Spence Wilson, son of Holiday Inn founder Kemmons Wilson, reflects on the evolution of the brand
To mark six decades in business and 35 years since entering the Middle East, the founding family of Holiday Inn recently embarked on a tour of the region, where seven hotels are planned to open within several years.
As part of InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG), today there are 25 operational Holiday Inn properties in the Middle East, many of which are franchised. In fact, the hotel brand was the world’s first to be franchised in 1954.
Globally there are 3414 Holiday Inn branded properties with another 682 due to open in the next three to five years.
On his UAE stop, Spence Wilson, the eldest son of founder Kemmons Wilson told Hotelier Middle East the group’s expansion was driven by his dad’s “love and passion” for developing Holiday Inn.
Kemmons Wilson came up with the idea for the brand after a family road trip to Washington DC in which he was disappointed by the lack of quality and consistency provided by roadside motels.
“Back then it was a case of turning up, walking into a hotel, getting a key and going to inspect your room. Every now and then we wouldn’t accept one because it wasn’t clean or ready,” recalls Spence Wilson.
“We took the road trip in 1951, and a year later we had our first Holiday Inn,” he said, adding that the name was inspired by the 1942 film starring Bing Crosby called the Holiday Inn.
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