The brand-wide refresh of the Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites brands is hitting a sweet spot with guests and developers. At the 2012 Lodging Conference, Choice Hotels International, which franchises the Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites brands, announced that the Comfort “Redefined & Redesigned” plan is gaining momentum with the groundbreaking of new Comfort branded hotels, significant increases in guest satisfaction scores due to recently launched programs, and removal of hotels from the Comfort system that do not live up to guest expectations.
Revitalizing an Iconic Brand
“With more than three decades of success behind us, we’re focused on the future of Comfort,” said Christina Goldie Williamson, Senior Director of Brand Strategy and Head of Domestic Brand Management for the Comfort Family. “We’re thrilled with the results we’re already seeing and the renewed developer and guest interest in Comfort. Our goal is to have a refreshed system that is not only more competitive, but delivers a more consistent guest experience.”
Five New Hotels Break Ground with the New Comfort Prototype
The brands’ new Truly Yours® prototypes, which were formally launched earlier this year, were designed and developed using in-depth feedback from more than 1,500 guests and developers. Consumer research indicates that overall intent to stay at Comfort hotels nearly doubles in response to the new design and that guests are willing to pay significantly more on average per night compared with the current design. Guest response has been overwhelmingly favorable to the new concept’s warm and inviting look and feel.
Developers are taking note – with the first hotels using the new prototype breaking ground in geographically diverse markets including Houston, TX; Fargo, ND; Bozeman, MT; Farmington, NM and Cheyenne, WY.
Brand-Wide Improvements to Existing Comfort Hotels
Existing Comfort hotels are also making changes to better appeal to guests. Brand programs were developed after extensive research with upper midscale and midscale guests. “In 2011, Comfort hotels implemented the new Your Morning® breakfast program and flat panel TV requirements, and we continue to see significant increases in guest satisfaction,” continued Williamson. “In 2012, all Comfort hotels will implement the Your First Impression program, aimed at delivering a consistent and contemporary welcome experience to our guests.” All Comfort hotels will implement a new bedding and pillow package that was defined during the development of the new design. Additional brand programs are under development for 2014 and 2015. “This refresh program is massive and it’s having a significant impact on guest satisfaction,” said Williamson. “Comfort hotels have added 154,000 new flat panel TVs, served 25 million waffles last year and are in the process of rolling out one million new pillows and 230,000 refreshed beds.”
Complementing the programs outlined above, the Comfort Suites brand is focused on meeting the needs of business travelers, the vast majority of whom stay in midscale hotels. Those business travelers accounted for more than 115 million room nights industry-wide in 2011. Comfort Suites has already upgraded all of its business centers and added new in-room multi-function charging stations so that business travelers can stay connected. Comfort Suites hotels are also implementing the new Your Suite Success Fitness Centers and the Your Suite Success Market Place, which will be in place in early 2013.
In addition to these brand-wide programs, nearly 70% of the Comfort system will complete a Property Improvement Plan by the end of 2015, implementing key elements of the new design that increase intent to stay at Comfort hotels and ensuring that the Comfort brand always provides a reliable and refreshed guest experience.
Removing Hotels That Don’t Meet New Guest Satisfaction Standards
Brand executives recently implemented higher guest satisfaction standards for the Comfort brand family with the goal of securing the brand’s place as the first option for travelers within the upper midscale segment. “The new guest satisfaction standards are based on the voice of the guest,” said Williamson. “When guest feedback indicates that a property is not living up to standards, we take action to improve or remove those properties.” Choice has already started to remove hotels that are below the new guest satisfaction standard, and will continue to do so throughout the coming years. In Choice is prepared to remove up to 10 percent of the Comfort system if those hotels do not meet guest satisfaction thresholds.