DOUBLETREE'S FAST TRACK

Some people consider Doubletree to be the stepchild flag in the Hilton family. Dave Horton is not one of them. The Doubletree brand manager and Hilton senior vice president is overseeing a three-pronged, $30-million strategy to uplift the brand's image, add units to the 150-property chain and produce rapid returns for owners.

Key to the initiative is a significant product improvement program that covers bed, bath and technology. “The goal is to put more ‘home’ into our hotels and our guest-rooms,” says Horton. “We've created four elegant and cost-effective room décor packages that we're able to roll out to hotels very quickly, which is particularly important for conversion properties.”

The system is spending $80 million to install its new Sweet Dreams bedding package in all guestrooms. The project is about 40 percent complete. Three-fourths of rooms will have the bed by the end of the year, and the program will be complete by 2007. Similarly, the chain is finalizing installation of high-speed Internet access in all rooms. (The guestroom HSIA is a guest-pay system, but free wireless connectivity will be available in the chain's public spaces.)

Bathroom upgrades include curved shower rods and residential-style vanity units to store rolled-up towels, hair dryers and other accessories.

Doubletree is riding a strong growth curve, adding 35 properties in the past two years. An additional 16 should join the brand this year, with a target of 200 hotels by 2008.

Thanks to a beefed-up national print ad campaign and the power of Hilton HHonors, the brand has been able to double its volume of central res contributions and boost market share by 10 points, says Horton.

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