“Budget” doesn’t have to equal “basic.” Just ask the guests at any updated Holiday Inn.
Call it the IKEA-ization of American chain motels. A growing number of the nation’s biggest economy lodgers, including Super 8, Motel 6 and Red Roof Inn, are investing in spiffy decor upgrades in an effort to attract and retain more guests. They’re swapping floral bedspreads and pastel paintings for bold prints and flat screen TVs, and bringing their amenities up to par with higher end boutique hotels. The success of the redesigns remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: budget travelers in the US can expect a lot for bang for their buck.
Low-end motels have been aching for an upgrade for years. New hip hotel chains like NYLO Hotels and Starwood’s Aloft, plus reduced “recession” rates on higher end hotels, have exposed budget travelers to new realms of chic, making those outdated bathrooms and faded interiors of economy motels look all the drabber.
Chains have teamed up with design firms and style experts, with Holiday Inn leading the pack with a whopping $1 billion investment in over 3,200 locations. Upgraded bedding, more powerful shower heads, granite countertops, slicker vanities and an overall minimalist look are among the updates travelers can expect. Holiday Inn is going so far as to swap that chemical-cleaner smell with a piped-in signature scent of natural tea and leaf aromas. Guests may soon have a harder time telling whether they’re walking into a day spa or a motel with the lowest rates in town.
The “it’s chic to be frugal” trend, as Red Roof’s new slogan coins it, is far from isolated to the realm of motels. Just as American mega-store Target updated its goods from boringly basic to H&M hip, more retail and service providers are realizing that consumers like a little pizzazz to their budget digs—and that minimalism is always in vogue.
Upgrades do come with costs, however, and budget travelers can expect a modest increase in rates. Holiday Inn spokesperson Natasha Gullett doesn’t think guests will mind paying a small premium for more enjoyable surroundings. And when the economy eventually does recover, current deal specials at higher end hotels will disappear. Only now, budget travelers will be returning to more stylish surroundings at their stand-by economy hotels.