David Hart, the new chairman of the International Association of Holiday Inns (IAHI), plans to take an activist role as the InterContinental Hotel Group's owners' association celebrates its 50th anniversary. Kemmons Wilson, the father of the franchised hotel, launched the unique buffer group just three years after he started Holiday Inns.

Second-generation hotelier Hart, president and chief executive officer of Buffalo, NY-based Hart Hotels, was appointed to a one-year stint as leader of the IAHI board of directors in late September, when IHG held its Investors & Leadership Conference in Las Vegas.

In an interview during the conference, Hart said one of the key IAHI challenges is making sure the assessments IHG levies on franchisees are well spent. He noted that franchisee participation in Priority Club is expensive — it takes 10 to 15 percent off the top line — so making it work is critical. InterContinental should spend some of its Priority Club funds on advertising, he said.

Also of concern: the performance of Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza.

“The IAHI and IHG are in agreement that there is a gap in performance between our current results and our potential,” Hart said in a later interview. “That's a good start. With both brands, we need to identify or create service, facility and amenity hallmarks that resonate with our guests and deliver them consistently by motivated associates, in a clean, secure, well-maintained environment.

“Once this is achieved, we need to promote this — frequently — preferably on the airwaves. The genius of these tactics is the simplicity; the challenge is simply delivering day-by-day, guest-by-guest. This is a formula where all stakeholders can contribute, including IHG company executives, owners, IAHI staff, hotel managers, and hotel associates.”

Hart, outgoing IAHI Chairman David Shamoian and IAHI President Eva Ferguson all suggested that IHG needs to promote and advertise its brands more effectively. “Holiday Inn is so big and the hotels are so different, they haven't found one niche to market,” she said.

According to Shamoian, IAHI and IHG have a good relationship “but don't always agree on everything.” InterContinental executives count on IAHI to tell them of owner concerns. As Stevan Porter, president of IHG, the Americas, put it, there is an “important tension” between IAHI and IHG.

Programs IAHI aims to expand include its General Managers Academy (IHG gave IAHI a $50,000 check to subsidize its second GMA) and Leadership Institute. The IAHI raised $1.5 million for its disaster relief fund following hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

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