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Design-driven strategies

am sure it is not a coincidence that as our industry continues its economic rebound, many of the hotel brands are adding to the ranks of their purchasing and design departments not only in personnel, but also in new and innovative ways of doing business. One thing is for sure: They’re being aggressive in getting the message out to their franchisees that they are anxious to get moving on some of the long-anticipated PIPs and renovations.

In this issue, you’ll get a glimpse of how two different brands are going about getting their business done. First, there’s La Quinta Inns & Suites, which has an interesting dynamic in that it owns nearly as many properties as it has franchised. (La Quinta currently has 384 corporate-owned hotels and 438 franchised.) The other is Hilton Hotels and Resorts, which recently launched the Hilton Design Studio, an online tool that allows owners and designers to implement the brand’s latest design guidelines.

Murry J. Cathlina, La Quinta’s EVP of design and construction, insists that even though property performance has improved recently, the brand is still very sensitive to adding products, especially when it comes to the franchised hotels. He explained, “We know with every rollout comes a cost, and that if [franchisees] already have product that is serviceable and has life expectancy left, then asking them to replace it arbitrarily in favor of the new item is a decision we are going to make carefully. Only if we think it’s a significant ROI or benefit to the brand overall would we ask franchisees to roll out something concurrently with corporate properties.”

Hilton Hotels and Resorts continues to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to product design. The aforementioned Hilton Design Studio is just one more example of the company developing processes and procedures to assist owners and developers in running their properties more efficiently. It’s a great communication tool that enables more productive communication between all of the partners involved in any certain project. 

Larry Traxler, Hilton Worldwide SVP of global design, said of the initiative, “We’re really trying to refocus our efforts to become more of a design-led brand. We want the brand to be led more by the style and ambience of the hotels, factoring in the local culture and tradition. Travelers are much more sophisticated today than ever before and we believe they expect a higher level of design and finishes.”

Throughout these pages, one thing has been made crystal clear: Today, more than ever, brands are seeing design as one of the most critical aspects to the overall success of their hotels.