by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | March 20, 2018

As part of Holiday Inn's current mission to transform its brand, the chain has begun implementing a new design called H4 - Happiness, Hospitality, Home, Holiday Inn - that embodies four core concepts for its guest rooms, food-and-beverage offerings, lobbies and meeting space. The changes will dramatically update this household-name brand that has often been overlooked by more trendy newcomers. This is, after all, a company that was launched in 1952 in Memphis, Tenn., and has since grown to 1,169 properties worldwide, with another 264 in the development pipeline.
 
Melissa McFarland, director of brand-design program for Holiday Inn, whose parent company is Atlanta-based InterContinental Hotels Group, shared with M&C just-released renderings for the newly redesigned meeting space, and discussed the brand's vision for strengthening its position in the global hotel industry and for going head-to-head with its competitors.

Rendering of the new prefunction space coming to Holiday Inns
Was the new meeting space designed with input from meeting-planner focus groups?  

 
As we go through the design process, we are gathering input from various stakeholders. In this early stage, one of the key groups of stakeholders is our owners and operators. They've told us that they need the flexibility to have social gatherings like local business celebrations, weddings and community functions, while also being able to accommodate business meetings. This is a key differentiator from our midscale competitors, who only offer small meeting rooms targeted toward business travelers.
 
We will be installing the new H4 Open Lobby and meeting-space designs in a pilot hotel this year and will gather insights from guests, hotel colleagues and meeting planners to further evolve the design before rolling it out more widely across the Holiday Inn estate.
 
Our initial research revealed that meeting spaces should empower groups to gather, be productive and have fun at the same time. They should be flexible, based on different meeting and event needs, and should create opportunities for small and spontaneous meetings or breakout sessions. It's also increasingly important to not only integrate technology, but in a future-proof way, where we design the meeting spaces around anticipated advancements in technology.
 
Holiday Inn has always been such an iconic brand, how will the brand's four new touch points of design reposition it in the marketplace?
 
We created the H4 design with a deep understanding that in order to set the Holiday Inn brand apart, we needed to design a space that truly responds to our guests' needs and feels like home. Our industry has dramatically changed over the past 20 years, and design has become a critical component in how we can differentiate our brand. Our guests not only care about what a hotel looks like, but also how it anticipates their needs and how it makes them feel. We focused on a design that's relevant to our guest, that positions our brand above the competition and that strengthens the consistency of the Holiday Inn portfolio in a way that makes sense for our owners.
 
Is the new design just for North American properties or worldwide?
 
The H4 guest-room design is a standard in the U.S. and Canada, and we are in the process of rolling it out to our hotels in Mexico and will be complete by the end of the year. We are in the early phases of the H4 Open Lobby design and will have a pilot hotel open in the U.S. this summer.
 
How much does group business represent for HI, and is that growing?
 
Groups represent approximately 22 percent of the Holiday Inn business, with consistent growth each year. Corporate meetings, conferences and sports represent the largest segments.