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InterContinental Hotels Group Plans to Open 32 of its Branded Hotels in the
 Dallas Ft Worth Within Two Years; Majority in the Mid- to Lower-Priced Brands
By Sheryl Jean, The Dallas Morning NewsMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

May 24, 2008 - FORT WORTH -- InterContinental Hotels Group, the world's largest hotel chain, is aggressively expanding in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

It plans to open 32 hotels in the area within two years, an estimated $500 million investment. In the past two weeks, the company opened a Holiday Inn Express in Irving and announced plans for two hotels in Las Colinas.

The London-based company operates about 60 area properties under the Candlewood, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and Express, Hotel Indigo, InterContinental and Staybridge Suites names.

"It's really an exciting position to be in," said Steve Porter, president of the hotel group for the Americas. He sees significant opportunity for growth in fast-growing D-FW areas such as McKinney and Plano.

Here are excerpts from a conversation with Mr. Porter, who is based in Atlanta and was in Fort Worth this week for the annual Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial golf tournament in Fort Worth.

What is your strategy for the Dallas-Fort Worth area?

We see the biggest opportunities in the mid- to lower-priced brands. We have nearly an 8 percent share of available rooms. We're poised to grow our share to 10 to 11 percent.

When will we see some of the revamped Holiday Inns?

We've been looking to reposition our Holiday Inn brand for the past several years. Consumers told us that we needed to freshen up. We tested ideas at 21 hotels, and we will launch a full rollout this summer. Hotels will feature a new logo, better curb appeal, signature art in the lobby, new bedding and redesigned bathrooms. We'll convert up to 150 hotels a month with 3,000 Holiday Inn and Express locations worldwide done by the end of 2010. It's an ambitious commitment, but it's our most valuable and the most recognizable brand.

Will you bring the spas and star chefs featured at new InterContinental hotels to Dallas?

We're evaluating the right mix at the InterContinental Dallas. We've created an edgier, more European feel. The Boston InterContinental features Sushi-Teq, where sushi meets Tequila, and a new hotel near Phoenix will include a 30,000-square-foot spa.

Are you interested in a convention center hotel in Dallas?

We've been approached, but there's nothing in the works. We're open to ideas. InterContinental Hotels Group had its annual meeting at the Dallas Convention Center last year, and we were happy with it. Dallas should stand proud.

Hotels often are the first to suffer in economic downturns as travel slows. What are you seeing?

We're seeing stable demand and stable prices. Occupancy has declined, but the industry added 2 percent more in the past year. Our crystal ball would suggest a soft landing. We're not seeing the same pressure on the industry as after the Gulf War and Sept. 11.

Is the weak U.S. dollar attracting more international visitors?

We've seen an uptick, but the U.S. industry saw 2 million fewer international visitors last year than in 2000. While the U.S. dollar is favorable, there's still confusion about accessibility to the United States, the visa process and safety.

As a country, we do nothing to promote travel here. I've been involved in the Travel Promotion Act, which would increase the marketing of the United States as an international destination.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Dallas Morning News

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