by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | June 10, 2016

Just days ago, Atlanta-based InterContinental Hotels Group launched Crowne Plaza Accelerate, and the company announced it was investing $200 million over the next three years in its Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts brands in the Americas region. That overhaul, said IHG, was necessary in order to ensure the brand remains at the forefront of new technologies and design — and stays culturally relevant and on the radar of business travelers.

It's not the first time IHG has announced its intention to focus on Crowne Plaza. In 2011, the company announced it was implementing Freshen Up, Move Up and Shine, a three-phase approach to repositioning the brand, particularly in the Americas, by improving product quality and consistency, in order to better woo business travelers.

The hotel chain has been busy making good on that promise, investing hundreds of millions in capital investment in the past five years. For example, the 300-room Crowne Plaza JFK Airport New York City, with close to 5,000 square feet of meeting space, recently completed a $45 million overhaul; and the 613-room Crowne Plaza Los Angeles Airport, with 15,500 square feet of meeting space, now sports a $25 million top-down makeover.

The new Crowne Plaza Atlanta–Peachtree CityIn addition IHG's strategy has been to carefully grow the Crowne Plaza portfolio in key destinations, such as Atlanta, where in March it opened the 233-room Crowne Plaza Atlanta SW–Peachtree City with 63,000 square feet of meeting space. Today, the brand has 406 properties in 65 countries; 136 hotels are in the United States.

To find out more about these new initiatives, I spoke with Eric Lent, vice president, Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza, The Americas, IHG.

What does this new investment in Crowne Plaza entail?
The Crowne Plaza Accelerate plan includes an investment from IHG for $200 million over the next three years. This includes increased sales and marketing and continuous improvement on guest experience. The first phase of the plan includes hotel-level actions to embed brand standards around connectivity, sleep and fitness to improve guest experience. Additionally, in 2017 the brand will introduce a new sleep solution including new pillows, along with new in-hotel collateral and new uniforms for all staff. Finally, training for service delivery and food and beverage will be delivered through a series of summits for all properties in the U.S. and Canada.

Can we expect to see some underperforming properties jettisoned from the brand?
The purpose of the Crowne Plaza Accelerate plan is not to remove hotels from the portfolio. In fact, the plan includes a set of solutions designed to help improve guest satisfaction in the areas of connectivity, sleep, service, food and beverage, and first impression. If a hotel does not comply with the new standards, IHG rules and regulations are in place just like at any other property.

How many Crowne Plaza hotels are currently in IHG's development pipeline?
There are 84 hotels in the brand’s pipeline globally and 13 in the pipeline for the Americas region.

Where can we expect to see Crowne Plaza plant flags, both in the U.S. as well as internationally?
Two come to mind. The 251-Crowne Plaza Midtown Manhattan hotel, which is scheduled to open in 2017, and the Crowne Plaza Ningbo Xiangshan Sea View in China, which will open later this year.

Is the brand looking to increase its meetings revenue?
Yes. In addition to building on the brand’s strength in formal meetings, IHG unveiled a new innovation called Flex Meetings. This offering is technology-enabled public spaces designed for solo work and small group meetings, with on-demand services such as an iPad installed in the space. Using the iPad, guests can order light bites, cocktails or even a coffee, which can increase the food and beverage revenue. In addition, meetings and events will remain a focus for the Crowne Plaza brand as part of Making Business Travel Work.

While Lent was tight-lipped on possible new locations for properties, it's evident IHG is committed to investing in the solid growth of this business-focused brand. Keep your eyes on Crowne Plaza.