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The Challenge

Define and launch a new hotel brand for InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) that meets and exceeds the needs of short-stay travelers balancing quality and price.

Impact

To date, 150 avid hotels are in the pipeline throughout the U.S., with others in the pipeline in Mexico and Canada, and the brand has announced a development deal for 15 avid hotels locations in Germany over the next five years.

The Outcome

avid hotels—the first major mainstream IHG brand since Holiday Inn Express.

IHG’s ambition is to grow in service of its guests around the world. IHG’s Atlanta-based team had identified a major opportunity for hotels in the midscale space—a market segment known for its inconsistency.

Alongside colleagues at London-based forpeople, IDEO was invited to help IHG shepherd that business opportunity into a human one, by asking how IHG might reimagine the everyday travel experience for people relying on this category of hotel. What kind of offer might resonate equally with guests and with the owner/operators who’d need to buy into a new brand and bring it to life?

IDEO began by talking to travelers to better understand their lives, values, and needs—travelers who spend one or two nights on the road a few times every year; travelers who regularly take short trips to small cities or away from city centers; and travelers who live on the road, moving from hotel to hotel. These included court stenographers, medical technicians, consultants, conference-goers, and more.

Early research insights evolved into two distinct concepts for a new hotel brand, which were built out into two full-scale physical prototypes at IHG’s design center in Atlanta. Over three weeks, IDEO and its IHG partners led potential guests and hotel owners through each model, gathering their feedback on new formats for breakfast offerings, service details, booking experiences, and overall tone.

Rendering, prototype, and final incarnation of avid’s “Good all round” breakfast. Based on customer insights, IDEO designed a confident departure from the expected—and often disappointing—morning fare on offer at other affordable hotels. Focused on exceptional quality and fair value above all else, the offering features free packaged options, fresh baked goods, and seasonal fruit, set within a breakfast beacon that animates the hotel’s public space in an unexpected way. After breakfast hours, the beacon transforms into a communal table for working or waiting, complete with outlets for charging personal devices.

The investment in prototyping paid off with surprising and actionable insights. Despite wide variation in occupation and income, these guests are sophisticated and self-reliant; they know what’s out there, and they know what’s reasonable to expect. In fact, many describe a syndrome IDEO dubbed “anticipation anxiety:” the sense of dread that comes from not knowing whether a lower-priced hotel is going to be clean or safe, or provide a bed that enables restful sleep. Many have so little confidence in the cleanliness of hotels in this price range that they travel with their own packs of wet wipes.

IDEO, along with the IHG team, recognized these behaviors as an unanswered cry in the market. The purpose of the new brand crystallized around extinguishing that anxiety and rewarding guests with something much better. avid hotels exceeds its competition by doubling down on quality in just a few select areas: an extraordinary mattress; rigorously high standards of cleanliness; a focused, high-quality, grab-and-go breakfast and coffee experience; and an overall tone of warmth and straightforwardness.

The first avid hotel opened its doors in Oklahoma City in August 2018.

These guests made clear that for trips like this, they aren’t interested in bells and whistles, or communication that isn’t frank or to the point. That led to an insight that upends an industry truism: for these guests—and there are many of them—choosing a hotel is rarely only about the price of the room. avid guests can often afford to stay in a more expensive place for a honeymoon or a vacation or a trip with friends; they’ll spend more when they need more. But for functional stays of one or two nights, it just feels wasteful. It goes against their values and their principles.

IHG and IDEO heard a clear call for a sense of focus and affordability—but never at the expense of quality. Guests should be able to access a simple booking process, rooms designed for sound sleep, and a quality breakfast, all at a fair price. And hotel owners ought to be able to deliver that experience with confidence and consistency, at costs that build a compelling case for their own business.

That’s what avid hotels is designed to deliver, every single time. Early traveler reviews have been exceedingly positive and have noted specifically the unique differentiating offers avid brings to the market.

The room was straightforward. Here is the bathroom. Here is the bed. Hang your clothing and gear here. No frills, which for me is a bonus. I felt that it was designed just for me.

Allan C., TripAdvisor reviewer

Within a year of partnering with IDEO, IHG had issued 150 avid hotels licenses to franchisees in the US, Mexico, and Canada, and announced a development deal for 15 avid hotel locations in Germany over the next five years—a scale of success that came at unprecedented speed for the industry. The collaborative, inclusive design process is now serving as a model for how to develop robust, guest-centered hospitality brands that deliver where it matters for people.

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