While some hotels may be considered trendy, you wouldn't think a major global hotel chain would watch lifestyle trends so carefully that it would launch brands around them.
But InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) is different. Back in 2004, IHG introduced Hotel Indigo, widely regarded as the first of the boutique hotel brands that started a trend among large hoteliers. In 2007, IHG started refurbishing its somewhat dowdy Holiday Inn brand and gave franchisees until the end of 2010 to "contemporize" or risk losing rights to use the iconic name. Today, most Holiday Inns have been updated to reflect a whole new look. Holiday Inn Express, which pioneered the limited-service hotel segment in 1990, is one of the fastest growing hotel brands.
Now IHG is bringing a new hotel brand to the chain's biggest U.S. cities, bucking the trend of major chains making investments in Asia and Europe while avoiding a soft and saturated North American market. The just-announced brand, called EVEN Hotels, is all about lifestyle — a healthy one.
“The wellness sector continues to grow year over year and the launch of EVEN Hotels will allow IHG to take advantage of this long term trend,” stated Kirk Kinsell, IHG's president, the Americas. “The U.S. represents two-thirds of IHG’s rooms today, and this exciting new brand will help us to continue to grow our share in this important market. We expect to sign contracts for 100 EVEN Hotels within the next five years.”
EVEN Hotels will focus on four priority areas: Exercise, Eat, Work, and Rest. Customer experience will reign supreme, with a goal to offer guests "a customized approach to holistic wellness."
To that end, each EVEN location will include such unique features as guest rooms designed for in-room workouts (every room includes an exercise mat and a coat rack doubles as a pull-up bar, for example); best-in-class gyms and group exercise activities; nutritionally designed menus with a focus on natural, fresh, fit and energizing meals, available anytime; free flavored filtered water and free mini-smoothies in the morning; and other amenities such as hypoallergenic linens, powerful showerheads, and natural lighting.
The EVEN brand, which will appeal to range of travelers from business to casual and fits in with the LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) philosophy, follows IHG's strategy of targeting specific audiences with specific needs.
IHG CEO Richard Solomons told USA Today that research conducted by IHG indicates some 17 million people, or approximately one in every four travelers, think hotels don't accommodate their healthy lifestyle needs. The chain analyzed emerging trends, conducted quantitative and qualitative research, and talked with over 4,000 customers, confirming that wellness while traveling is a major concern. "You don't create a brand that's got genuine heart and target it to everybody," Solomons said. "If you try to make it for everybody, it's for nobody. Some of the most successful hotel brands are just bland. They're successful because they're consistent; you know what you're getting."
IHG has over 3,000 hotels and more than 384,000 rooms in the U.S., according to the Wall Street Journal, but "IHG executives believe there is room for the EVEN brand in the crowded U.S. market because of the large number of health-minded travelers in the 'upper midscale' segment."
IHG, headquartered in the U.K., reportedly will invest $150 million, buying hotels and converting them to the EVEN brand. IHG has a goal of opening as many as 100 EVEN hotels in key U.S. cities in five years, beginning early next year.
For more, watch Kirk Kinsell, president for the Americas at IHG, speak about EVEN Hotels on Bloomberg Television.