Wingate Inns Anticipates Rapid Growth for Chain

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PARSIPPANY, N.J. -- Wingate Inns properties are opening at the rate of one per week, John Paul Nichols, the chain's president and chief executive officer, said.

Cendant Corp.'s 2-year-old, all-new-construction business-travel brand now totals 32 hotels. Nichols predicted that number would leap to 65 by the end of the year and to more than 250 by 2001.

Wingates are slated to crop up overseas as well: The brand has four construction sites in the Philippines; the hotels should open within a year.

In Canada, Wingates are scheduled to appear within 10 months.

In the U.S., the brand is showing up in clusters in the Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Phoenix areas.

With prices of about $50 to $60 per night, Wingate properties, which average 100 rooms, rival Courtyard by Marriott and Hampton Inn.

About 60% of Wingate bookings come from corporate travel agents, Nichols said.

Half of the chain's guests arrive by plane and the other half by car.

Cell phones set the chain apart from the masses of midpriced hotels, Nichols added. Wingates include a 900 megahertz cordless phone in every room, plus a second, dual-line phone. Guests can walk down a hallway with it and even take calls in the room next door.

The front desk rents out complimentary "roving" portable phones that guests can take to the breakfast area, a meeting room or the fitness center, billing long-distance-calls to their rooms. Meetings attendees have been especially keen on the roving phones, Nichols said. Wingates typically host small meetings of up to 50 or 60 people.

Future plans are to add in-room Internet access. The chain currently offers free Internet access in its 24-hour business centers. "Mr. Smith would go into Room 101, turn on the TV and find a customized home page with his preferred newspapers and subject matter," Nichols said.

Wingate's automated check-in/checkout machines -- called Ed for Express Desk -- attract as many as 20% of guests at some properties, he said.

The chain launched a frequent traveler club earlier this year: After staying nine nights, guests can choose from a free night, 2,500 American AAdvantage miles or 2,500 Continental Airlines OnePass miles.

Wingate features a 100% satisfaction program as well.

"Of the first 30,000 room nights that we sold, we had to deal with only 27 refunds," Nichols said.

The newest Wingate Inns can be found in Anniston, Ala.; Augusta, Ga.; Columbus, Ohio; Mechanicsburg, Pa.; Clarksville, Tenn.; Arlington, Texas, and the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport in Texas.

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