Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New faces keep IHG on course

InterContinental Hotels Group on Wednesday opened its 2008 Americas Investors & Leadership Conference as any other, with CEO Andy Cosslett delivering the first general session speech about the hotel company's recent successes and future plans. But this year, the familiar face that would normally follow Cosslett was not so familiar. Stevan Porter did not grace the stage.

Instead it was interim president of the Americas Richard Solomons who—after praising Porter and acknowledging how hard it will be to fill his shoes—moved quickly onto his plans of helping grow IHGs portfolio in the US and abroad, despite the current economic climate.
"I'm not here as a placeholder until the real president shows up," said Solomons, who has served as IHG's finance director since March 2003. "I'm here to improve the business moving forward."

Solomons said IHG remains committed to improving its staple brand, Holiday Inn. One year after announcing the relaunch of the Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express brands, nearly 150 properties have went through the quality assurance update program and graduated to the new signage.

And a new addition to the Holiday Inn family was announced Wednesday as well. Solomons said IHG will partner with the originators of the Holiday Inn brand, the Wilson family, to form new timeshare brand Holiday Inn Club Vacations.

The Wilsons currently own Orange Lake Resorts, consisting of four resort properties, and will convert them all to the Holiday Inn Club Vacations brand, starting with the flagship property in Orlando in December. With 2,412 villas, the Orlando resorts is the largest single site timeshare resort in the world.

This marks IHG's first move into the timeshare market, through an exclusive licensing and marketing agreement. Orange Lake will continue to own, operate and develop these timeshare resorts.

"Holiday Inn will be able to take advantage of the fastest growing segment in the industry today," Solomons said of the timeshare segment.

"We continue to set new standards in how people vacation," said Spence Wilson, whose father, Kemmons Wilson, founded Holiday Inn and opened the first property in 1952. "Our family is very excited because we share the same vision and excitement for the two companies."

Later, Tom Corcoran, who owns several IHG properties, accepted the role as chairman of the IAHI, a group of IHG property owners. Corcoran said his main goals for his year as chairman are to get all Holiday Inn properties updated and actually move the brand into the upscale segment.

"This time we got it right. We are making sure we have the support from the bottom up and not just the top down," Corcoran said. "If we can increase [average daily rates] by $10 we can advance into [the upscale] segment. I challenge each of to you to stay committed to the relaunch."

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