Friday, November 23, 2007

Holiday Inn Changing to be Competive Again

by Joe Sharkey

The early years of Holiday Inn, when it defined the middle-class Eisenhower-era version of the open road — consistent, safe, clean and as reassuring as the new Interstate System itself. Later, the highways were still dotted with those huge blazing neon-festooned Holiday Inn signs, which always looked to me as if they fell off a truck on their way to Las Vegas. But by the 1980s, the signs were flashing a different message: inconsistent, indifferent, left behind on the wrong side of the interchange.

The so-called Great Sign was abandoned in 1982 in favor of less ostentatious displays. In recent years, Holiday Inn, now owned by InterContinental Hotels Group of London, has recovered from its decline and is expanding aggressively. There are now more than 3,100, including over 500 abroad.

Quietly, the hotel chain has been weeding out underperforming properties. “We were removing 100 to 150 hotels a year,” mostly older properties in the Unites States that “for a variety of reasons weren’t living up to expectations,” said Stevan D. Porter, the president of the Americas division of InterContinental. Hotels that lose their brand license often affiliate with other chains or become independent.

“Baby boomers and older Gen-Xers have an emotional connection” to the brand, he said. “For many people, it might evoke the first time they were ever in a hotel swimming pool, for example. This is a way to recapture that connection” while broadening the appeal, he added.

Read the entire article in the New York Times.

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