Newly public, midscale brand unveils new exterior prototype…
Friday, May 09, 2014 – FRESH ON THE heels of a Wall Street IPO, La Quinta Inns & Suites executives have added new phrases to the LQ lexicon. “Shareholder value.” That’s a big combo right there as the once privately held select-service hotel company has expanded with stakeholders in the public arena.
To satiate the expectations of shareholders as well as La Quinta current and prospective franchisees, the Dallas-based company has rolled out a new exterior prototype. Unveiled in March at the annual brand conference in Hawaii, the new design is part of La Quinta’s long-term plan to “step up and continue to improve,” said Rajiv Trivedi, executive vice president and chief development officer at La Quinta.
The exclusive interview with Asian Hospitality is the first that anyone from La Quinta leadership has granted trade media since the IPO. Months before the launch the company was in a “blackout period,” during which anyone from LQ was prohibited to speak publicly about the company’s current activity or future plans. Majority owner Blackstone Group on April 9 launched the IPO for La Quinta Holdings Inc. on the New York Stock Exchange, generating more than $650 million in proceeds.
Trivedi said the changes to the exterior design have been underway for the past year and a half. The hotels that will feature the refreshed look are in the pipeline or under construction, with the first openings expected in the beginning of next year, he said. “We have quite a few franchisees with the new prototype going into the ground in more than one market.”
The prototype is not only meant to attract loyal and new guests, but also developers, said Trivedi, noting that the company as well as its franchisee advisory board paid heed to the new design’s efficiency, its revenue-producing possibilities and its “relatively economical” business model.
Growth through franchising
La Quinta has nearly 480 franchised hotels and 370 company-owned properties in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. It also has development agreements in Central America nations such as Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
In its pipeline are more than 180 franchised hotels, of which 80 percent are new construction.
Although the new La Quintas will sport the refreshed exterior, the design is flexible enough that conversion properties as well as current franchisees will be able to introduce aspects of the prototype during renovations.
The prototype is meant for larger La Quinta hotels – those with 90 rooms or more. In addition, the brand’s urban design is still an option for developers faced with tighter more restrictive boundaries.
The last major redesign of the brand focused on the lobby and the public areas of the hotel, which offers guests free breakfast. Those changes launched about 18 months ago, giving new builds and current properties the opportunity to freshen up their look. Also during that time, La Quinta invested more than $100 million in its company-owned properties, spending on CapEx and on upgrading guest-room technology, including flat-screen TVs with plug-and-play capabilities. The TV upgrades eventually expanded to franchised hotels.
The exterior prototype, said Trivedi, is to attract the hotel guest of the future. Changes to the guest rooms are right around the corner as La Quinta and its franchisee advisory board discuss a number of options. One issue that arises often is providing more electrical outlets in the rooms as guests today carry more than one device in constant need of juice, including smart phones, tablets and laptops.
Trivedi said another issue on the table is the expansion of a property’s bandwidth to provide a better Internet experience. The current brand standard is 50 megabytes; and acquiring up to 200 megabytes may be an option for hotels in markets where such a demand would be expected.
Whether to provide a tiered Wi-Fi service may be optional, depending on the size of the property, said Trivedi. “A hotel with more than 120 rooms in a high-traffic area, for example,” he noted. “We would look at that amenity based on the hotel’s history.”
‘Ready For You’
In another technological advance, La Quinta now has added “Ready For You” to its proprietary mobile app. Ready For You lets guests with reservations know when their room is ready for check-in before they reach the front desk. “The Ready For You initiative is very critical as it improves our personalized attention to each guest,” said Trivedi.
Guests can select a time window indicating their arrival at the hotel and choose to receive either an email or text message alert. Then on the day of arrival, the alert is sent letting the guest know the instant his or her La Quinta room is ready. “With this new feature, the room will be waiting for the guest instead of the other way around,” said the company in an announcement.
"This innovation is the result of consumer research conducted with La Quinta Returns members who said they would value this type of service and assurance," said Julie Cary, chief marketing officer for La Quinta, in a statement. The new feature joins LQ Instant Hold, a patented app with which travelers can instantly reserve a room while on the road for up to four hours using only their mobile phone.