Augusta, Ga., Holiday Inn Not on List of Corporation's Sites to Get Face Lifts

By James Gallagher, The Augusta Chronicle, Ga.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Jun. 10--The Holiday Inn chain is getting a face lift, but the Augusta hotel likely isn't on the list.

The hotel and resort franchise is planning a major redesign of many older hotels as part of a plan to upgrade its image and distinguish it from its sister brand, Holiday Inn Express. The Holiday Inn on Gordon Highway, built in 1987, isn't quite old enough to get a makeover.

"There's so many old hotels in the system, no matter how well kept they are, they don't fit in the system," said Virginia Bush, spokeswoman for InterContinental Hotels Group, the British company that owns the Holiday Inn brand.

Augusta's Holiday Inn has undergone multiple renovations, including new wallpaper, carpet and soft goods such as curtains that have kept the hotel in good shape, said James Rice, the hotel's general manager.

Such remodeling is common in most hotels. According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, 18 to 20 percent of all hotel rooms nationwide undergo minor renovations every year.

But Holiday Inn's plans aren't common. The company intends to incorporate electronic room-service menus, wireless internet access and new artwork into each room as well as revamping its restaurants and swimming pools.

The company also plans to return to its roots, bringing back its trademark green-stripe towels and giant outdoor sign that symbolized the 51-year-old brand.

These changes have been incorporated into the company's new prototype hotel in Duluth, Ga., just north of Atlanta.

The 143-room hotel is smaller and more efficient to maintain, the company said. For example, the new design requires only about 1.5 acres of land, compared to about 2.5 acres for the old design.

Ms. Bush said to realize the new vision for Holiday Inn, some older hotels will be demolished and replaced with new ones. Hotel owners that do not make the necessary upgrades will lose their Holiday Inn franchises.

The Gordon Highway hotel's franchise contract ends in 2006. Mr. Rice said he expects the contract will be renewed even though the hotel does not feature the new look.

All new Holiday Inns will have internal hallways and room entrances. The Augusta Holiday Inn has exterior hallways, where customers can drive up to their room.

"People still enjoy the luxury of having to drive up to their rooms, even if Holiday Inn sees it differently," Mr. Rice said. "This hotel's not really old. They'll probably get rid of the ones built in the 60s and 70s."

Ms. Bush said she couldn't comment on the status of individual hotels.

The former Holiday Inn on Stevens Creek Road changed its name to the Augusta Inn & Convention Center after its franchise agreement with InterContinental ended in February. The Augusta Inn's owner, Criimi Mae Inc., a real estate investment trust in Rockville, Md., declined to comment on the name change.

The Holiday Inn Express chain is not part of the renovation plan.

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