CHOICE HOTELS INTERNATIONAL continues to update its Comfort Inn brand, adding two newly renovated properties, the Comfort Inn Maingate in Kissimmee, Florida, and the Comfort Inn Cleveland, Ohio, in November. The future holds plans for more expansion and renovation in markets such as Niagara Falls, New York.; Anchorage, Alaska; Tampa, Florida; Scottsdale, Arizona; Austin, Texas, and San Francisco.
Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites franchisee Ocala, Florida-based Hotel Development & Management Group, also is expanding the brand. It recently opened the Comfort Suites Dunnellon, a 71-suite hotel. Comfort Suites Dunnellon was built to cater to “out-of-town ecotourism enthusiasts” drawn to the Dunnellon/Rainbow Springs area, Navroz Saju, HDG’s president and CEO, told the Ocala Star Banner last year. “So the hotel is very green, from indigenous Florida landscaping to an irrigation system that’s very efficient. If it rains, it won’t come on,” Navroz Saju said. “It allows someone who’s going to be kayaking, canoeing, birdwatching, to stay a few days and feel comfortable.”
The latest renovations and guest enhancements are part of Choice’s ongoing, multi-faceted initiative to improve Comfort Inn locations through investments and franchisee incentives. The improvements have increased guest-satisfaction scores, heightened developer interest and strengthened performance, said Choice Hotels. Comfort Inns have experienced 24 consecutive months of RevPAR index gains, the company said, and Choice Hotels and Comfort brand franchisees have committed more than $250 million over the past few years toward the brand’s transformation.
“The ongoing multi-year Comfort brand transformation continues to see solid gains across key performance metrics, and that momentum is heightening developer interest and new construction agreements. As a result, we are continuing to drive consistency and quality across the brand, ensuring guest satisfaction as well as brand loyalty.” said David Pepper, chief development officer for Choice Hotels.
Owned by the SLB Hotel Group, the 5-year-old Comfort Inn Maingate has received an upgrade to its five floors and 197 guest rooms. The Comfort Inn Cleveland is downtown near Cleveland’s theater district.
Along with the renovations, Choice Hotels is helping hotel developers determine the best places to build new-prototype Comfort brand properties as well as open up optimal markets for these projects. The expansion is based on research and analysis of consumer insights and business data. Choice’s total number of domestic hotels increased from 5,226 in September 2015 to 5,275 in this September, according to the company’s filings with the Securities Exchange Commission. “Our unit growth has outpaced the growth in our rooms primarily due to the Company’s multi-year strategy to rejuvenate the Comfort family of brands by terminating or repositioning under-performing hotels that no longer meet the Comfort brand standards,” Choice wrote in its October 2016 10-Q. “Hotels terminated from the Comfort brand family may be repositioned to a more suitable brand within the Company’s family of brands or exit our franchise system. As a result of this strategy our unit growth has been driven primarily by brands with lower average room counts than the Comfort family of brands.”
According to the documents, 62 Comfort Inns and nine Comfort Suites either left the Choice system or were rebranded between 2015 and this year. However, Choice says net domestic terminations decreased from 72 in the three months ended September 30, 2015 to 47 for the three months ended September 30, 2016.
The changes come with a new tagline – Rested. Set. Go. Enhancements include a new line of bath and hair products called RAIO developed exclusively for the Comfort Inn, as well as more healthy free breakfast options such as cereals and Greek yogurt. To further support the brand promise of promoting guest wellness, as of January, all Comfort properties will be 100-percent smoke-free, making Comfort the largest hotel brand in the country to provide a smoke-free environment.
Comfort’s redesign and new-build prototype have anchored the brand in the U.S. hotel market’s upper-midscale segment. “From a service perspective, we are empowering franchisees to foster a great sense of pride in the brand and the teamwork at their hotels,” said Anne Smith, vice president of brand strategy for Choice Hotels. “And, guests are already enjoying updates such as enhancements to breakfast, lemon-infused ice water stations in all lobbies, and our upgraded bath experience as well as our smoke-free promise. We are working hard to exceed the expectations of the upper midscale guest.”