By Lisa Grimaldi
They have everything business travelers need and nothing they don't. That's how Jan Freitag, vice president, Smith Travel Research in Hendersonville, Tenn., describes midscale hotel chains without food and beverage, the fastest-growing segment of the lodging industry. (As of June 2008, approximately 59,300 rooms in that category were under construction in the United States alone.)
Such rapid growth can be attributed to several factors. High on the list: consumer preference. As Freitag notes, "They're affordable and offer services like high-speed Internet access and free breakfast." Business travelers also appreciate features such as comfortable beds, premium cable TV stations, free local phone calls and in-room desks that are segment staples.
Following is a roundup of offerings and growth plans for a number of midscale brands that are part of major hotel companies.
Carlson Hotels Worldwide
Brand: Country Inns & Suites By Carlson (countryinns.com)
Now open: 455
In the pipeline: 20 by 2009
Locations: Austria, Canada, Costa Rica, France, Germany, India, Mexico, Panama, U.K., U.S.
Free perks: breakfast, newspaper, Wi-Fi, library, fitness rooms and pools
News: Guest rooms have a new interior design prototype.
Choice Hotels International
Brands: Comfort Inn/Comfort Inn & Suites (comfortinn.com); Comfort Suites (comfortsuites.com); Sleep Inn/Sleep Inn & Suites (sleepinn.com); Mainstay Suites (mainstaysuites.com)
Now open: Comfort Inn, 1,991; Comfort Suites, 514; Sleep Inn, 361; Mainstay Suites, 321
In the pipeline: Comfort Inn, 204; Comfort Suites, 286; Sleep Inn, 156; Mainstay Suites, 43
Locations: Comfort Inn: Asia/Pacific, Canada, Central America, Mexico, U.S.; Comfort Suites: Brazil, Canada, U.S. Sleep Inn: Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Japan. Mainstay Suites: U.S.
Free perks: Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites offer breakfast, newspaper, Internet, plus fitness room or pool. Mainstay Suites have the same perks plus kitchens and weekly managers' receptions. Sleep Inn guest rooms have ergonomically designed work areas.
News: All brands have upgraded bedding at U.S. properties. Comfort Suites are now 100 percent smoke-free.
Hilton Hotels Corp.
Brands: Hampton Inn/Hampton Inn & Suites (hamptoninn.hilton.com)
Now open: 16,000
In the pipeline: 217
Locations: Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, U.S.
Free perks: breakfast, high-speed Internet access, fitness centers (or free passes to a local facility)
News: In 2009, the brand will debut in the U.K. under the name Hampton by Hilton. The company also is eyeing Germany and India for future developments. All Hampton Inns are getting enhanced lobbies called Perfect Mix, designed to foster mingling via community tables where guests can meet for breakfast or socialize after hours.
InterContinental Hotels & Resorts
Brands: Holiday Inn Express (called Express by Holiday Inn in Africa, Asia/Pacific, Europe, Middle East; hiexpress.com); Candlewood Suites (candlewoodsuites.com)
Now open: Holiday Inn Express, 1,819; Candlewood Suites, 169
In the pipeline: Holiday Inn Express, 730; Candlewood Suites, 216
Locations: Holiday Inn Express: Africa, Asia/Pacific, Europe, Middle East, U.S.; Candlewood Suites: Canada, U.S.
Free perks: Holiday Inn Express offers breakfast, Internet and, in North America, local phone calls. Candlewood Suites have kitchens, work areas, Internet, local calls, fitness centers, and lending libraries with CDs and DVDs.
News: Candlewood Suites has launched the Comforts of Home Bedding Collection with upgraded mattresses, mattress toppers, pillows and linens.
LQ Management LLC
Brands: La Quinta Inns/La Quinta Inns & Suites (lq.com)
Now open: 663
In the pipeline: 100 by the end of 2009
Locations: Canada, Mexico, U.S.
Free perks: La Quinta Inns offer breakfast, Internet and local calls; La Quinta Inns & Suites also have fitness centers.
News: La Quinta has spent $211 million renovating properties, updating bedding and providing more work space in rooms; wireless access was added in the lobbies and meeting space.
Brands: Fairfield Inn by Marriott (marriott.com/fairfield-inn/travel.mi); TownePlace Suites by Marriott (marriott.com/towneplace-suites/travel.mi)
Now open: Fairfield Inn, 540; TownePlace Suites, 150
In the pipeline: Fairfield Inns, 200 by 2010; TownePlace Inns, 100 by 2010
Locations: Fairfield Inns: Canada, Mexico, U.S.; TownePlace Suites: U.S.
Free perks: Fairfield Inns offer breakfast, ergonomic desks and chairs, Internet and local phone calls; all have pools. TownePlace Suites feature kitchens, Internet (at most properties), exercise rooms, pools, and work spaces with freestanding desks on wheels.
News: Fairfield Inn has a stylish new guest room prototype, called Green Tea. All TownePlace Suites have renovated or are in the process. Lobbies feature large area maps on the walls, which point out local services (such as dry cleaners), attractions and restaurants within a five-mile radius.
Wyndham Hotel Group
Brands: Baymont Inn & Suites (baymontinns.com); Ramada Limited (ramada.com). Wingate by Wyndham (wingatehotels.com)
Now open: Baymont Inn & Suites, 210; Ramada Limited, 200; Wingate, 156
In the pipeline: N/A
Locations: All: U.S.; Ramada Limited also has properties in Canada
Free perks: All provide breakfast and Internet. Baymont Inn & Suites offer local and long-distance calls and newspapers. Wingate by Wyndham has free fax, copying and printing 24/7.
News: Wyndham's 15 AmeriHost Inns will be converted to the Baymont Inn & Suites brand by year's end.