by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | June 01, 2004

Heinz Strobl

Heinz Stroble, chief operating officer

A year after the Atlanta-based InterContinental Hotels Group was spun off from Six Continents, the company finds itself invested heavily in its European portfolio. M&C recently spoke with Heinz Strobl, chief operating officer, Western and Southern Europe, InterContinental Hotels Group, on several new overseas initiatives.

M&C: How is IHG performing in Europe?
Strobl: I have been in this business for 40 years, and the last three years have been the toughest. And not just because of Sept. 11. Forty percent of our business in key European cities comes from America and 20 percent from the Far East, so events like SARS and the war in Iraq make it difficult. But in the last six to seven months we have seen business coming back.

M&C: What are you doing to attract North American meetings and incentives business?
Strobl: We have been very proactive in repositioning our properties. When meeting planners told us they wanted to bring groups to Europe but couldn’t afford it, we decided to do something no other chain has done. Now through Feb. 28, 2005, we will match the euro to the U.S. dollar for every group of 10 rooms or more. Whatever the final bill is when you check out, it will be quoted in U.S. dollars, no matter what the exchange rate is at the time. It’s really that simple.

M&C: Any expansion plans?
Strobl: We see a great opportunity to launch the Crowne Plaza Resorts brand in Europe, where many of the older resorts are not regularly upgraded. Crowne Plazas will be luxurious, with a full spa facility and two or three restaurants at least one of them a name brand. In the next five years, we hope to have 15-20 properties with 250-300 rooms each. The first ones will be in Spain, along the southern coast.