When Kemmons Wilson built the first Holiday Inn in Memphis in 1952, the concept of the roadside motel was simple—quality, consistency, and service offered at an affordable price. And although the brand has grown into one of the largest hotel chains in the world, those principles still hold true as Holiday Inn celebrates its 60th anniversary.
"I think, from day one, the genius of my father was that he was an ordinary common man who wanted an ordinary common experience. But he wanted it to be value oriented," says Kemmons Wilson Jr. "When he set out his standards for his hotel back in the day when there were no standards, my father insisted upon a restaurant, a lounge, a swimming pool, and free ice. To me, it's just going back to your core roots and always focusing on the customer."
Throughout its history, Holiday Inn represented several firsts within the industry. It was the first brand to take an online booking. It developed a program where kids stay and eat free in branded properties worldwide. Even things that hotel guests currently take for granted, such as in-room televisions, were items that Holiday Inn pioneered. And, the brand is continuing its tradition of firsts by being the first international hotel brand to launch its 60th property in the Greater China area with the Holiday Inn Changbaishan Resort, which officially opened this week.
"When you think about the relevance of the brand with today's consumer, there's such a wide cross section," says Jim Anhut, senior vice president, Americas brand management for InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). "Those cultural values that are Holiday Inn—that familial undertone, the comfort, the welcoming, and the consistency are things that never go out of date."
Recently, Holiday Inn has undergone a brand-wide revamp with an investment of more than $1 billion under the ownership of IHG. It's that investment that will take the global hotel chain, which now has more than 1,200 properties worldwide, well into the next 60 years.
"We've grown over the years by really listening to our guests," Anhut says. "Our sights are clearly set on decades forward. Because what we do today will clearly keep Holiday Inn relevant into the future."
To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the brand, IHG and Holiday Inn are inviting consumers in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and China to share their "firsts" via social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Weibo (China's version of Twitter). Throughout the month of August, the brand will give away 60 free nights each day to lucky participants. The contest is a way to give back to customers and thank them for their loyalty over the years.
"Not too many things last 60 years, and this brand is going as strong as it’s ever been," Wilson says. "People know the brand—they've loved the brand for years. My family is just extremely pleased to see IHG revitalize the Holiday Inn brand to make it what it is today. I know my father would be proud."