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Wingate Inn Brand Aims to Sustain Competitive Edge; Enhancement Plan Includes Upgrading Bed, Bath,
Shower, Complimentary Breakfast, Adds
Muscle to Marketing Plans
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LAS VEGAS (May 5, 2005) – Wingate Inn President Keith Pierce told franchisees attending their brand conference here today that the chain’s two-phased enhancement plan, called “The Wingate Experience,” will sustain the brand’s competitive advantage.

The initiative, which features updated bathroom and bedding programs, hot breakfast and other upgrades, is designed to “exceed guest expectations” while building on the brand’s “strong competitive momentum,” he said.

Phase I of the program includes upgraded bathroom amenities utilizing Neutrogena or Judith Jackson product lines; delivery of complimentary USA TODAY newspapers to all occupied guest rooms in the United States and an improved express checkout platform delivering folios to occupied rooms. 

A key component of Phase I, the introduction of free wireless high-speed Internet access in guest rooms and public areas at its hotels throughout the United States and Canada, was completed in November.

In Phase II, the brand will upgrade those bathroom terry items most widely used by guests including washcloths and bath towels, which will be private labeled to ensure brand compliance.

Guests also will be treated to an “enhanced shower experience” featuring a curved shower rod and “hookless” shower curtain that will make the shower area seem more spacious and a new Moen Revolution showerhead that will ensure maximum water flow.

The brand also announced a new bedding program, including a choice of Sealy Posturepedic Encore 720 Plush or Serta Perfect Sleeper Master Suite Admiralty mattresses and box springs and upgraded pillows and bed linens with higher thread count that focuses on quality and comfort.

“As hoteliers, we are in the business of putting heads in beds,” said Pierce. “The Wingate brand is taking this industry slogan to the next level with a more comfortable bedding experience.”

The Wingate Experience builds on the brand’s all-inclusive pricing policy that provides guests with enhanced amenities at no additional charge including wired and wireless high-speed Internet access, 24-hour complimentary business centers, deluxe continental breakfast, local calls and long-distance access, among others.

Capitalizing on J.D. Power and Associates research that identified hotel breakfast as a value-added amenity that can build customer loyalty and satisfaction, the Wingate Inn brand will upgrade its complimentary breakfast by offering hot items including eggs, waffles, bacon and sausage.

“We’ve been pursuing excellence since the Wingate Inn brand was born,” said Pierce. 

“That is, in fact, how Wingate Inns earned its customer satisfaction award last year as top in its class and third among all hotel brands.

“The real power of excellence in our business comes from knowing what consumers need, even as their needs change, and finding ways to deliver it.”

Pierce cited examples such as warm and welcoming smiles from employees, exceptionally clean rooms and a best-in-class continental breakfast as “tangible symbols of the culture that has been created” within the chain.

Reporting on brand performance, Pierce said the brand has been “strong,” has grown “steadily” and realized a RevPAR gain of 6 percent in 2004 over 2003.  The brand is forecasting a RevPAR increase of 6 percent increase this year.

Illustrating progress with the brand’s strategic growth plan to gain a foothold in major metropolitan markets, Pierce said there are two major center-city projects under construction: a Wingate Inn hotel in Manhattan and a Wingate Inn hotel in New Orleans.

Turning to the topic of operations, Pierce said the brand recently introduced a new quality assurance program called Positive Guest Experience, or “+GX,” featuring more stringent scoring that addresses guest concerns as identified in a recent J.D. Power study.

Wingate Inn franchisees will gain real-time access to quality assurance reports, an electronic guest satisfaction survey system and a software program that suggests ways to solve specific deficiencies.

Bill Hall, Wingate Inn vice president, operations, outlined a series of new tools to support franchisees including a simplified yield management program.

“Operational excellence is achieved by continually improving and having the thirst for never being satisfied,” said Hall. “Our Wingate Experience and revenue enhancement initiatives are designed to help franchisees make a positive impact on guest experience as well as their bottom line.”

As the brand approaches its 10th anniversary next year, Pierce said the 2005 conference theme, Power of Excellence, becomes an “extremely appropriate marching cry,” as the brand “continues to execute with excellence in an effort to remain competitive.”

“The brand will not be satisfied with its current level of success,” he said.  “Rather, the management team will continue to explore ways to go beyond prior performance levels and attain higher levels of achievement.

“We’re confident that the strategies we’re pursuing will lead us to even greater levels of success as we continue our efforts to provide an extraordinary Wingate Experience for each and every one of our guests.”

Wingate Inns International opened its first franchised hotel in July 1996.  Its focused service, upper mid-market franchised hotels feature sophisticated, consumer-based technology and comfortable, oversized rooms that were created in response to business travelers’ needs. 

Wingate Inn Brand Adds Muscle to Marketing Plans

The chain plans to drive incremental room nights to their hotels and build brand awareness through a redesign of its Web site, targeted advertising and non-traditional marketing tactics.

