Holiday Inn Express Joins the Army

IHG Blues

The operational challenges of running a hotel chain are daunting. Nevertheless, a number of organizations have flourished providing a consistent and relatively cost-effective package to road warriors. We all have our favorite airlines and hotels (often driven by loyalty point programs, location, and other key features that, for frequent travellers, become almost impossible to work without) but one of the largest and interesting outfits is the Intercontinental Hotels Group or IHG, which runs brands including InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn Hotels and Resorts, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites, Candlewood Suites and Hotel Indigo, and also manages the world’s largest hotel loyalty program, Priority Club Rewards with over 37 million members worldwide. IHG is one of the world’s largest hotel groups by number of rooms. IHG owns, manages, leases or franchises, through various subsidiaries, almost 4,000 hotels and more than 590,000 guest rooms in nearly 100 countries and territories around the world. Now IHG is operating hotels for the U.S. Army.

Over the past three years the Army has started taking most of its 17,000 hotel rooms private, letting big firms build, renovate, and operate them to save money and modernize the facilities. About 4,000 rooms have been remade through a program called Privatization of Army Lodging or PAL.

The primary guests at army hotels are soldiers who are participating in training, receiving medical treatment or waiting for permanent housing.

The Holiday Inn Express at Fort Hood is a good example of what is to come at other army bases. The interior was gutted at the hotel, which must meet the same standards as those off-post. New furniture was brought in and service standards upgraded. Renovated hotels will operate under the Holiday Inn Express name, while new ones will be branded as Candlewood Suites.

It is a big departure from army-run hotels. where quality was often mixed. Some looked and felt like old barracks, like the large hotel at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, where rooms had linoleum floors and fluorescent lights. The biggest luxury was a digital clock. The renovation of that hotel started last fall. “We were back in the bedspreads and 19-inch TV era,” said Sandy Van Bibber, the GM of the Holiday Express At Fort Hood, in an article in the New York Times.

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