When Choice Hotels first appeared on 1851’s 25 Brands to Watch list last year, they were in the midst of a major rejuvenation. Since then, Comfort Inn and Suites in particular (one of Choice’s 11 brands) has embarked on a system-wide revamp—one that’s expected to help drive a 40 percent increase in new domestic hotel contracts and a 50 percent increase for the Suites brand in particular. And so far, those efforts to refresh the brand are already paying off in a big way.
With more than 6,400 franchised units, Choice Hotels boasts nearly half a million rooms worldwide. According to a press release, the company saw a 20 percent increase of domestic hotels awaiting conversion, construction or development since 2015. Comfort Inn and Suites' overhaul alone added 180 hotels to the development pipeline—a number twice as large as the two years preceding the rejuvenation. The success can be attributed to its new focus on location strategy for new properties, which has resulted in higher development interest and better unit-level performance overall.
"The appeal of the Comfort brand transcends style trends and market types. In a world where other brands are pursuing complex, edgy and loud designs, we want Comfort to be accessible to everyone – developers and travelers alike," said David Pepper, chief development officer for Choice Hotels, in a press release. "The ongoing multi-year Comfort brand transformation continues to see solid gains across key performance metrics, and that momentum is heightening developer interest and new construction agreements. As a result, we are continuing to drive consistency and quality across the brand, ensuring guest satisfaction as well as brand loyalty."
One specific performance metric Pepper refers to is the hotel group’s recent spike in RevPAR index gains, which measures performance by occupancy, average daily rate and revenue per available room.
In addition to adding hotels, Choice is in the process of removing underperforming units from the Comfort brand and improving guest satisfaction at those that remain. Upgraded amenities such as healthier complimentary breakfasts, exclusive bath and body products and higher quality towels are all part of Choice and Comfort’s combined $250 million investment to enhance the company.
Choice Hotels Vice President of Brand Strategy Anne Smith said in a press release that they are working hard to exceed the expectations of the upper midscale guest, which is why experience and wellness stand at the forefront of the transformation. A new tagline, “Rested. Set. Go®,” embodies the enhancements brought to Comfort as well as the hope that each guest leaves feeling refreshed. Comfort is also promising to become 100 percent smoke-free by the beginning of 2017, which would make it the largest U.S. hotel brand to do so.
Choice’s efforts to refresh its comfort brand has proven to be fruitful. And the process is only beginning.
"Comfort has taken a series of bold steps to enhance the guest experience while anticipating the needs of today's business and leisure travelers," Smith said. "From a service perspective, we are empowering franchisees to foster a great sense of pride in brand and teamwork at their hotels. And, guests are already enjoying updates such as enhancements to breakfast, lemon-infused ice water stations in all lobbies, and our upgraded bath experience as well as our smoke-free promise. We are working hard to exceed the expectations of the upper midscale guest."