ATLANTA, Feb. 13 Kemmons Wilson, 90, founder of Holiday Inn(R) Hotels & Resorts, passed Wednesday, February 12 at his home in Memphis, Tenn.
Wilson opened the first Holiday Inn hotel on August 1, 1952, in Memphis after he returned from a family road trip discouraged over the lack of family and value-oriented lodging. Kemmons saw an opportunity to provide consistent lodging options and a trusted brand name on the road.
From this experience, Wilson`s vision emerged and an American icon was born. He created a place where children stayed free and families were treated to a swimming pool, air conditioning and a restaurant at the property. Rounding out the ideal travel experience, Wilson also offered in-room telephones, televisions, free ice and free parking at his properties. Although commonplace today, these services were revolutionary at the time and set a standard for every hotel that would follow.
Some might say Wilson was an overnight success and started a road travel revolution, but famous for his personal Twenty Tips for Success, Wilson would just cite his favorite: “Remember that success requires half luck and half brains.”
So he expanded the brand, literally following the U.S. interstate highway system`s growth across the country. The familiar Holiday Inn sign soon came to represent comfort, quality, consistency and value to millions of travelers just as it does today.
“Kemmons Wilson is the sole reason the Holiday Inn brand exists today. He set the standard for the modern lodging industry, and his vision and foresight will forever be remembered,” said Stevan Porter, president, The Americas, for Six Continents Hotels, parent company of Holiday Inn. “He truly embodied the American entrepreneurial spirit.”
In August 2002, Wilson left another legacy to the industry with the opening of the Kemmons Wilson School of Hotel and Resort Management at the University of Memphis. The school admitted its first students in the fall of 2002. The Wilson School is one of the few hospitality programs with an on- site, full-service hotel—a Holiday Inn—where students can learn the business first-hand.
“Holiday Inn was born from one man`s vision that started in a packed family station wagon and has forever changed the hotel industry and they way we travel today,” said Jay Fishman, chairman of the International Association of Holiday Inns (IAHI). “But it was his own family`s comfort and enjoyment that Kemmons considered his greatest reward. We continue to be motivated by his dream every day.”
Wilson established the IAHI in 1955 as an organization of Holiday Inn franchisees and representatives of his company charged with working together for the purpose of maintaining the highest professional hospitality standards for the Holiday Inn hotel system. Today the IAHI includes owners and operators of all Six Continents Hotels franchised brands.
Wilson is survived by his five children: Spence, Bob, Kemmons Jr., Betty and Carole; 14 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Dorothy Wilson, his wife of 59 years, died February 10, 2001.
Funeral services will be held Saturday, February 15, 2003, at 11 a.m. at Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis, where Wilson was a member for 46 years.
Six Continents(SM) Hotels, the hotel business of Six Continents PLC of the United Kingdom [(NYSE: SXC; London (ADRs)], owns, manages, leases or franchises more than 3,300 hotels and 515,000 guest rooms in nearly 100 countries and territories.