May 01, 1998
Meetings & Conventions: Mid-Price Chains - May 1998 Current Issue
May 1998
Mid-Price Chains

Hotel companies offer groups alternatives to luxury lodging


With occupancies and rates higher than ever in many markets, finding space for small meetings at upscale and luxury hotels is an increasingly difficult task. But do you really need luxury? Planners willing to forego the concierge, room service and downtown locale are finding the doors wide open at mid-price hotels.

"Today, the more upscale hotels are ignoring small groups," says Jim Abrahamson, senior vice president, franchising, for Hilton Hotels Corp. But many of the top chains, Hilton included, are expanding their mid-price brands, with plans to target the small meetings market.

These properties, with generally fewer than 200 guest rooms and a handful of meeting rooms, "are more willing to give up banquet space, since they're [often] geared to business travelers who don't need it, and they'll commit meeting space to you further out," says Irvine, Calif.-based planner Arlene Sheff, president of Meetings, etc.

As their name implies, mid-price properties offer affordable rates, with the average guest room shy of the $100 price mark (depending on the market). And as for location, they're usually a few miles from urban centers or major transportation hubs. Many are in suburban office parks, where the upscale brands don't build, adds Robert Mandelbaum, the Atlanta-based director of research for PKF Consulting.

The profile of properties in this niche varies, too. "Ten or 15 years ago, a mid-market hotel was a mid- or low-rise property with an exterior corridor, a 150-seat all-purpose restaurant, a ballroom for 250, and a few breakout rooms," says Mandelbaum. "Today, it's a bit undefined - there's price, market, facilities and services to be considered."

Stepping down a hotel tier doesn't necessarily mean abandoning chain loyalties. Most major hotel companies have mid-price brands. Some are geared to individual business travelers, others to extended-stay or leisure guests. Others target small groups, among them Wyndham Gardens, with 21 percent of its business from meetings, and Holiday Inn Select, where group business represents 30 percent.

Following are at-a-glance facts about mid-price brands (with meeting space) of major U.S. hotel chains.

Clarion Inns, Hotels, Suites and Resorts
No. of properties/locations: 113 in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Uruguay, France, Ireland, Indonesia, Japan and Thailand
Price range: $70-$125
Avg. number of rooms: 150
Meeting facilities: Six rooms, each accommodating up to 100
Extras: Business centers; Explore the World of Clarion meeting program (with satisfaction guarantee, meeting service and amenity packages)
Expansion plans: 33 to open by 2000
Contact: (800) 426-2121

Club Hotels
No. of properties/locations: 15, all in the U.S.
Price range: $65-$89
Avg. number of rooms: 125-225
Meeting facilities: One or two small meeting rooms, each holding up to six
Extras: Business Club Rooms with self-service business centers and individual workstations
Expansion plans: 10 new properties by year-end
Contact: (888) 444-CLUB

Hilton Garden Inns
No. of properties/locations: 11 in U.S.
Price range: $75-$95
Avg. number of rooms: 90-250
Meeting facilities: One to six meeting rooms, each accommodating 40-60
Extras: Business centers
Expansion plans: 100 new properties by year-end
Contact: (800) 321-3232

Holiday Inn
Holiday Inn Select
No. of Properties/ Locations: 73 in U.S., Canada, Mexico and South America
Price range: $75-$150
Avg. number of rooms: 150-200
Meeting facilities: One ballroom, accommodating up to 440
Extras: On-site meeting specialist; Meetings Promise, a satisfaction guarantee program offered chainwide
Expansion plans: 25 new properties by 2000
Contact: 800-MEETING

Courtyard by Marriott
No. of properties/locations: 350 in the U.S., 30 in Europe and Australia
Price range: $60-$90
Avg. number of rooms: 78-150
Meeting facilities: Two meeting rooms, each accommodating up to 25
Extras: Full F&B service; A/V
Expansion plans: 50 new properties by year-end
Contact: (800) 831-4004

Four Points
No. of properties/locations: 70 in the U.S., Canada, Colombia and Israel
Price range: $90-$110
Avg. number of rooms: 150-200
Meeting facilities: At least four to six rooms, accommodating up to 150 each
Extras: Full F&B service; business centers
Expansion plans: 21 under construction
Contact: (800) 500-1282

Wyndham Gardens
No. of properties/locations: 55 in the U.S.
Price range: $84-$179
Avg. number of rooms: 150-225
Meeting facilities: Six rooms, accommodating up to 250
Extras: Wyndham One program for small meetings; on-site coordinator
Expansion plans: 10 new properties by year-end
Contact: (800) 327-8321

LOOK ELSEWHERE IF... When you need sleeping rooms for more than 200 attendees, or if your program requires numerous breakout rooms, you'll be hard-pressed to find a mid-price property to fit the bill.

Service is another area where these hotels may fall short of expectations - many offer limited food and beverage. In fact, according to Robert Mandelbaum of PKF Consulting in Atlanta, 80 percent of new mid-price properties don't offer any F&B at all (most arrange catering through nearby restaurants).

And meeting service staffers are a rarity (with the exception of Holiday Inn Select and Wyndham Garden properties). "The staff usually doesn't know anything about meeting room and coffee break setups," says Irvine, Calif.-based independent planner Arlene Sheff.

Don't expect the latest A/V equipment, either. "They offer a lot of in-room technology for the business traveler, but you won't find meeting rooms wired for video conferencing, etc.," cautions Mandelbaum.


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