Embassy Suites plans ambitious growth streak

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- BHAG. Dont bother looking it up in the dictionary. Its not a word.

BHAG is an acronym David Greydanus likes to use to describe his ambitious plan to grow the Embassy Suites chain from its current portfolio of 170 hotels to 300 by 2010.

BHAG is a business term that means big, hairy, audacious goals, said Greydanus, Embassy Suites senior vice president of brand management.

And it is a big, hairy, audacious goal to get to 300 by 2010. For much of the last 10 years, weve opened maybe five or six hotels a year. So to get 300, we will have to open 15 to 20 hotels a year.

But Greydanus has reason to believe his BHAG is attainable.

First up, Embassy Suites this year intends to pull the wraps off seven hotels: properties at Washingtons Dulles Airport; in La Quinta, Calif.; Dallas/Frisco, Texas; Albuquerque, N.M.; St. Louis/St. Charles, Mo.; Hampton Roads, Va.; and Winston-Salem, N.C.

Embassy, a Hilton brand, has another hotel under construction in downtown Washington adjacent to the Washington Convention Center.

Looking ahead, Embassy has at least four hotels slated to open in 2006, including one in Lima, Peru.

The chain, which opened a hotel in Niagara Falls, Ontario, last year, is considering other opportunities in Canada and Mexico, where it will open its first property in Mexico City this year. To help the expansion drive, Embassy Suites rolled out an initiative a year ago called the Developers Advantage Program, which included up to $500,000 in incentives to lure hotel developers.

Embassy Suites also tries to attract developers and franchisees by emphasizing the versatility of the full-service product. With two rooms and top amenities, the hotels accommodate convention, business and leisure travelers, said Embassy Suites.

We have hotels that are attached or adjacent to major convention centers, like the one [under construction] in Washington, Greydanus said. In Tampa, we are building a large hotel adjacent to the convention that will be attached by a walkway. Then we have hotels that are small convention centers unto themselves, like the one in Hampton Roads, Va. We also have hotels in resort environments.

The hotel under construction in La Quinta, Calif., for example, will have 50% hotel rooms and 50% condos and a five-star spa attached to it, Greydanus said.

And as versatile as Embassy Suites is now, Greydanus believes developers will find the hotels to be even more adaptable when a new prototype, called Designed Concept 3, is unveiled later this year.

While keeping mum on the details, Greydanus said the prototype is designed to reduce the initial construction and start-up price.

Greydanus was also mum on a series of initiatives Embassy Suites plans to roll out for its existing hotels this year.

Everybody is coming up with a bed program. Everybody is coming up with a shower program. Everybody is coming up with something that they think will set them apart. That becomes harder and harder to do, he said.  But we are going to have two to three initiatives in the next few months that we are going to announce.

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

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