|By Christopher Boyd, The Orlando
Sentinel, Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Business News
Oct. 18, 2006 - Generation X, your time has come. As the cohort raised with a computer in the study advances toward middle age, the lodging industry is adapting to its taste for coffee bars and plasma televisions.
Choice Hotels International, known for such less-than-extravagant brands as Econo Lodge and Rodeway Inn, is about to launch a chain that targets Generation Xers with ubiquitous high-speed Internet, posh gymnasiums and retail shops that traffic in health foods.
The first of the new line, called Cambria Suites, is scheduled to open this year in Boise, Idaho. An Orlando Cambria is coming in 2008.
"Gen-X travelers like to have options in whatever they do," said William Edmundson, Cambria's vice president for brand management. "They like healthier foods, and they like to congregate. Unlike baby boomers, who prefer to go to their rooms after a long day, Gen-Xers like to congregate. They blur the line between the workday and the non-workday."
The Cambria chain, which will offer rooms with flat-panel TVs and luxuriously appointed bathrooms, is attempting to design hotels that turn a generation's proclivities into physical space.
"These aren't hotel rooms; they are suites," Edmundson said. "When they walk in, the Gen-Xers see two flat-panel televisions, one in the living room and one in the bedroom. They see things that are aspirational. They want to see features they'd like to have in their homes."
Choice hopes to have 100 Cambrias in operation by the end of the decade. They will cater to business travelers aged 26 to 41 years old, with room rates of more than $100 a night.
Randy Kuchakulla, managing partner of Express Shop Inc. in Orlando, plans to break ground on the first Central Florida Cambria next year. The hotel, which will rise near the BeachLine Expressway at the intersection of Conway and McCoy roads, will cost about $12 million.
"Choice is a big company, and this is their first high-end brand," Kuchakulla said. "They already have many established customers, but until now they didn't have a high-end hotel group to offer."
Edmundson said eating and drinking areas in the Cambrias will be part of an open, two-story public area. Business and fitness centers will connect to the central space, designed to bring people together.
Even the names of public spaces are attempts to appeal to the generation's patois. The exercise rooms are called Refresh, the restaurant areas are labeled Reflect and the retail shops are tagged Refill.
Franchisees must adhere to design standards.
"We have a prototype that everybody must follow," Edmundson said. "We know what we want this to be."
Christopher Boyd can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-5723.
Copyright (c) 2006, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.
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