While not a relaunch on the scale of Holiday
Inn, IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) is giving another one of its
familiar brands a facelift. Crowne Plaza, which began in the 1980s as
Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza and became a separate entity in 1994, has been
going through a brand revitalization. Last June, a renovation of the
brand’s flagship property, Crowne Plaza Times Square in New York City,
was unveiled, and it was the start of a brandwide effort to make itself
“The brand’s been around for quite some time now so just through the
course of the journey of the brand it was time to relook at it and make
sure we are staying current to our guests’ needs and make sure we are
providing a contemporary and upscale experience,” says Gina LaBarre,
vice president of brand delivery, the Americas, at IHG.
Crowne Plaza, an upscale brand that is aimed at attracting business
travelers, particularly in urban markets, has been on an upswing. The
brand has been one of the fastest growing upscale brands in recent
years. As of the third quarter of 2009, it had 360 hotels globally and
199 in the Americas. The Americas’ pipeline includes 8,000 additional
rooms. That growth, LaBarre says, contributed to the revitalization
effort. “We have had unbelievable development with this brand; we’ve
had record growth,” she says. “So, with new hotels coming in we require
them to go through a property improvement plan.”
Already, Crowne Plaza has renovated approximately half of its
portfolio. There are about 40 hotels going through the process
currently. LaBarre say as hotels join the brand, they are required to
renovate before entering the system.
Crowne Plaza Times Square serves as a prototype for the renovations.
The property was given ample room for meeting space and trendy food and
beverage options. Three concierge floors offer spacious suites with
upgraded amenities. It also houses Manhattan’s largest indoor swimming
pool and a fitness club.
“That is a flagship property and it conveys exactly the upscale look
and feel we want for this brand,” LaBarre says. “It brings to home the
‘Place to Meet’ positioning.” Part of Crowne Plaza’s effort is to be an
ideal location for business travelers.
While the brand will still largely be looking at urban markets, it also
has found airport locations to be ideal. Recently, the brand opened its
third property this year near the Ft. Lauderdale Airport. “We have a
tool we use internally that scores markets, so we have markets that are
highly sought after. They may be more your urban markets and downtown
locations,” LaBarre says. “However, airport markets actually do very
well for Crowne Plaza, being a meetings hotel. We entertain all of the
deals that come through and some are more desirable than others.
Obviously, we’d like to be in the major city centers.”
The revitalization effort isn’t just about physical aspects. The
company is making a push to get Crowne Plaza back in people’s minds.
The brand is undertaking significant marketing initiatives, such as
being the title sponsor of a PGA Tour event. “When you’re targeting
business travelers, golf is a high-identity sport,” LaBarre says.
Ultimately, LaBarre says she wants to see people associate Crowne Plaza
with an upscale experience at prices that often fall below its
competitors. “We want people to see it as a
value in the upscale segment,” she continues.