Keri Putera, Wingate Inn senior director of marketing, described the brand’s redesigned Web site, set to launch later this year with “improved, cutting-edge functionality” that will make it easier to book reservations and “help us surpass the competition by grabbing guests from the first moment of impact.”

All creative and functional Web site enhancements were developed by soliciting guest feedback, she said.  The feedback revealed that consumers “want more control over their shopping experience” and look for “straightforward and objective information they can trust,” such as larger photos and clear lists of amenities. 

This year the Wingate Inn brand will nearly double its commitment to paid Web search functionality, and its franchised hotels will be listed on some of the largest search engines.  Online banner advertisements will run on business-targeted Web sites including CNN.com and CBS Marketwatch. 

The brand will continue to reach out to current customers through its monthly e-mail campaign that provides “targeted and relevant offers based on their specific travel needs,” Putera said.

In addition to electronic marketing, the Wingate Inn brand will sponsor a national print campaign with ads in Business Travel News throughout the year and Fortune Small Business magazine through November.  In addition, the brand has continued its relationship with USA TODAY, with ads set to run this spring and fall. 

To complement its advertising efforts, the brand plans to use non-traditional marketing to build consumer awareness this year. 

First, the brand will continue its relationship with Hallmark Business Expressions, a subsidiary of Hallmark Cards, to create Wingate Celebration cards, promoting its recent consumer satisfaction award.  Those cards are available to Wingate Inn franchisees to send to their guests.  Similar cards were sent to select travel agents last December.

Second, the brand is continuing its relationship with Avis to provide guests with value-added offers.  Every time a consumer books a room via the brand’s Web site, www.wingateinns.com, they get an offer for a free car upgrade at Avis. 

Third, the brand has developed a new photography style designed to allow it to “stand out from the competition and tell a story through the use of motion, life and warmth,” said Putera.  The photography will be used in all brand marketing efforts including in national print, on its Web site, in its e-mail and at the property level.

Finally, the brand is introducing new program features for its TripRewards members.  New collateral and a points purchase program have been developed to add to the overall appeal and usage of the program.  The new points purchasing element will allow franchisees to purchase points and award them to valuable guests as well as to hotel employees.

This summer’s promotion for TripRewards members will feature the brand’s best rate guarantee coupled with a coupon book of valuable discounts and partner offers worth more than $250.  The entire promotion will be linked to a TripRewards sweepstakes where members can win one million bonus points. 

In addition, TripRewards has partnered with Sony Entertainment to sponsor this summer’s blockbuster hit, Bewitched.  An online media campaign will support the program as well as advertisements in People and Budget Travel magazines.

Wingate Inns International opened its first franchised hotel in July 1996.  Its focused service, upper mid-market franchised hotels feature sophisticated, consumer-based technology and comfortable, oversized rooms that were created in response to business travelers’ needs. 

In the fourth-quarter 2004 Market Metrix Hospitality Index the chain was ranked top in the lodging industry for guest satisfaction.  The hotel chain also was ranked the highest in the midscale, limited-service segment in the J.D. Power and Associates 2004 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index StudySM.  The chain was recognized in the Zagat Survey 2003 and 2004 Top U.S. Hotels, Resorts and Spas guides. 

All Wingate Inn hotels are independently owned and operated under franchise agreements with Wingate Inns International.  Reservations can be made by calling the Wingate Inn toll-free reservation center at (800) 228-1000 or through the company’s Web site at www.wingateinns.com.  Wingate Inns International is a subsidiary of Cendant Corporation (NYSE: CD).

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Contact:

Evy Apostolatos
Senior Manager, Media Relations
Cendant Corporation, Hotel Group
(973) 496-0750
evy.apostolatos@cendant.com
www.wingateinns.com

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Also See: Having Introduced Free Wired High-speed Internet Service in all Guest Rooms in 1999, Wingate Inn® Hotels Now Also Provides Free Wireless Internet Access in all Guest Rooms / November 2004
Market Metrix Announces Fourth Quarter 2004 Hospitality Index Results; Wingate Inns, Midwest Airlines and Enterprise Rent-A-Car Take Top Industry Categories / February 2005
Wingate Designs 64-Room Prototype for Smaller Land Parcels / Mar 2001
Wingate Inns Becomes the First National Hotel Chain to Sign All Its Hotels, (9,000 rooms), to the American Hotel & Lodging Association's Membership / May 2001
Wingate Inns Providing Its Hotel Owners with Management Tools and Reports Via Intranet Portal, WINFORMATION / August 2000
A Wingate Inn & Suites with a Water Park Planned for Billings, Montana / May 2004
Wingate Inn(R) Hotel Breaks Ground in Midtown Manhattan / January 2005
Anthony Berger Named Chief Operating Officer Cendant's Hotel Group; Other Appointments Made to Improve Franchisee and Company Value / April 2004


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