Downmarket Motel 6 raises the bar

Motel 6 is known for value, which is to say it's also known for being a cheap place to stay—whether for one night, two or more. It's part of what Motel 6 spokesperson Tom Bowdett has been telling us since 1986.

The lights at the first Motel 6 came on in 1962, in Santa Barbara, Calif., the brand's name derived from the cost for a room back then: $6. Today, Motel 6 still champions price, claiming it "offers the lowest price of any national chain with nearly 1,200 company-owned and franchised locations throughout the United States and Canada."

Low price, however, doesn't mean poor quality.

In fact, ever since the chain—inclusive of Motel 6 and Studio 6, both managed and operated by G6 Hospitality—was acquired by Blackstone Group in 2012, it has been invested in. Bill Stein, a senior managing director and global head of asset management in Blackstone's real estate group, said upwards of $300 million has been spent over the last three years on G6/Blackstone owned Motel 6s. Furthermore, during that three-year-period, G6 says its RevPAR has grown a total of 26 percent.

The Aim
The goal now for Motel 6: By the end of 2015, the brand plans to reach its goal of renovating up to 75 percent of its portfolio to feature the updated modern room design. The result: renovated rooms with a more vibrant color scheme, wood-effect flooring, platform beds, flat-screen televisions, granite countertop bathroom sinks, cubby holes for storage and more.

Motel 6 is making a point: this is not your grandfather's economy hotel brand.

This new modern room design is part of what G6 has dubbed The Phoenix Project, named after the mythical bird symbolizing rebirth. The redesign "provides travelers with optimal efficiency by combining functionality into a single piece of furniture," G6 says of it. 

Dean Savas, EVP of franchise and international development for G6 Hospitality, said that 16 new Motel 6 hotels are now open under The Phoenix Project design, with 40 more in the pipeline. "Phoenix gives us the ability to expand internationally," he further said.

Indeed, growth globally is a goal of G6. "We plan to enter new markets," Jim Amorosia, CEO of G6, said. In 2014, Motel 6 expanded in Latin America and expects to have 55 hotels open in the region by 2020.

Growth outside the U.S. will most likely remain in the Americas. "We don't expect to be in Asia or India anytime soon," Blackstone's Stein commented.

Spreading the Word
To accompany the renovations and new design, G6 recently launched a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign titled "Room to Room," aligned with the brand’s commitment to inspire travelers to "save more for what they travel for" in a fresh and modern way. The campaign is currently airing on national cable networks and will continue with traditional and digital media, slated to run through 2016.