Carlson introduces Country Inns & Suites brand to New Orleans

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NEW ORLEANS -- Although there are some 350 Country Inns & Suites by Carlson hotels across the world, there is little doubt that the one in New Orleans is unlike any other.

First, the 155-room property was developed out of seven connecting historical buildings on Magazine Street, just a few blocks from the French Quarter.

And much like everything else in New Orleans, each of the buildings, which date to the 1860s and are listed in the Register of National Historic Places, has its own colorful history. For instance, one building was once the home to the Clarion Herald, a publisher of Christian literature, and another was a popular fabric retail shop.

Converting old buildings into a midscale hotel is an involved process. In fact, it took Carlson more than two years to complete the construction and restoration work in order for the Country Inn & Suites to open in May.

But while that alone would be enough to make this ambitious addition to the chain unusual, what truly makes the hotel in New Orleans noteworthy is that it is the first Country Inns & Suites property to be built in an urban location.

Furthermore, the hotel, which charges an average room rate of $120 a night, is owned and operated by Carlson Hotels Worldwide, an unusual move for a company that typically franchises its hotels to outside developers.

Why would Carlson go to the trouble of developing, building and managing one of its hotels? The reason is simple: It wants its 18-year-old hotel brand to be noticed by developers, and theres no place better to do that than the Big Easy.

When a company like this has investors and franchisees that may not be familiar with the brand, it doesnt hurt to have one in a key location where we dont have other Country Inns & Suites, said Jodie Grannes, director of sales and marketing, managed hotels for Carlson Hotels Worldwide. This exposes the brand to people who look for hotel chains to invest in. It seems to be working.

Grannes said it is not unusual for people who own other hotels in the area to ask about the franchise opportunities of a Country Inns & Suites. So [being in New Orleans] has some ancillary benefits besides just getting our brand out there.

Like its sister properties around the world, the Country Inn & Suites in New Orleans has a residential feel. But there are plenty of touches that are uniquely New Orleans.

The architects designed it so that the hallways feel like Bourbon Street with hanging [electric] gas lamps and pillars, said Grannes. It feels like New Orleans.

To book, call (800) 456-4000 or go to www.countryinns.com.

To contact reporter Michael Milligan, send e-mail to [email protected].

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