centre is a significant milestone, as it’s not only the largest Holiday Inn in Canada, but also the largest opening in North America following the successful completion of the $1 billion Holiday Inn global brand relaunch,” said Rao. “Toronto is a world class city and the ideal place to host Canada’s largest Holiday Inn. This magnificent hotel will cater to tens of thousands of visitors in its first year alone, all of whom will be able to experience on a grand stage Holiday Inn hotels’ global brand relaunch as well as what Toronto has to offer first hand.”
Perhaps the biggest testament to the strength of the brand was that it was accomplished despite the global financial crisis. “When we started [the relaunch], the fiscal outlook was bright,” says Rao, “and then 2008 came along and the world saw the biggest meltdown it had ever seen. But we kept at it.”
The new Holiday Inn
As exciting as the relaunch is, and of that there is no doubt, the core principals of Holiday Inn remain and are unwavering. As it has done for more than 50 years, Holiday Inn celebrates the customer first. Rao articulates this vision, saying, “Holiday Inn is a brand that celebrates the notion of Be Yourself. We believe that we have a great opportunity here. When you are done with your day, you can come to a Holiday Inn, and take off your game face, because you are among friends, family, and you are home. To us, that was the perfect way of saying to our customers, you can wind down, and you can relax.”
To thank the customers who have made Holiday Inn their choice for comfort, and to pioneer new ways to show appreciation, Holiday Inn was the first brand to introduce franchising in its industry, and it was also the first hotel brand to introduce a loyalty program. Designed to help the customer get more from his or her travel, Priority Club Rewards is the hotel loyalty program that offers great features and benefits the frequent traveller.
Membership provides the guest with exclusive benefits, redeemable in a way that suits his or her lifestyle. Points never expire, and can even be used at a competing hotel.
Ground up and top down sustainability
“Many companies consider corporate social responsibility as giving money away to a cause. To us, it is about the way we make money,” says Rao.
“The best way to do that is to be innovative and collaborative so we add value both to our company but most importantly to the communities in which we operate.”
Holiday Inn is very serious about its comprehensive green initiatives, and has aligned its suitability guide (titled Green Engage 2.0) with every aspect of the relaunch. At the most pragmatic level, Holiday Inn hotels will now use 15 to 25 per cent less energy as a result of Green Engage 2.0.
With roots planted firmly in the founding traditions of the brand, Holiday Inn has leveraged its considerable brand power to welcome guests and make them feel comfortable for the next 50 years. It is a testament to the brands stalwart dedication to its guests and its strength as a brand that achieved this considerable relaunch, which we are proud to celebrate in The Canadian Business Journal.