Kicking off the New Year at this year’s annual Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS), Choice Hotels invites the lodging community to rediscover its flagship brand. The Comfort brand family, which includes Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites, has embarked on a multi-faceted plan to strengthen and revitalize its 2,000 domestic hotels.
The “Comfort: Redefined and Redesigned” plan is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2015 and focuses on three key strategies - removing underperforming properties, refreshing existing hotels and adding new construction prototypical hotels.
“The Comfort name is one that travelers have trusted for generations. It’s our goal to revitalize the Comfort brand family, drive greater consistency and ensure guests enjoy the best experience every time they stay at a Comfort brand hotel,” said Alexandra Jaritz, senior vice president of brand strategy and marketing for Choice Hotels.
Removal of Hotels that Do Not Meet Guest Satisfaction Standards
Brand executives at Choice Hotels, one of the world’s largest lodging franchisors, recently put in place higher guest satisfaction standards for the Comfort brand family with the goal of securing the brand’s place as the best option for travelers within the upper midscale segment. “The new guest satisfaction standards are based on the voice of the guest,” said Alexandra Jaritz, “and if guest feedback indicates that a property is not living up to standards, we have implemented stricter consequences for underperforming properties.” This part of the plan is especially impactful for Comfort Inn. In addition to terminations issued for other reasons, Choice is prepared to remove up to 10 percent of the Comfort Inn system if those hotels do not rise above the new guest satisfaction thresholds.
Product Improvement Plans and New Brand Programs for Existing Hotels
The company is also implementing new brand programs at existing hotels designed to help them compete at a higher level. Brand programs were developed after extensive research with upper midscale and midscale guests. “We implemented the new Your Morning® breakfast program and flat panel TVs in 2011 at Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites, and we have already seen significant increases in guest satisfaction as a result,” said Christina Goldie Williamson, senior director of brand strategy for the Comfort brand family. “In 2012, all Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites hotels will implement the ‘Your First Impression’ program, aimed at delivering a consistent and contemporary welcome experience to our guests.” Additional brand programs are under development and will be launched over the course of the next three years.
Complementing the planned brand programs, nearly 70% of the Comfort system will complete more comprehensive Property Improvement Plans by the end of 2015, ensuring that the Comfort brand family provides a reliable and refreshed guest experience.
A New Prototype and Design that Drives Guests’ “Intent to Stay” at Comfort
The brands’ new Truly Yours™ prototypes, which were formally launched at ALIS, were designed and developed using feedback from more than 1,500 guests in addition to in-depth interviews with developers. Consumer research indicates that overall intent to stay at Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites nearly doubles* in response to the new design and that guests are willing to pay significantly more on average per night compared to the current design.**
“We designed the new Comfort prototypes with the idea that our guests and developers are the true architects,” added Jaritz. “Through extensive consumer testing, we identified the amenities and design elements that appeal most to them. The result is a warm, inviting hotel design that not only resonates with our guests, but also appeals to experienced developers seeking a hotel that is highly cost-effective to build and operate.”
“As the largest family of brands within the Choice Hotels portfolio, Comfort offers owners and developers strong potential for a return on investment,” said David Pepper, executive vice president, global development, Choice Hotels. “Low development and operating cost models, combined with an appealing new prototype and an aggressive revitalization plan for our existing hotels, makes the Comfort brand family an appealing investment.” To show commitment for the new Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites prototypes, Choice plans to offer development incentives for multi-site deals.
The Future of Comfort: Redefined and Redesigned
“With thirty years of successful history, Comfort is an iconic brand with guests and developers,” said Goldie Williamson. “By the end of 2015, we’ll have a refreshed system that is not only more competitive but also delivers a more consistent guest experience. The ‘Redefined and Redesigned’ plan is going to set the stage for the next thirty years of success for the Comfort brand family.”