Firing Up The Troops

The InterContinental Hotels Group Investors & Leadership Conference in early October gave various IHG executives an opportunity to tout their brands and encourage thousands of IHG hotel owners to build on a booming hotel economy.

The conference, held in the cavernous Toronto Convention Centre, drew close to 5,000, even more than last year's in Las Vegas. While tweaks to several brand offerings were announced, nothing “revolutionary,” like a new brand or even an improvement to bedding, was unveiled. Several new brand websites are up or imminent, spiffy, funny new ads for Holiday Inn were broadcast, there is new emphasis on StayBridge Suites' proprietary Home Theater Concept, and there are increased responsibilities for the cheeky Peter Gowers, a Brit with global marketing responsibilities.

“Global” was key; in executive commentary and a panel on the state of the industry featuring the likes of Hotel Association of Canada President Tony Pollard, Mexican political commentator Sergio Sarmiento and long-time lodging industry consultant D.K. Shifflet, the conference confirmed IHG's position as a standalone hotel company.

The “sleeping giant” IHG is “starting to flex its muscles,” IHG CEO Andy Cosslett told the packed general session. “Our brands are well-defined, and our hotels consistently well-presented.” He noted that Chinese is the third most common language spoken in Canada, and that IHG aims to continue as the leading hotel company in China, where Holiday Inn is the dominant brand.

In the next two years, 60 percent of new IHG rooms will be developed outside the United States. Eighty percent of the IHG pipeline is new construction, according to Kirk Kinsell, senior vice president, Americas franchising and development.

To solidify its position, IHG put the customer relationship management-savvy Gowers in charge of global marketing and lured Tom Conophy (who said he wants IHG technology to be “your hotel dial tone“) from Starwood as chief information officer. It also commissioned what Cosslett called the “largest program of market research ever undertaken in this industry.”

All in all, the conference eloquently testified to the vigor of the lodging industry and the bullish, international approach of IHG, which calls itself the world's biggest brand.

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