Road to Recovery: What's Working — Holiday Inn

Invest $1 billion into more than 3,400 hotel properties around the world and what you get is an updated and nicer version of the old, American family favorite, Holiday Inn.

"People told us the things that are most important to them are a great night's sleep, a great shower and good service," said Verchele Wiggins, vice president of global brand management for Holiday Inn.

The hotel chain's renewed focus on "quality," including the scent that greets visitors when they walk through a decluttered lobby and front desk, is already paying off.

InterContinental Hotels Group Plc, owner of the Holiday Inn brand, said third quarter profits rose 54 percent, led by an improvement in room revenue at mid-scale lodging in the U.S.

Hospitality experts say 30 new brands have entered the market in the past four years, and Holiday Inn's self-ordered makeover is working.

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"To keep their position in the market, they've had to do something, and it's been successful. Revenue has increased at all the properties that they've done and they've been able to increase their share of the market in many of these locations," said Scott Brush, a hospitality consultant.

Once upon a time, every day was a holiday at Holiday Inn.

In the 1960s and 70s, Holiday Inn enjoyed repeat visits for family vacations and name-recognition that any other brand would die for. A Holiday Inn spokeswoman said the name "Holiday Inn" has been included in about 25 pop and rock songs, including the 1978 Gene Simmons of Kiss solo song "Living In Sin (at the Holiday Inn.)"

"Consistency -- you know, part of the re-launch was all about invigorating an iconic brand. The brand had really begun to lose its way and back in the '70s was our heyday," said Wiggins.

So Holiday Inn invested in a big way, despite a downward trend in business travel and a recession. It threw away its old flower-print bed comforters, replacing them with white, triple sheets. It tore out cramped and outdated bathrooms and installed new shower heads and sink counters. It emphasized a "clean, positive" aesthetic over an often dirtier-than-you'd-like state of being and even added an "arrival experience" featuring a signature scent in the air and a sound program on the speakers.

"We know that smart brands invest in tough times and that those brands who have invested in those tough times, they've actually been able to perform," Wiggins said.

And in an industry that really boils down to where you choose to rest your head when you're on the road, Holiday Inn believes a new attitude, renewed pride and pleasant surroundings is a winning formula.

So winning, that Intercontinental brought in more than $100 million this past quarter.

"I think basically they have repositioned the brand and made it a much more current brand," said Brush.

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