Holiday Inn Express unveils “smart technology” interiors

The hotel has worked with IDEO and Forpeople to develop designs based around guest insight. In advance of the roll-out, IDEO mocked up the designs to get feedback from travellers.

Guest room

Hotel company Holiday Inn Express has worked with IDEO and Forpeople to develop new interior designs, which use “smart technology” including mobile check-in and streamed entertainments in rooms.

The designs were created using a process of “guest insight” led by IDEO, to trial and develop design concepts. IDEO has been working on the project since the beginning of 2014.

Holiday Inn Express says the redesigned services and interiors are based around the needs of the “smart traveller” who is looking for “a short-stay hotel experience that is efficient and uncomplicated”.

Holiday Inn Brand Family vice president of brand management Mike Greenup says: “A hotel room is no longer just a place to sleep and our approach to technology and service starts with understanding our guests and their needs across the entire guest journey.”

To develop the designs, IDEO interviewed travellers and hotel guests using both Holiday Inn Express and rival offers.

Intercontinental Hotels Group IHG Holiday Inn Express

The consultancy then created a full-sized mock-up of the new Holiday Inn Express designs and walked guests through it to gather feedback. The mock-up included acted-out service roles, digital touch-screens and food and beverage offers.

IDEO London brand experience portfolio director Chris Grantham says: “We were excited by IHG’s ambition to create a hotel experience that was entirely based on guest insight.

“We put the smart traveller at the centre of the innovation process to learn about their digital, space, service and food preferences.”

He adds: “I think the most surprising thing [that came out of the testing] was that guests considered the desk in the room unnecessary.

“Another area that surprised us was people’s desire to be a lot more progressive around their health (particularly food) while travelling.”

Intercontinental Hotels Group IHG Holiday Inn Express

The redesign work covers new interiors for the guest rooms, hotel lobby, dining room, as well as a redesign of service delivery – including a “new food and beverage concept”.

Guests who are InterContinental Hotel Group Rewards Club members will be able to check in through the IHG app or online prior to arrival.

When they arrive, guests will be shown their room location on a tablet screen – along with its proximity to stairs, lifts and emergency exits. Where possible, guests will be offered a choice of room.

The new guest rooms feature Smart TVs that enable guests to stream their own media from personal devices, or log-in in to apps using the hotel’s Wi-Fi.

The rooms also feature a “flexible work/rest corner”. Holiday Inn Express says: “The traditional desk has been removed and replaced with a comfortable chair and table which can be moved around the room, which has multiple USB ports to charge devices.”

Beds feature a padded noise-reducing headboard, which Holiday Inn Express says “takes inspiration from a business-class aeroplane seat”.

Holiday Inn Express says it has redesigned its food and beverage service offer around the Express Café & Bar, which it describes as “an inviting ‘pit-stop’ for guests”.

Intercontinental Hotels Group IHG Holiday Inn Express

Grantham says: “Air travel inspired us across the entire guest experience. We were interested in providing some continuity from air travel into hotel travel, and were attracted to flexibilities and efficiencies that industry offers.

“This is reflected in the room selection tool during check-in, and ensuring the lounge areas are laid out to create an atmosphere where people are comfortable on their own and don’t feel too conspicuous, similar to that of an airport lounge. The bar menu was also inspired by the best in-flight drinks menus and the principle of doing a few things very well.”

He adds: “Outside of air travel, we also looked to the food industry for inspiration. The Express Cafe all day food offer was inspired by the transparency of open cuisine like Vapiano, and the vibrancy of great street food vendors, where you might pick up a quick slice of pizza for example. The environment at Pret a Manger also inspired the Express Cafe because it offered ‘perch’ (as opposed to ‘lounge’) style seating in an authentic food environment.”

The new designs are set to roll out across Europe and will be adapted for new-build hotels and properties undergoing renovation.

The first “new generation” hotel will open towards the end of the year and Greenup says Holiday Inn Express is aiming for at least a quarter of its European hotels to feature the new interiors within the next three years.

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