Hotel Online  Special Report

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Midscale Franchisor Hands Franchisees
22% Increase in Internet Bookings
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Country Hearth Inn Fuels 22% Growth in 2003 with New Internet Booking
Technology, Branding Strategy for Franchisees; Projects 28% Growth in 2004

February 10, 2004 - Franchisors have a responsibility to their franchised property owners to create value, drive revenue, and provide good business practices.  Among the companies that take this responsibility seriously, 12-year old midscale chain Country Hearth Inns works especially hard to put its 50 plus franchisees first.   The company offers site-specific local marketing strategies for each of its properties; assists owners with public relations, operations and purchasing; and invests in leading edge voice reservation services, GDS marketing technology, and electronic distribution services for its operators.  All of this contributes to Country Hearth Inns’ service-focused mission statement, “One brand, one vision, one team,” that is helping to fuel their growth.  Four new properties will open in March 2004, and the chain projects a 28 percent increase in size by the end of the year. 
 
Buckhead America Corporation, Country Hearth Inns’ parent company, is mainly in the business of hotel franchising, and President Doug Collins has built the company on a foundation of working closely with operators to support their success.  “Our ongoing objective is to keep franchisees up to date with current marketing practices 
Country Hearth Inn Mcallen Pharr
2706 N. Cage Blvd.
Pharr, Texas
and technologies that give them the best chance to win business.  We like to operate our hotels in secondary and tertiary markets where we are the best hotel in town; our segment mix is about 60/40 in favor of the business traveler,” said Country Hearth Inns’ Doug Collins.  “We work hard to provide owners with everything they need to be successful, whether it is supplier volume purchase negotiations, or reservation delivery services.” 

Reservation delivery is one key area Country Hearth Inns (CHI) is targeting to boost its owners’ profitability.  “Our company and its operators are proactive in maximizing bookings from all reservation sources, whether from third party Internet sites, GDS companies, or our hotels’ own websites,” said Country Hearth’s Doug Collins.  For the past five years CHI has partnered with Lexington Services, a leading full-spectrum reservation and technology service company, to supply toll-free voice center services, GDS reservation connectivity, website technology and sales strategies for its franchisees.  “We work with our owners to generate promotional emails and eCommerce strategies designed to extend their exposure.  We link our sites to various local attractions like casinos, golf courses, local Chambers of Commerce, colleges and other demand generators.  Our reservation service partner has done a terrific job of maximizing our exposure in the major travel distribution channels, and taking care of our reservation delivery needs as well as creating and maintaining relationships with wholesalers.”   With on-line channels expected to provide 33 percent of hotel reservations for the industry in the next 3 to 5 years, Country Hearth Inns is on target with its Internet thinking as it perfects its reservation delivery strategies.

22% Web Booking Increase Boosts Revenue 14% Year-Over-Year

As Country Hearth Inns expands, its long-term goal is to create brand awareness among the Internet booking sites and travel agents that drive the majority of hotel reservation business.  By working closely with their reservation service provider, CHI identified the most productive third-party travel sites, and they are aligning franchisees’ inventory offering with the sites to raise reservations delivered through these channels.  Country Hearth experienced a 14 percent growth in chain-wide revenue in 2003 over 2002 largely through a 22 percent increase in Web bookings, combined with advertising and brand-awareness programs.
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Industry studies show average room rates were 6.5 percent higher in 2003 for reservations booked from property websites than from non-property sources.  The same study also noted that hotel site bookings are more profitable because they have a very low cost per reservation.  As a result, Country Hearth Inns initiated a program that goes beyond third-party travel site marketing to drive higher booking volume to its franchisees’ own Web pages.   CHI’s reservation service provider cooperated by developing an advanced Web booking engine that hotels can install on their Internet site to take advantage of this profitable Internet sales opportunity.  Country Hearth Inns’ Doug Collins, explained, “The new ‘LexBook’ reservation engine lets our operators offer shoppers an attractive, branded and secure source of room reservations that is in service 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  This kind of branding gives our properties more credibility and a strong image.  We were so impressed with the early results from LexBook that we are now rolling it out to all our properties.”  Country Hearth Inns’ new booking engine is linked to their central reservation system so that inventories are always current.

Country Hearth also provides franchisees with professional toll-free voice reservations.  In selecting a central reservation center CHI’s main concern was that that its provider’s voice staff answer calls promptly and courteously, and that agents were knowledgeable about Country Hearth Inns’ properties and product.  “All our 1-800 reservations are now handled by our reservation service provider’s central reservation sales operation,” said Collins.  “They also provide our owners with reservation conversion reporting on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.  Our franchisees in the limited service segment usually do not have the resources themselves to keep up with the changes in our industry, but they receive it from Country Hearth Inns by being part of the group.” 

VIP International, the industry’s second largest provider of reservation sales services with 4,600 hotels, acquired Lexington Services in December 2003.  Doug Collins concluded, “We feel VIP will do a tremendous job of delivering reservations to our franchisees.  VIP is one of the largest channel marketing companies in our industry.  Country Hearth Inns is already seeing very good things coming from our relationship with the new company.”

