Holiday Inn offers a consistent and reliably welcoming experience

Posted On Oct 9, 2014

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“Holiday Inn offers a consistent and reliably welcoming experience”

Holiday Inn hotels offers the perfect mix of business and pleasure for today’s comfort-seeking traveller by providing an inviting, familiar atmosphere where guests can relax and enjoy themselves, says PASCAL GAUVIN, Chief Operating Officer, India, Middle East & Africa, IHG.

In Conversation with TnH, Gauvin talks about USP of Holiday Inn brand of IHG. He also speaks about IHG’s ambitious expansion plans for the Holiday Inn brand in India.
Kindly give an overview of Holiday Inn brand in terms of its origin, objectives and evolution.

Holiday Inn was born out of a family man's vision. Before he became the man behind the world's most recognised hotel brand, Kemmons Wilson took his family on a road trip only to be disappointed by the quality of places to stay. He set out to change that and the first Holiday Inn hotel was opened in 1952 in Memphis, Tennessee. It was the first hotel brand to consistently offer TVs, air-conditioning, free parking, a full-service restaurant and a pool, all at an affordable price. Today, Holiday Inn continues to champion the family-friendly values that Kemmons first envisaged and every year 100 million people stay at Holiday Inn (and Holiday Inn Express) hotels around the world. Globally there are around 1,200 Holiday Inn hotels with 268 properties in the development pipeline. It’s a brand that has a history of firsts, including being the first international hotel brand to open in China 30 years ago, the first hotel brand to take an online booking in 1995 to the first Olympic Partner to help run the Athletes’ Village at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

In 1991, we launched Holiday Inn Express, which is part of the Holiday Inn family of brands. Holiday Inn Express appeals to guests who are after a refreshing, comfortable and convenient stay in city-centre locations around the world - all while managing their money wisely. Guests are always welcomed with the same genuine hospitality

“We feel that mid-scale is a big opportunity in India. We have ambitious expansion plans for the Holiday Inn brand family in India; close to 85% of our development pipeline (by number of hotels) in India are Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express hotels. We’re making sure that our brand is locally relevant by bringing our global brand standards to India but customised for the Indian market.” by a name they can trust - Holiday Inn.

What is USP of Holiday Inn brand? What segments of travellers is this brand targeted at?
Whether travelling as a family, or booking a business meeting, Holiday Inn hotels offer a consistent and reliably welcoming experience in more than 70 countries around the world. It offers the perfect mix of business and pleasure for today’s comfort-seeking traveller by providing an inviting, familiar atmosphere where guests can relax and enjoy themselves. For guests travelling with their families, Holiday Inn was the first hotel brand to offer ‘Kids Stay & Eat Free’ programme. Holiday Inn Resorts have specially designed KidSuites and Family Suites, Kids Club, and facilities designed especially for the youngest family members.

How does this brand suit to markets like India?
Consumer demand in India is booming, driven by urbanisation and growing incomes. We feel that mid-scale is a big opportunity in India. We have ambitious expansion plans for the Holiday Inn brand family in India - close to 85% of our development pipeline (by number of hotels) in India are Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express hotels. We’re making sure that our brand is locally relevant by bringing our global brand standards to India but customised for the Indian market - for example by tailoring our dining concepts to reflect regional tastes and cultures. We’re using consumer insight to provide guest experiences that are locally relevant.

How has this brand grown in India?
Do you have any plan to enter into a strategic tie-up with other company for Indian market in near future, on the lines of your tie-up with Duet Hotel India or otherwise?
Currently, we have eight Holiday Inn hotels and two Holiday Inn Express hotels across major metros and secondary cities. In addition to our 20 year management contract with Duet India Hotels Group, we have also signed agreements with, the Amrapali Group to open six hotels (two Holiday Inn hotels and four Holiday Inn Express hotels); the Brigade Group to develop 10 Holiday Inn Express hotels in South India, and with the Jain Group to bring three Holiday Inn hotels to West Bengal. We’re actively developing strategic partnerships to expand in India and will continue to explore opportunities.

