Hilton Shakes Up Extended-Stay

Home2 Suites by Hilton is officially on the map. The new mid-tier extended-stay hotel brand debuted in February with the opening of its first property in Fayetteville, NC. With two more hotels now open in Layton, Utah and Baltimore, Md., another 63 properties planned, and 40 already in development, Home2 Suites is set to reach 100 hotels by 2014.  
The Home2 Suites brand was founded on a drive to break out of the “me too” sameness of the mid-tier extended-stay segment of the market. In today’s world that meant honing in on the latest technology and spicing up in-room entertainment. Early analysis of target audience demographics showed younger business travelers, or Generation Y/Millennials, have a propensity to travel with multiple devices, from MP3 players to portable gaming systems. The Home2 Suites development team recognized that modern hotel accommodations must address how technology impacts a guest’s experience on the road. To be considered a cutting-edge brand, Home2 would have to meet guests’ expectations and provide the technological comforts of home.
Guest ‘must-haves’
Hilton Worldwide completed a research project on hotel technology in April 2011 that exemplified the need to consider how guests experience technology. The study found that having a wireless Internet connection ranks second as the most important feature to a guest, behind complimentary Internet service.  Nearly all U.S. hotel guests own a TV (97%), digital camera (94%), and laptop computer (93%), and more than half reported owning an iPod, portable computer mouse, digital video camera, videogame console and cell phone as well.
According to the Hilton study, though leisure travelers in the U.S. tend to use in-room entertainment slightly more than business travelers, business guests are more likely to bring along a laptop, Blackberry and a portable mouse. Interestingly, fewer than half of U.S. travelers typically bring device cables with them, and less than one in ten would bring cables if they knew they could connect in their hotel rooms.
Giving guests what they want
To address the growing need for constant connectivity, Home2 Suites provides high-speed, wireless Internet access (AT&T) throughout every hotel, including outdoor lounge spaces. PrinterOn technology also allows complimentary wireless printing for all guests, no matter how they’re connected.  Electrical outlets are available all over the hotel, with pop-up outlets in convenient places and data ports on community tables, so anyone can connect anywhere, anytime, just like they would at home.
One of the defining features that sets the Home2 design apart in the extended-stay market is the “Oasis,” an expanded community space with a common area for social gathering, as well as shared and individual work and meeting zones. In addition to a 52-inch flat screen TV (LG and Phillips), the technology features throughout the Oasis help create a sociable, stimulating environment. Home2 guests can relax and unwind, chat together at the community table or plug-in to catch up on e-mails and surf the web.
Upon leaving the Oasis, guests can continue the tech-connect in their rooms with the signature media hub (TeleAdapt) standard in all one-bedroom suites. Incorporated into the Home2 “Working Wall,” the hub allows guests to play their own music through the TV speakers or watch movies streaming from their computers, iPhones, iPods or iPads using an “on loan” cable kit from the front desk. Home2 Suites is also considering introducing DVRs to the in-room setup to allow guests to record favorite programs during their extended stay. A recent guest posted this comment on a popular travel review site: ‘The LCD TV rocks...with easy hookups to attach to a laptop or iPhone for movies or just as a monitor.’
In addition to brand-standard features, individual Home2 Suites properties are already finding ways to put a unique touch on hotel technology. The Layton hotel includes media hubs in every suite, LED light switch/night lights (Lite-a-Switch), an RFID electronic lock system and iHomes that can dock iPads, iPhones, iPods and MP3 devices.  The brand’s first adaptive reuse property, which is also the first urban space, features a media room unique to the Home2 design with an Xbox Kinect, a Wii, and a 60-inch flat-screen TV.
Continuing development
As with any new brand, bringing the design to life and learning what works best for both the hotel and the guests is an ongoing process. The Home2 development team has so far drawn from guest feedback and hands-on experience, and installing and setting up technology how to refine the design and make positive changes. For example, the iHome that was selected as the in-room alarm clock is being modified to accommodate docking an iPad, and to provide clearer user directions.
The Home2 Suites development team set out to shake up the extended-stay segment of the hotel industry, and the brand is off to a great start. Guest comments and reviews so far reflect an excitement and appreciation for the technology features and the convenience of connectivity. From the start, integrating state-of-the-art technology into the basic brand DNA was an essential step in creating an environment where guests are not only “Free to Be You,” but free to grow and change with the times.  
As vice president of brand performance support for Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites by Hilton, Dawn Koenig is responsible for overseeing the growth and productivity of several areas within the brands, including revenue management, product service and development, brand performance support, financial management and profitability. With more twenty years of experience, Koenig has worked in a variety of segments and disciplines of the hospitality industry including local and corporate level management, operations and sales, quality assurance and marketing.

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