About Country Hearth Inns

Country Hearth Inns is a midscale hotel chain with over 50 locations that offer value to the corporate and leisure traveler. At every Country Hearth Inn travelers find a great value beginning with the InnCredible Breakfast included in the price. Country Hearth also offers special packages and the Country Club frequent guest program.  At all of Country Hearth Inns’ convenient locations from Michigan to Georgia, from Texas to North Carolina, guests experience the warmth of a bed and breakfast with the convenience of a hotel. Country Hearth Inn franchises are available in all 50 states and in Canada.

About VIP

VIP International (www.vipintcorp.com) is a channel marketing organization that drives revenue for hoteliers, car rental owners and regional airlines through a multi-channel reservation sales center, the adoption of leading-edge technology, and partnerships with clients to provide ongoing education.  Founded in 1979, the privately held Calgary, Alberta-based firm pursues a mission of being "The number one producer of bookings per client." This is accomplished through mastering the electronic channel marketing environment, developing and implementing strategies for each client's unique position, and educating customers about how to optimize participation in the changing electronic marketplace. VIP International purchased Lexington Services in December 2003.  The combined companies are a central distribution point to every viable Internet web site, and to all of the major global distribution systems including Sabre, Galileo, Pegasus, WorldRes, Amadeus, and Worldspan. VIP International is headquartered in Calgary, Canada with a USA headquarters in Dallas, Texas and significant development office presence in Denver, Colorado, London, United Kingdom, Hong Kong and other cities located around the world.

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Contact:

Buckhead America Corp.
Doug Collins, President 
Northpark Town Center, Building 500
1100 Abernathy Road, N.E., Suite 1210
Atlanta, GA 30328
(770) 393-2662
dcollins@buckheadamerica.com
www.countryhearth.com
 

VIP International
Rick Shaum
Senior Vice President Sales and Marketing
VIP International Corp.
(719) 487-0789
rshaum@vipintcorp.com
www.vipintcorp.com



 
Also See Study: Room Rates 6.5% Higher For Reservations Booked From Hotel Sites - VIP International Launches Website Services to Drive Traffic to Property Sites / December 2003
An Affiliate of VIP International, Reaches Definitive Agreement to Acquire Lexington Services / November 2003
VIP International Boosts Hotel Reservation Services, Selects Voxify to Reduce Costs for Clients, Enhance Call Center Efficiency / October 2003
#1 Provider of Car Rental Software Teams with VIP International to Fuel Independents’ Reservation Volume / October 2003
Business Travelers, Consumers Grab Lower Rental Car Rates, Book Online from Independent Agency Site / September 2003
E-Z Rent A Car Perfects Internet Strategy to Boost Reservations 20% in 2003 / September 2003
WorldRes Agreement Gives VIP International Hotels Second ‘Low-Fee’ Merchant Model Program / Aug 2003
Top Channel Marketing Provider VIP International Taps Industry Veteran to Power Marketing Efforts, Funnel 158% Growth  / Aug 2003
VIP International Cements Reputation as Leading GDS and Channel Marketing Provider for Asia Pacific / Aug 2003
Hotel Owner/Operators Disclose Secrets of Web Booking Success / June 2003
Dave Crawford Appointed Director of Airline and Auto Rental Business Development for VIP International / June 2003
Hotel Company Sharpens Channel Management for 22% Increase in Average Length of Stay for GDS Bookings, 14% Jump in ADR / June 2003
Interstate Hotels, Candlewood Suites, Regal Hotels, Canadian North Airlines Shift Call Center Responsibility to VIP: Interstate To Pass Along 8% to 10% Savings to Properties; Regal Hotels up 26% / May 2003
Zero Transaction Fees: Independent Hotels, Chains Profit from Landmark Agreement; Manage Discounted Rooms Through Central Res Systems at No Cost / May 2003
Interstate Hotels & Resorts Signs Five-Year Agreement with VIP International to Outsource Call Center; Expects to Pass Along 8 Percent to 10 Percent Savings, Increased Revenue to Hotels / April 2003
Hong Kong’s Largest Hotel Operator Sees Reservation Numbers Jump 26 Percent In First 10 Months of 2002, Increases Global Presence with New Reservation Sales Provider / February 2003
Canadian North Chooses Calgary-based VIP International to Provide Voice Reservation and Support services / January 2003
Midwestern Chain Targets Value-Conscious Senior Market; Picks New Channel Marketing Provider to Power Goal of 100% Increase in Bookings / January 2003
Midwestern Management Firm Gains 69% Increase in GDS Reservations YTD at 12 ‘Enhanced Limited-Service’ Properties / Dec 2002
Texas-Based Hotel Chain Captures 104% More GDS Reservations YTD, Speeds Ahead of Economy / Dec 2002
Four Star Calgary Hotel Reports 42% Increase in Bookings During Initial Period With New Channel Marketing Provider / Nov 2002

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