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Holiday Inn Express & Suites
by Chamber News on April 19th, 2013

In 2002, Williams Investment Company purchased the land at the corner of St. Augustine Road and 1-75. At the time, the land was home to a 1960’s era Howard Johnson’s Motor Inn. The plan was to build two modern hotels of similar size and style but with slightly different clientele on the same footprint: a Comfort Suites and a Holiday Inn Express & Suites. Comfort Suites was built first and opened October of 2007, and the Holiday Inn Express & Suites opened July of 2009.
 
When The Holiday Inn Express & Suites opened, Valdosta was right in the middle of the worst financial recession since the great depression. Occupancy levels for the hotel industry as a whole were the worst on record for over 30 years in 2009. The hotel had a slow start, taking a little longer to ramp up than the Williams family anticipated.
 
To counteract the slow economy, special attention was given to local sales efforts. The Holiday Inn Express & Suites networked at Chamber functions, local service clubs, churches and even sporting events. The Holiday Inn Express & Suites also conducted a “Sales Blitz,” bringing together the efforts from all the senior management of Williams Hotel Group Valdosta to concentrate on community awareness and revenue building for this one key property. The Holiday Inn Express & Suites had a new building, clean hotel and a ready crew, with few customers.
 
The Holiday Inn Express & Suites encouraged the staff to go the extra mile to do more for guests than just the normal. Staff was taught the difference between a good employee and a great employee. A good employee will see a guest walking down the hall with an ice bucket in his hand and without being asked, they will offer “the ice machine is right down here on the right.” A great employee will see the same guest with the ice bucket and say, “Could I get that ice for you and deliver it to your room?”
 
The result of these unique sales and service efforts far exceeded anticipated goals and helped to elevate The Holiday Inn Express & Suites to the position of market leader. The hotel has shown a growth in occupancy year after year from 3.5 to 4 percent per year and an increase in revenue from 9 to 10 percent per year, each year it has been open.
 
When the contractor gave The Holiday Inn Express & Suites the keys to their new building, it was a dusty, empty husk. The opening staff went to work cleaning rooms, moving furniture, installing fixtures, putting together guest rooms, organizing work areas and stocking storage rooms. Slowly, the building started to take shape and become a hotel. By having them all work together, the employees all took ownership of the hotel. The hotel might belong to the Williams Hotel Group but the employees “owned” it and they were determined they were going to make it the best.
 
The hiring, training and retention of quality people has indeed had an impact on the hotel. For the year 2011/2012, the first year that The Holiday Inn Express & Suites met IHG’s very stringent eligibility requirements, the hotel won IHG’s Quality Excellence Award. This award is presented to hotels that maintain a guest satisfaction score exceeding 90.5% and put The Holiday Inn Express & Suites in the top 2 percent of all The Holiday Inn Express hotels nationwide. To date, The Holiday Inn Express & Suites is well on their way to repeating this award for the year 2012/2013.
 
The hotel as a “family” also wanted to invest in our community. The Holiday Inn Express & Suites decided there were several areas where we could make a difference: Children, Victims of Domestic Violence and the American Red Cross. The Holiday Inn Express & Suites became a drop off point for Toys for Tots as well, as several employees donated their time to assist in the annual toy drive.
 
The Holiday Inn Express & Suites also partnered with The Haven to provide them linens and supplies. Some of the products are used in The Haven’s facility, while the rest are utilized through their distribution center when the participants leave The Haven and start a new life on their own.
 
The Holiday Inn Express & Suites sales efforts and unique approach to outstanding customer service has shown them to be a leader in both guest satisfaction as well as profitability.


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