IHG announces new design plan for Holiday Inn hotels

San Francisco -- At the second day of the IHG Americas Owners Conference in San Francisco, Eric Lent (VP Americas for the Holiday Inn brands) and Jennifer Gribble (VP Americas for Holiday Inn Express) discussed the new design features for both brands. 

Holiday Inn’s H4
One of the more notable announcements from the session was the reveal of H4, the new design system for Holiday Inn hotels that aims to create a sense of domesticity. (The name is an acronym for Happiness, Hospitality, Home and Holiday Inn.) Features include a dedicated “Welcome Nook” where guests can hang coats or clothes (much like a mud room at home), a desk that guests can move to where they need it most and at least five areas with multiple electric outlets and USB charging points. 

A key element of the new design is a room type called “King Bed with Comfort Hideaway.” The room has a king-sized bed (a popular option for business travelers staying during the week), but a chaise lounge on one side of the room converts to a twin bed with a trundle underneath, allowing a family of four to use the room on weekends.  

Lent addressed two concerns owners would have regarding H4: How much would it cost, and would it be required in all hotels? “Working in close partnership with the Owners Association Task Force, we’re keeping the FF&E costs competitive to the current Breeze scheme,” he said, referring to the design plan currently available in hotels. “That being said, we’re also being vigilant to ensure that the full installation costs and ongoing operating costs are also competitive,” he added. 

But the more important question, he argued, should be how the design would improve hotel performance. By having rooms that can serve both individual business travelers and families with a minimum of adjustments, the King Comfort Hideaway rooms can generate stronger revenue and return on investment (ROI).

To the next question—"Will this be required?"—Lent had a short answer: “Yes.”

But, he added quickly, the rollout would take place in three phases over the next year: The first is the learning phase, which started at the Conference with a walk-through model of the room and will continue on to pilot hotels throughout the last quarter of the year. 

Phase two will be the “early-adopter” phase for owners. “We'll have final specs and pricing to be purchase-ready and available in the first quarter of 2016,” he told the crowd. “And finally, the third phase—our roll-out phase—is when we’ll make H4 a requirement for all new-builds and renovations beginning the second half of 2016. And hotels going through a relicensing or change of ownership (and have an associated PIP) will be evaluated for a 15-year license agreement on a case-by-case basis when they implement H4.” 

Holiday Inn Express’ Formula Blue
Formula Blue premiered at last year’s Owners Conference and has been rolling out ever since. The response, Gribble said, has been largely positive, and the team has listened to feedback from owners and managers about the design scheme, in terms of keeping prices down and expanding variety. As an example, she said, some owners said last year that they needed more options for casegoods. To that end, the Holiday Inn Express team is introducing a third finish in a darker color as well as a new material: a wood veneer. “And we’re happy to introduce a new casegood design as a second option,” she added.

When the design was first introduced, many hotels that were under construction or renovating wound up integrating key elements of Formula Blue into their existing design. There are now more than 50 of these so-called “hybrid” hotels. “And now that Formula Blue is required for all new builds and hotels undergoing renovation, 15 properties have opened with the full Formula Blue design,” she said. “We expect to have 60 more open by the end of the year. And as we move into 2016, all hotels that open or renovate will have the new Formula Blue design. That’s approximately another 350 hotels.” 

Gribble acknowledged that some owners may be concerned about cookie-cutter hotels, especially when individuality is becoming an in-demand quality. “We understand we need to tailor the design where it makes sense,” she said, “as long as it’s done in a way that maintains overall consistency.” As such, Formula Blue lets owners choose their own finishes to provide a sense of space. 

“The last question I get all the time is, ‘What about the Acoustic Door?’” she said, referring to a key Formula Blue feature that separates the sleeping area from the hallway and cuts down on noise. “The door not only makes the room more quiet, but also creates flexibility in how guests use the room,” she said.

After testing the feature in more than 100 rooms in 15 hotels and getting positive feedback from guests, the group now plans to find new ways to optimize the door and reduce its overall price. “Given this great feedback, you can start installing the door,” she told the assembled owners. “It's not yet required, but we strongly encourage you to implement this compelling design feature.”