How did the Holiday Inn revolutionize America in the twentieth century?

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) – Kimmons Wilson was traveling by car from New York to Washington with his family when the idea first occurred to him.

The Wilsons had to stop for the night, but it was the summer of 1951, so the road facilities were not what they are today.

At the time, it was difficult to find suitable motels, which were often very expensive due to the lack of other amenities available.

Spence Wilson, the eldest of Kimmons’ sons, recalls that “there were no advertisements of available motels like there are today, so it was [والدي] Go see the room first before we discuss it.”

On this East Coast road trip, Kimmons, a businessman and father of five, began envisioning a simple, family-friendly inn with all the necessary amenities.

Regardless of the state or region, and whatever the road conditions, travelers can stay at these lodges.

The idea was simple – no frills, just a clean accommodation with a restaurant and pool.

Children under the age of 12, sharing a room with their parents, stay free.

In August 1952, Kimmons Wilson pursued this dream and opened the first Holiday Inn hotel.

And after 70 years, the Holiday Inn brand is still going strong.

Today, low-cost roadside hotels are popular, but in the 1950s the Kimmons concept was considered “truly revolutionary,” according to Ross Walton, a historian with the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage.

“Wilson has put together a bundle of ideas about the kinds of amenities that business travelers, as well as families looking for a vacation, want,” Walton told CNN.

“Elements that would be considered extra in any other accommodation, (Chemons) made it basic, and at a very reasonable room rate,” he added.

Revolutionizing the concept of residences

The image on the left shows Kimmons’ children and Wilson cutting the ribbon at the opening of the first Holiday Inn in 1952. The image on the right is from 2012 recreating the historic image and depicting the Wilson family, plain_textCredit: Royce DeGrie/Getty Images

Kimmons opened the first “Holiday Inn” hotel in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, and his children participated in the opening ceremony.

Spence remembers that the mayor, who was supposed to cut the ribbon, didn’t show up. “My dad wasn’t happy about that,” he says, when his mother suggested that he and his four brothers cut the ribbon.

The first Holiday Inn was followed by three other hotels in Memphis, built in collaboration with Kimmons’ co-founder, businessman Wallace Johnson.

By the time the fourth Holiday Inn opened, a newspaper proclaimed in 1960 that the then-dominant image of the inn, “the cluster of rickety cabins huddled along the road,” was a thing of the past.

This was followed by the opening of more Holiday Inn hotels.

George Falls, a former vice president of Holiday Inn, recalls traveling along roads in the United States and later overseas, researching potential sites and evaluating their viability for franchising.

Foles and his team had to ensure that each location accurately met the Holiday Inn brand’s standards.

“The Great Banner”

Holiday Inn Hotel
Kimmons Wilson, founder of the Holiday Inn, outside his Memphis hotel in 1960, plain_textCredit: The commercial appeal ZUMApress.com

Kimmons Wilson realized that marketing was the basis for the launch of his idea on the ground, so the story of the origin of the idea of ​​”Holiday Inn” during his family trip was present from day one in all the PR events of the brand .

Motels had a bad reputation during the 1950s, and Kimmons wanted to change that image.

Kimmons also emphasized his humble upbringing with a single mother during the Great Depression of the 1920s.

It also helped give the chain a catchy name, attributed to the brand’s architect, Eddie Blustein, who etched the name “Holiday Inn” on his design drawings for the first hotel built in Memphis.

The name Bluestein was inspired by the 1942 musical of the same name.

The Holiday Inn also drew potential guests off the highway via the Grand Banner, which adorned the hotel’s facade in striking neon colors designed by Jane Barber and Roland Alexander.

The sign, about 50 feet high, was striking with its green, yellow and red colors and was decorated with flashing electric lights.

According to Spence, each plate used enough energy to power five residential homes.

InterContinental Hotels Group, the group of hotels that now owns the Holiday Inn brand, points to the legacy of the Grand Banner today.

Create a modern hotel

Holiday Inn Hotel
The Holiday Inn in Gaithersburg, Maryland, reportedly had the most expensive dorm room in the United States, at $1,400 a night, and the photo shows the room’s layout in 1972., plain_textCredit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

During the 1950s, the Holiday Inn championed many concepts that were considered unusual but later became popular, such as televisions, to name a few.

In 1965, the company introduced “Holidex”, an internal computer reservation system created by IBM.

This system allowed guests to instantly reserve rooms at any Holiday Inn hotel across the United States. In 1965, it became the largest computerized commercial communications network in the world.

Walton confirms that “Holiday Inn was the undisputed leader at the time, and this happened a decade after the brand’s founding date.”

In the 1970s, Holiday Inn first introduced the concept of a “holdrum,” a climate-controlled indoor space with attractions such as indoor swimming pools.

In 1972, the six-room master suite at the Holiday Inn in Gaithersburg, Maryland, was described as the most expensive suite at the time of any hotel in the United States, at a rate of $1,400 per night.

This room was meant to attract famous people, and famous people are said to have stayed in it, including the American singer Cheryl LaPierre, better known as Cher.

The Holiday Inn chain has also introduced more practical on-site amenities, including drugstores, clothing stores and gift shops.

Over time, the brand developed in the face of competition from other hotels such as “Sheraton” and “Marriott”.

new era

Holiday Inn Hotel
Canadian rock band Rush stands here outside the Holiday Inn in Birmingham, England on February 12, 1978., plain_textCredit: Fin Costello/Redferns/Getty Images

After Kimmons retired in 1979, Holiday Inn hotels went through many ups and downs.

Today, under the supervision of the InterContinental Hotels Group, there are approximately 1,200 Holiday Inn hotels around the world.

Several subsidiaries exist, including the Holiday Inn Express, which offers an abstract version of the Holiday Inn experience.

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