AmericInn Aims For National Brand Recognition; Plans International Expansion

MINNEAPOLIS? What?s in a name? Everything, according to AmericInn President and CEO Luke Fowler, who says the key to his company?s success lies in brand recognition. ?We?re hoping to dominate the upscale limited service niche category,? said Fowler, who aims to make AmericInn a national household name within five years. ?Right now there really is no one in that category. Fairfield, Comfort and Wingate are our competitors but they don?t really have good brands.? At the 1999 AmericInn annual convention held here last month, Fowler told franchisees that their brand will be ?a force to be reckoned with in the lodging industry? over the next few years and cited increases in ADR, RevPAR and occupancy from 1997 to 1998 as proof that the brand is back on the right track. Fowler pointed out that AmericInn finished 1998 with $35.82 in RevPAR, compared to $33.72 in 1997; an ADR increase of $2.44, from $53.72 in 1997 to $56.16 last year; and an average occupancy of 61.6%, up from 60.5% the previous year. Much of the brand?s success can be attributed to its ?very personal, hands-on approach to franchising, both from a management point of view and in quality assurance and training,? Fowler said. ?We?re committed to making our franchisees successful,? he explained. ?We send trainers to our new properties for a week before they open to offer training on everything from laundry to bed-making. (Trainers in) other companies either show up after the hotel has already opened or send a video.? AmericInn also takes pride in its prototypes and the physical integrity of its hotels which can be large or small facilities and fit into urban or resort markets, according to Fowler. Though categorized as an upscale limited service brand, each AmericInn property has a mix of rooms ranging from extended stay units to whirlpool rooms. ?Other brands? hotels are not well-built,? Fowler said, adding that AmericInn competitors? buildings are all ?the same old wood structures.? Looking Westward While the bulk of its hotels are currently located in the Midwest, AmericInn will have properties in 23 states, including clusters in Florida and Delaware, by year-end. The company is also looking westward to Wyoming, Colorado and Montana, and expects to have over 300 properties open by 2001. In addition, Fowler said AmericInn will look at expanding internationally, particularly into England and Germany, and has hired a Milan-based consultant to ensure that the brand has a significant European presence by 2004. Although Fowler acknowl- edged that brands across all industry segments will be faced with softening occupancies, he said AmericInn projects simultaneous increases in both rate and occupancy over the next couple of years.

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