CHOICE CONSIDERS NEW SEGMENT

If it's convention time at Choice Hotels, it must be time to roll out a new product. Last year, the franchisor unveiled an all-suites prototype that later became Cambria Suites, its new upscale boutique brand. At this year's conference, held in May in Las Vegas, Choice asked franchisees to tour and provide feedback on a room prototype that may evolve into a new economy extended-stay brand to compete with Extended Stay America, Value Place and other players in the segment.

“Based on the results from our MainStay Suites product, we've seen a general rise in interest in extended stay from both guests and developers,” says Dave Goldberg, vice president, strategy and business development. “And Choice has the distribution capabilities, the large guest base and the brand power to create a successful economy extended-stay product.”

The prototype previewed in Las Vegas has 130 units, sits on 1.76 acres of land and costs between $27,000 and $29,000 per key (plus land) to develop. Guest units are about 225 square feet, and amenities in the prototype include refrigerator, microwave, 27-inch TV, desk/dinner table, one double bed and open closet.

Depending on feedback from the development community, Choice may launch the unnamed brand in 2006.

Last year's prototype, which became Cambria Suites, is off to a fast start since its official launch earlier this year. So far, the company has executed four contracts and says it has more than two dozen in the pipeline. The first Cambria Suites is scheduled to open in the third quarter of 2006 in Savannah, GA to be followed by properties in Phoenix; Boise, ID; and Somerset, NJ. Development costs are about $63,000 per key, plus land and soft costs.

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