Quality is up at mid-priced hotels

Marketplace Staff Jul 13, 2007

Quality is up at mid-priced hotels

Marketplace Staff Jul 13, 2007


BOB MOON: Heading out this summer, and looking for a place to stay? You can still find a room with the basics . . .

Motel 6 ad: We’ll leave the light on for ya.

But even midrange hotels are doing a lot more to attract your business these days. With occupancy levels at four-year highs, competition’s heating up. PriceWaterhouseCoopers predicts hotels will spend more than $5 billion remodeling this year. And we’re not just talking new curtains. They’re investing in things like flatscreen TVs, and even MP3 players. Alex Goldmark checks in.

Alex Goldmark: Shhh. Don’t tell anyone, but the other day, I stole something from a hotel room. Not towels. They’ll nail you for that now, right on your credit card. Just a small advertising display about bathroom products. Yeah, I just couldn’t believe Holiday Inn Express was that proud of a showerhead, so I decided to check it out.

TROY JOHNSON: The showerhead’s great.

See? Another guest, salesman Troy Johnson, noticed the renovated bathroom, too. He also likes the free breakfast in the lobby.

JOHNSON: The meals in the morning are great. Where the other guys are trying to charge you for Internet and everything else. So this is, basically, it’s a good value and you wake up and feel like you didn’t get taken, if you know what I mean.

Johnson travels a lot and always stays at what the industry calls limited-service hotels. Think Hampton Inn, Best Westerns, Courtyard Marriots — nice enough chain hotels, clean, professional, but without a restaurant or room service or meeting spaces. He says it’s the best deal.

JOHNSON: They’ve gotten way better. In the years past, the traveler got taken advantage of. Now we’re in charge and, basically, the hotels are stepping up.

I’m not sure about who’s in charge. But there’s no doubt the quality of amenities, like the beds and bedding, and yeah, that showerhead, have improved dramatically in midrange hotels recently.

Robbie Wilson is the regional manager of the Magna Hospitality Group, a franchisee of Holiday Inn Express and other brands. He showed me a suite in the Manhattan Holiday Inn Express where a room can cost anywhere from $189 to over $400 a night. Believe it or not, that’s midrange in Manhattan.

ROBBIE WILSON: The bedroom, it’s a king-sized bed. Again, the bedding is, its very fresh. I mean, the bed looks inviting. It’s white. It is triple-sheeted. There are four, oversized pillows on the bed.

He says a few years ago in a similar hotel, I would have seen a multicolor polyester bedspread that probably hadn’t been washed. Nowadays, guests demand, and hotels provide, higher standards.

WILSON: People are looking for a clean room, a comfortable bed, a strong showerhead, a good night’s sleep.

There’s that showerhead again. And upgrades like that are meant to attract a higher-end traveler who wants comfort, but doesn’t need room service. That’s a growing market segment, according to the president of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, Joe McInerney.

Joe McInerney: There is a trend in the industry of individuals, instead of staying at the five-star hotels, from time to time staying at the limited-service and mid-priced properties because they feel they are getting a better price-value relationship.

And it’s a better deal, not because the price is dropping, but because the quality is improving.

In New York, I’m Alex Goldmark, for Marketplace.

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