In India how has been the performance of the existing hotels under this brand?
We have seen an enthusiastic response to Holiday Inn hotels across the country. The comfort, convenience and friendliness that the brand is recognised for worldwide, has been appreciated by guests at our India hotels. The fact that we bring our global brand standards customized to the Indian market through F&B offerings, décor, services has also been recognized. Developing the Holiday Inn brand, is core to the IHG growth strategy in India as we are confident that the brand is a perfect offering for the globetrotting new-age travellers in India.

What are the pros and cons of Indian market? How will you compare Indian market with other key markets in terms of doing business?
India is a key growth market for IHG as we see a positive outlook for both domestic and international tourism in the country. The new government has recognized the vital role hospitality plays in generating integral foreign exchange dollars and creating significant employment opportunities. Additionally, the decision to extend visaon- arrival to tourists from 180 countries and relaxation of lending rules for infrastructure developments signify bright prospects for the Indian tourism industry. Whilst the tourism industry in India has seen many positive developments, there remain a number of challenges across markets that need to be addressed in order to boost the tourism industry on the state and national level.

These challenges are: DEVELOPING A SKILLED & MOTIVATED WORKFORCE A major challenge in development of tourism sector is lack of a skilled workforce. By 2020, the hospitality sector in India will require an additional 180,000 rooms and more than 200,000 people to run them. The industry itself has to play a role in skill development. One good example is the partnership between IHG and one of India’s largest vocational training organisations, IL&FS Skills. Such collaborations provide hotel companies opportunities to share industry knowledge and enhance the skills of those who want to build a career in tourism and hospitality. It also allows us to contribute to local communities in a sustainable and meaningful way.

IMPLEMENTING SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES
Travellers are becoming more educated about environmental issues, and in turn increasingly environmentally conscious. This has not gone unnoticed by the industry and we now see hotels actively adopting sustainable practices such as measures to reduce water and energy consumption. On an industry level, we also see hotel companies investing in systems to help their hotels implement sustainable practices. For example, we have an online system we call IHG Green Engage which measures the impact our hotels have on the environment, and helps them manage costs. This is done by tracking energy, carbon and water that our hotels use and how well they’re managing waste. It also tells our owners what they’re spending and saving.

How do you look at opportunities and competition in mid-market segment in India, with many domestic and international chains focusing on mid-market segment?

The Indian travel market is evolving as consumers are constantly exposed to international brands, concepts and trends. We recognize that travellers are becoming increasingly value-conscious and thus, there is a strong demand for mid-scale hotels. Our growth plans are accordingly focused on the mid-scale segment which for us comprises of Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express brands. We have ambitious expansion plans for the two brands with close to 85% of our development pipeline comprising of Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express hotels. In this highly competitive landscape, one of the key areas which set us apart is our talent. In the future, we intend to continue investing in nurturing that talent. We are able to continuously differentiate ourselves and deliver consistent guest experiences, through our brands and our service levels that ultimately drive preference.

HOLIDAY INN OVER THE YEARS
2013: IHG signs an agreement with Brigade group to develop 10 Holiday Inn Express hotels in South India.
2012: The first Holiday Inn Express hotel is opened in India - Holiday Inn Express Ahmedabad - with Spence Wilson (son of Kemmons Wilson) in attendance.
2012: Holiday Inn celebrated its 60th anniversary
1984: Holiday Inn is the first international hotel brand to open in China with Holiday Inn Lido Beijing.
1973: Asia’s first Holiday Inn hotel opens in Kyoto, Japan.
1967: The first Holiday Inn in Europe opens in the Netherlands, Holiday Inn Leiden.
1960: The first Holiday Inn opens outside of the US, in Montreal.
1952: Holiday Inn was founded in Memphis Tennessee by Kemmons Wilson.

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