Posted by Ric Garrido

Crowne Plaza as a hotel brand has a guest image problem.

IHG executives cited 9,000 deficiencies in the Crowne Plaza brand in their plan to reimage the brand within the upscale market segment. Crowne Plaza has about 390 hotels. In the first half of 2012 Crowne Plaza shed 16 hotels and plans to remove another 25 hotels from the brand in the next 24 to 36 months. Another 50 Crowne Plaza hotels are in the pipeline to open in the next couple of years.

I have stayed in a few Crowne Plaza hotels in the past two years in cities like Chicago, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco (airport) and a couple of others. The rooms were all nicely furnished with all the amenities I needed. The one attribute I would characterize as common to all these Crowne Plaza hotels where I stayed is the lack of character. They all had nice upscale lobbies, but there was no real common identity to these hotels aside from them seeming very business oriented facilities.

Crowne Plaza brand with a plan

So what kind of deficiencies are there at Crowne Plaza hotels and what are the reimaging solutions?

Guest check-in:

  • Add self check-in kiosks in lobby.
  • Provide a lobby host position as key contact for guests.

This kind of sounds like the airport model to me. Let guests fend for themselves until an issue arises where the guest needs help. Kiosks are nice for the frequent traveler who does not need to wait for the receptionist. I kind of prefer the human contact of the desk. Seems to me this is another way to reduce staffing for the hotel owners.

Food and Beverage: provide a 15-minute guarantee for food orders and provide fresh food for guests. Unclear if this is really a planned improvement or primarily a deficiency statement in the context of the article.

Guestroom amenities:

  • WiFi
  • One click printing
  • international plugs for U.S. travelers at international hotels

The lack of plug adapters and currency converters at a hotel when staying out of the U.S. is an issue I used to find a decade ago when I forgot to pack my own. Often the hotel had adapters left behind by other guests and other times this was something that took hours of searching electronics stores in London and Melbourne to solve. Airport stores carry all this stuff these days, but generally I realize I forgot a plug adapter only after I reach the hotel.

Fitness Centers: Use the lobby for fresh fruit, towels and water to avoid the need of locating a larger fitness center space. Keep some portable exercise equipment on site for guest room rental use.

STR Global and STR US chain scale segmenting places Crown Plaza in the upscale market segment. Brands like Hilton Garden Inn, Hyatt Place, Four Points and Courtyard are in this market segment. Personally I have always thought of Crowne Plaza as more of an upper upscale hotel brand, but apparently I have not been staying in the typical Crowne Plaza.

Source: IHG means business with Crowne Plaza refresh – hotelnewsnow.com Oct 29, 2012

D.C Hotels Day1 093

The Hamilton Crowne Plaza, Washington D.C. – I recall the wifi here was unbearably slow and I had a difficult time blogging from the room.

Chicago Day 4 010

Rooftop pool at Avenue Crowne Plaza Chicago has great views.

Ric Garrido, writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler, shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. You can follow Loyalty Traveler on Twitter and Facebook and RSS feed.

8 Responses

  1. Crowne Plazas are more inconsistent than anything. There are some great properties (CP HK), good (CP LAX), and then the rest (most any CP in suburban America)

    Get rid of the bottom bit, and you have an OK brand.

    As for the kiosks, bring them on! If you are aiming for the frequent business traveller, they are very much OK with using them.

  2. I’ve had pretty good luck with Crowne Plazas. I’ve stayed at 3-4, plus 1 more than was a Holiday Inn that was rebadged as a Crowne Plaza without any changes (and it seemed like a Crowne Plaza to start with).

    Funny you should mention the adapter issue in countries other than the US. The one time I’ve actually needed an adapter while travelling and didn’t have it was at a Crowne Plaza in Rome, and they had one for me. I was working in London, going to conference in Rome, and was in the US at the time. My plan was to travel to London for a couple days, then go to the conference in Rome. However, this was during the ash cloud, I had left my adapters in London, and ended up needing to fly straight to Rome as I wasn’t going to make it to London first. (Yes, poor planning on my part considering I knew the ash cloud might cause problems). Luckily US agreed to fly me directly to Rome instead of London and luckily the CP in Rome had an adapter that I could borrow!

  3. It’s been years that I had concluded that CP has a consistency/character/image problem. They are often very old buildings with minor remodeling. That would be fine if they didn’t try to sell CP as a upscale brand. Right now except in places where their club lounge is actually open (which is rare to fine IMHO), they have all the bad things of upscales like Marriott and Sheraton which is no free internet, no free breakfast, not even a free coffee or tea station that these days you can find everywhere and yet they are never as nice as those upscales. CP investing only in a nice lobby without any free goodie for customers suggest that they think people are going to live in lobby and like a hotel just for a modern lobby.

  4. It could take forever to describe all the problems this brand has.First the program offers next to nothing in the way of recognition for Platinum members compared to any of the major competing programs.
    The program provides next to nothing for Platinum members excpet the promise of an upgrade.Sure some international hotels may do better however the reality is that Crowne Plaza sucks in the US
    At the CP property at LAX my guest room stunk like a dead body was decaying under the bed.Not what you want as an elite member is it?Housekeepers can’t report a rotting stench or have the sealed windows opened to air out?

    OTHER)
    Older buildings of bad design
    Tired looking guest rooms typically low cost attempts to imitate upscale
    Lower quality beds/cheap linens
    Bad lighting and poor design throughout guest rooms
    Bad Food in most the hotels
    Typically lower quality guets service skills
    Team members including mangagement and have poor business cultures compared to other leading brands
    Bad fitness centers with little if any quality fitness equipment
    Little or no suite inventory
    The brand identity is murky at best.Its stodgy and tired.Its International properties are notably much better.It reminds me of Radisson US vs the excptional Radission Blu primraily international with the exception of their one US property in Chicago

  5. Funny you mention the CP LAX. My room was new and quiet (as a Plat). As well, they gave me access to the Exec Lounge, which is small but OK for the USA.

  6. It pales in comparison to the Sheraton Gateway next door and its fully satisfactory continental breakfast in the Exec Lounge and a host of others at LAX like the Hilton LAX.The full hot breakfast downstairs is very good and amongst the best at LAX sometimes they will comp Plats to it

    The CP LAX may have made some improvements to the place however I see no reason ever to go back when considering Hilton,Hyatt or SPG in the area

  7. Fair enough, if you are top tier with those hotels. But this conversation is about the varied quality of CP, and in the context of North America does a good job treating Platinums IME.

    As I am only gold with Hilton and SPG, I see no reason to not stay at the CP LAX.

    Of course, YMMV.

  8. Having worked with hundreds of Priority Club members in a private focus group the opinions of many speak of frustration with PC.Not limited to the CP brand
    This same group of customers still stayed citing cheaper rooms and more point earnings
    For me its about experience,quality of hotel and in house recognition and points last.
    I give PC a failing grade
    The hotels and experiences are highly inconsistent.On the other hand my Ambassador status is above industry standards with IC hotels
    PC also ranked at the bottom of the list for all major programs by two of major surveys.
    I’d still stay with the other brands even if not elite
    Its a quality standard typically I don’t like at CP properties in the US

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