IHG’s Avid Brand Debut’s as Company’s Newest Mainstream Brand
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) popped the cork on its newest brand, avid hotels, at a lavish grand opening celebration in Oklahoma City where its first property, the 87-room avid hotel Oklahoma City-Quail Springs, opened in August.
October 17, 2018
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and American Idol winner Taylor Hicks were on hand to kick off the celebration, which demonstrated a mark of pride among locals to welcome the first hotel of the new brand to the world.
According to Elie Maalouf, Chief Executive Officer for The Americas, IHG, his company was missing a large brand in the midscale tier, and he believes avid ticks all the right boxes for what travelers want in a short hotel stay. The focus is delivering the basic tenets of what travelers want (sound sleep, healthy and free breakfast, and ample workspace) in “an exceptional way.” Maalouf greeted the crowd at the hotel’s celebration and praised the brand as one of several new ones being added to the portfolio (Regent Hotels & Resorts is a recent acquisition).
Extensive industry knowledge
IHG is no stranger to the hotel industry with 5,300 hotels open around the world, and a whopping 1,700 under development at the moment. InterContinental Hotels and Resorts is the largest luxury hotel brand in the world; IHG’s Indigo Hotels is the largest lifestyle hotel brandin the world; and Holiday Inn Express is the largest hotel brand and continues to sign more contracts for new hotels than any other brand.
That’s not to mention that Forbes recently cited Holiday Inn as being the most trusted hotel brand in America. That makes sense given it also has the third largest pipeline of new hotels to open on the planet.
Avid is particularly attractive to hotel developers because of its lower cost to build (roughly around $80,000 “per key,” which is less than a typical Holiday Inn Express). It also operates with a slimmer staff count, which means that it is ideal for markets with high labor and construction costs among other barriers to entry. This was key in avid inking a deal to operate 15 new hotels in the German marketby 2020 adding to its growing North American footprint.
IHG composed a team of both customers and hotel owners to develop the new brand around what worked well from both perspectives. For example, the breakfast buffet is far from traditional. Firstly, instead of being aligned horizontally along the wall, it wraps around a circular table with compartments holding pre-packaged, branded products like Belvita cookies, Quaker Oats Oatmeal, and Chobani yogurt. Everything is designed to be grab-and-go including things like whole fruit and hard-boiled eggs in plastic containers.
The circular shape of the buffet also means that guests can approach it from every angle rather than have to wait in line. Also, pre-package items mean that owners significantly cut down on food waste.
The company’s studies showed that travelers were doing as much as four hours of research when looking for the right hotel in the transient, midscale market, and IHG was leaving 14 million potential guests on the table by not having a brand in that $20 billion-dollar market segment.
Rooms are smaller than the traditional Holiday Inn Express, but make exceptional use of space with open-plan closets, exceptionally bright bathrooms with glass showers and J.T. Watkins toiletry products, built-in desks and headboards with plentiful power and USB outlets, and wall-mounted flat-screen cable TVs. Hardwood floors and no suites (these take up to 15 minutes longer to clean traditionally) make it more efficient for staff to complete housekeeping duties. Guests also have the option to receive 500 IHG Rewards points instead of daily housekeeping, which furthers staff efficiency.
Designed around a solid night’s sleep, king or queen beds are topped with premium mattresses (the same used at IHG’s wellness-focused EVEN Hotels), soft duvets, a choice of firm and soft pillows, cushioned headboards, and blackout shades over the windows. There are no drawers or closets in rooms so as to prevent unnecessary noise passing through the walls.
Maalouf points out that avid targets “principled everyday travelers” that don’t require much from a hotel beyond the basics. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t fancy extras like well-equipped athletic studios and the ability to “cast” entertainment apps (like Netflix and YouTube) from personal devices to the TV without any need to provide password details.
Minute Maid and Vitamin Water beverages are among the popular brands on offer, and free “bean-to-cup” coffee from fancy coffee machines mean that every cup is piping hot and personalized. The fresh-grind coffee machines offer normal, half-caffeinated, or completely decaf options 24 hours a day, and this is in addition to a water station with still and sparkling water.
There’s also an avid Hotels Guarantee giving guests the assurance that if there stay cannot be made perfect, they would be refunded.
With 130 development deals already signed, avid hotels marks one of the fastest brand launches in the history of the industry.
By Ramsey Qubein
Ramsey is a regular contributor to Business Traveler across all print, digital, web and social channels. He travels more than 400,000 miles a year criss-crossing the globe to report on hotels, airlines, loyalty programs, and all things travel.