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Continued: Carlson hotels courting the prized millennials

  • Article by: DAVID PHELPS , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 7, 2013 - 5:49 PM

The rooms are plainer in style, the lines in the furniture more linear. Tones are more neutral with splashes of color in a chair here and a duvet there. The bathroom presents mix-and-match tile that works as an ensemble and an elevated sink on the counter to offer a spa feel. Plug-ins for laptops, tablets and device chargers are accessible at desk and table level throughout the room.

“We want it soft and contemporary with residential color tones,” said Scott Meyer, the senior vice president of the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group responsible for the Country Inns brand. “We want something that appeals to the new generation of traveler, age 24 to 39, with a design that won’t offend the boomer traveler.”

The lobby still features a fireplace but with less stone, more wood on the walls and tile floors. There’s a den area for business meetings and a help-yourself breakfast serving area. A veranda setting also is in the mix.

“We’re bringing the outdoors in and taking the indoors out,” said Meyer, a 26-year veteran of the 26-year-old chain.

For franchisees, the cost of refurbishing existing properties could be a concern.

“It’s exciting. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s a great new change for the brand,” said Bill Doyle, executive vice president of HVS Hotel Management, which runs a Country Inn in Greeley, Colo. “But you have to be able to compete with the other guys [brands] who are doing the same thing. The question is will it allow you to improve your average daily room rate?”

Meyer thinks the answer is yes. “Rates are driven by the market and this should help us drive our rates,” he said.

Yet, one of Country Inns’ biggest challenges in its upper mid-scale hotel segment is its size. It’s principal competitors — Comfort Inn, Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express — have two and three times as many properties.

But brand loyalty so often ascribed to the boomer nation is not so prevalent with the millennial demographic.

Indeed, STR’s Freitag said all hotels are moving into uncharted territory as they court the millennial traveler.


David Phelps • 612-673-7269

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