NATIONAL REPORT–It’s been nearly two months since Kirk Kinsell took over the role of president of the Americas region for InterContinental Hotels Group, and this week he detailed some of his short- and long-term goals for IHG’s brands in the Americas, starting with Crowne Plaza.
With the company’s $1-billion Holiday Inn relaunch complete, Kinsell said Crowne Plaza is next up.
“We flagged up to our owners group during the Holiday Inn relaunch that we would be looking at each of our brands continuously, and have a focused effort to make sure they’re all relevant,” he said. “We reshaped Hotel Indigo a bit for international growth, then the Holiday Inn relaunch, and now Crowne Plaza.”
Kinsell stressed that the company isn’t sharing specific details related to Crowne Plaza’s growth initiatives, but he did say the first step is “reframing for people what Crowne Plaza is.”
As of March 31, the brand had 386 hotels open globally and 119 in the development pipeline. The Americas region has the largest number of open Crowne Plaza hotels—at 204, but the Asia Pacific region has the largest pipeline, with 69 Crowne Plazas in the works.
“A lot of people, particularly in America see [Crowne Plaza] as a domestic brand, one launched on the back of Holiday Inn,” he said. “But really it’s the fourth-largest upscale brand in the worls … there are as many Crowne Plazas outside the United States as inside the United States.”
Eva Ferguson, president of IAHI, the IHG owners’ association, said the company’s focus on repositioning Crowne Plaza will be in the Americas, since the international product, particularly in Asia and Europe, is so new.
Kinsell agreed, saying that “here in the Americas, we haven’t done any repositioning work with [the brand]. We launched a few programs in the last decade like ‘The Place to Meet’ and ‘Sleep Advantage.’ We know it has to be a fit for the future longer term, so we’re looking through the profile.”
“Our Crowne Plaza committee is working hand in hand with IHG on the repositioning of the brand,” she said.
While IHG is definitely a global brand, Kinsell said the U.S. remains attractive from a development perspective.
“Many of our competitors are going out to the global outposts of the world,” he said. “We were already there.”
He cited a growing interest in expansion in South America, particularly Brazil.
Resort destinations in the Americas are another focus. “We’re looking for further expansion in resort areas,” he said. “Las Vegas is a target for us and Hawaii continues to be a focus. Stay tuned.”
In October IHG launched its partnership with Las Vegas Sands to add the Venetian and Palazzo casino hotels to the IHG portfolio.
Kinsell credited his previous role as president of the EMEA region for IHG with giving him a more global perspective.
“People don’t really appreciate travel flow and how big the American market is [producing] outbound customers to other parts of the world, particularly into Europe,” he said. “What’s happening is that certain areas of the world are indeed traveling back into the U.S. and we have built critical relationships with travel providers across all the channels.”
In the 12 months leading up to next summer’s Olympic Games in London, Holiday Inn will be on the global stage again, as a major brand sponsor of the Games, the official hotel provider and manager of the athlete’s village.
“London is a global capital,” Kinsell said. “As a result, we can own a bit of the Olympics here. This puts Holiday Inn on yet another platform other people can’t match.”