For Intercontinental Hotel’s LaBarre, Change, Expansion Are Key

InterContinental Hotels Group, in conjunction with Lane Hospitality, opened the first Crowne Plaza modeled after a new prototype that IHG unveiled in 2006, in mid-March. The new hotel is a 298-room Crowne Plaza Milwaukee-Wauwatosa. IHG wants to increase Crowne Plaza’s presence in a variety of key locations, including secondary suburban markets, airports, and urban markets. Gina LaBarre, vice president of brand management for Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts, talked about plans for the Crowne Plaza brand CPNHospitality: What elements of this prototype are different from the old Crowne Plaza prototype? LaBarre: This is actually the first Crowne Plaza prototype ever. The prototype provides great flow-through throughout the property, and is efficient from a work-flow and functional layout standpoint. We think the prototype will result in efficient-to-build and efficient-to- run Crowne Plazas. CPNHospitality: What are the key elements that meeting planners are looking for in hotels today? LaBarre: We want to provide natural light in all the meeting rooms, and have moveable walls, so we can provide flexibility to meeting planners. We also provide a single point of contact for the meeting planner, and we conduct a daily debriefing with the meeting planner at the end of each day. CPNHospitality: Please talk about Crowne Plaza’s current development pipeline, and what are your development goals for the brand? LaBarre: We’re focused on growing the brand, and we’ve increased the system size in the last five years. At the end of 2007, there were 172 hotels in the Americas, and 299 globally. There were 37 hotels in the U.S. pipeline, as of the end of last year. We see the prototype increasing the amount of new build Crowne Plazas, which up to now have mainly been conversions.