InterContinental Hotels Group

In Even Hotels, IHG indulges the health-minded traveler

26 Mar, 2012 By: David Eisen

InterContinental Hotels Group is betting big on health-conscious hospitality. The hotel company’s first new brand in eight years is also its most specific, targeting the wellness-minded traveler, who Christian Hempell, IHG's VP of new business development and delivery, told Hotel Management makes up close to 40 percent of the traveling public.

"In talking to customers, we came across an interesting customer group we call the ‘healthy minded mainstream traveler,’” Hempell said. “This group is about 17 million travelers and 39 percent of the U.S. traveling public. For them, a balanced healthy lifestyle is important. They are not obsessed, but want a healthy routine. They value balance.”

IHG was so intrigued by the prospects it decided not only to launch a brand to serve that cross-section, but to put up $150 million of its own money to foster it. It will disburse the money in two ways, Hempell said: 1) to acquire a handful of hotels to “prove and refine the concept”; 2) to drive the franchise engine. “We are getting very strong buy signals from our owners,” Hempell said.

The aim for IHG is to sign the first 100 Even properties over the next five years. Rates for the hotels will be priced at or above IHG’s select-service Holiday Inn brand and will be conversions to begin with. “We spent time studying existing supply and what we would need to do to bring this brand to life and what standards would be to make sure those conversions meet the needs of guests,” Hempell said.

The DNA of Even, Hempell said, boils down to this: an integrative bundle of a holistic lifestyle brand at a mainstream price point that effectively every traveler can afford. “It’s not a ‘gym hotel,’” Hempell is quick to point out. “This is innovation and an industry first.”

But does every traveler want to get Even? No. And that’s fine with Hempell. “Great brands are different,” he said. “They stand for something and don’t serve all people with all needs all the time.”

Driven by wellness, the brand pivots on exercise and food and beverage. Rooms will have neat features such as coat racks that double as chin-up bars and foot-of-the-bed benches that, while great for steadying suitcases, also make perfect push-up or sit-up assists. Guests will also be able to procure everything from stretching bands to yoga mats form the front desk. Even gyms will also be best in class, Hempell promised.

On the F&B side, expect the types of foods you’d find while scanning the shelves at a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Though cryptic, Hempell hinted that there could be partnerships with purveyors of that ilk down the road.

Where will you find Even? First, gateway cities (think San Francisco, Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles), then secondary markets (Seattle, Minneapolis, Austin, Texas). “We see growth into even smaller markets,” Hempell said, adding that taking the brand international is not out of the realm of possibility, though not anytime soon. “We want to put our hotels where our target customers travel to and live. Our distribution strategy is led by our guests.” The traveling public should know where the first Even Hotel will be located by the second quarter and the first property should open in early 2013.

IHG tapped Amsterdam-based UXUS to deliver the design concept while architectural layout is being conceived by RTKL. The overarching theme is natural is healthy. “It’s revitalizing and energetic,” Hempell said, “simple and straightforward.” Porte-cochères will be enveloped in wood slating and light up at night; water elements will abound in the lobby areas; meeting spaces will double as exercise rooms.

“We think it’s the perfect time to launch this brand,” Hempell said. “There is strong RevPAR growth and record demand. We are ready.”

Topic : IHG, Even Hotels
External Source : Hotel Management

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