Skift Take

Meeting the needs of today's modern business traveler is something a lot of brands are attempting to do these days, some more successfully than others. While some of Crowne Plaza's ideas might not be overtly groundbreaking, this reinvestment in the brand is vital to its future success if it wants to compete against the other big brands vying for road warriors' loyalty.

Crowne Plaza wants to shed its image as just another business hotel, and transform that brand perception into something more meaningful and forward thinking.

In short, Crowne Plaza wants to be, as Eric Lent, VP of the Americas for Crowne Plaza said, “the brand that makes business travel work for the modern business traveler.”

And to do that, parent company InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is investing $200 million into the brand over the next three years through marketing, owner incentives, and more support at the property level, specifically throughout the Americas, where Crowne Plaza has 171 properties spread out over 45,000 rooms.

There are echoes of Starwood’s attempt to address Sheraton’s status as a “tired brand” by investing $100 million in a marketing campaign that started last year and also looked to business travelers.

Last week, at a meeting for Crowne Plaza hotel property owners, IHG executives laid out their formal plans for the brand that will begin in the Americas and eventually may spread out to other international regions.

Lent was quick to point out that the investment isn’t so much “a rebranding as it is a crystallization for the brand that meets the evolved needs of today’s guests.”

Explaining the transformation further, Lent said, “If you think about business [media], on one end of the spectrum is Forbes, which is more traditional and expected. Then you have Fast Company, which is this new business style. This is our opportunity to be the Fast Company of business hotels — to be at the forefront of a new way of doing business that’s design led, culturally relevant, and tech enabled.”

Those needs, Lent said, have to do with the increasing convergence of work life and home life, and what’s changed since the Great Recession of 2008. So many companies were forced to downsize, but the amount of work remained, signaling the “death of true work-life balance,” he said.

“What has emerged is this need for work-life integration, and blending of objectives in both your work life and personal life,” Lent explained. “You blend the two together to get things done. You sit on your couch at home at night and you’re kind of relaxing by watching the TV, but you’re also kind of working by having your phone and laptop out, too. That’s the reality of today’s workplace. How do you design a work place to allow people to be as productive and efficient as possible?”

With that kind of perspective in mind, here’s a look at a few of the things IHG has in store for the brand:

A new marketing campaign: This will kick off in the first quarter of 2017, building on the momentum of the past 24 months, and will stretch across digital, social, and television. Expect to see buzzy catchphrases like “business blurs with life;” “modern swagger;” and “the status quo is being replaced” if Crowne Plaza’s promotional materials for owners are any indication.

New guest rooms: The new room design, called “WorkLife,” is Crowne Plaza’s approach to creating a balanced work-life environment, and was originally announced in 2014. The room designs are now available for owners to implement in their properties and Lent said that so far, there’s been “great owner feedback.”

The look of these rooms is a modern take on midcentury modern design but the most striking thing about them is, perhaps, the placement of the furniture: the beds and couches seem to be angled in a certain way. Lent said the effect is to “drive more of a cocoon-like experience” and he said guests get “increased usable square footage of the room.” We’re not so sure about having extra room to use (what about that space between the wall and the angled headboard for the beds, for instance?), but it’s an interesting concept nonetheless.

Starting this year, Crowne Plaza is also adding new mattresses and next year, new pillows, and new uniforms for its staff members, which will be designed by a well-known fashion designer, said Lent.

New public work/meeting spaces: Taking a cue from the popularity of co-working spaces and what Lent identified as “third spaces,” like coffee shops where people go to get their work done, Crowne Plaza worked with design firm IDEO to develop innovative “Flex Meetings” spaces throughout the public spaces of their hotels.

The best way to describe these spaces is that they allow for more private, smaller meeting spaces in more public areas. Most have iPads where you can order and pay for food and beverage that’s delivered to your table, and some also have monitors where you can connect your laptop for presentations, too.

It’s still in pilot mode, but just last week, 15 more properties were added to the pilot and by 2017, these new spaces will be available for all Crowne Plaza hotels in the Americas.

Better tech and Wi-Fi: The brand is also investing in tech upgrades like faster Wi-Fi, more power outlets, and much more.

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Tags: crowne plaza, intercontinental hotels group

Photo credit: Crowne Plaza worked with design firm IDEO to develop new Flexible Meeting spaces. The program is still in pilot but will expand to all Crowne Plaza properties in the Americas beginning next year. InterContinental Hotels Group / Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts

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