Express Route Gives R.I. Good New Service

The heavy demand for hotel rooms in a revived Providence, unprecedented brand recognition, and a central location between Providence, Worcester and Boston have all contributed to the success of the three-month-old Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Conference Center in Woonsocket.

Add to that having CVS headquarters as a neighbor and offering Northern Rhode Island meeting and convention facilities which are scarce in the area, and you have virtually a blueprint for success.

The Holiday Inn Express opened the week before Christmas in 2000 and got off to a slow start, said Stacey S. Somerville, the hotel’s director of sales. But after January of 2001 resulted in room occupancy rates just below the hotel’s own projections, February and March came on strong. Very strong. Now, the 88-room hotel is reporting an 80 percent occupancy rate and a growing business for corporate meetings.

In fact, the Holiday Inn Express formula — franchises that enjoy the international brand recognition of Holiday Inn but have separate owners — appears to match perfectly with Rhode Island’s tourism and business travel trades.

The first Holiday Inn Express opened on Jefferson Boulevard in Warwick — just a short drive from T.F. Green Airport — a week before Thanksgiving in 2000. And Rhode Island’s third Holiday Inn Express is under construction in Middletown.

The Warwick hotel is owned and operated by the Carpionato Corporation — developers of dozens of commercial ventures throughout the state, including the nearby Crowne Plaza Hotel (formerly Holiday Inn at the Crossings).

James Petrone, general manager of the Holiday Inn Express on Jefferson Boulevard, said that like the strong numbers in Woonsocket, the occupancy rate at the Warwick Holiday Inn Express is also high.

“We are really picking up,” he said. “The walk-in traffic has exceeded all of our expectations.”

And there are reasons to expect that business there will get even better.

The hotel is located, for example, about half a mile from the proposed Warwick Station — the center piece of a proposed new business district and inter-modal transportation center linking an Amtrak station with T.F. Green Airport.

“Jefferson Boulevard — the face of this road is going to change,” said Petrone. “Warwick Station will be a boon for us.”

Meeting place
The emphasis on the meeting facility business at the Woonsocket Holiday Inn Express is by design. Unlike other Holiday Inn Express hotels around the world, the Woonsocket facility features 4,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.

The hotel’s developers, Albion Management Company, of Hartford, sought and received permission from Holiday Inn to build additional meeting space — all part of concerted effort to take advantage of a lack of traditional meeting space in Northern Rhode Island.

“There are country clubs and restaurants, but there was really no hotel meeting space in Northern Rhode Island,” said Somerville. “There are a lot of companies out there that have had to go to Providence for meetings. We are working to capture that business.”

To date, such efforts have been successful — and companies like CVS, UNICOM, and several others affiliated with the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce are either taking advantage of the space — or planning to in the near future. Meeting rooms at the hotel can accommodate both small groups and meetings of up to 125 people (classroom style) and up to 250 (theater style).

The hotel features a standard room rate of $99.95 per night, but also offers special deals for extended stays. Rooms have two-line speakerphones with data ports, there is a self-service business center and an indoor pool with a Jacuzzi. Downtown Providence is 11 miles away, Newport 45 miles, Boston 50 miles, Worcester 30 miles and Cape Cod 80 miles away.

Nearby attractions that the hotel promotes to guests include the Stadium Theater, a mile away and Bryant College, Lincoln Woods and Lincoln Park all about eight miles away.

Even without mentioning the amenities and nearby points of interest, the Woonsocket hotel’s name keeps business brisk.

“We book close to 30 percent of our renovations from the Holiday Inn computer,” said Somerville. “We have one of the most recognized corporate logos in the world.”

John C. Gregory, president and chief executive officer of the 1,200-member Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, sees the new hotel as providing a much-needed resource to Northern Rhode Island’s business community.

“Up until Kirkbrae Country Club did its renovations, there really wasn’t quality meeting space in Northern Rhode Island,” he said. “It’s great for CVS, UNICOM — you can practically fall out of your office chair into the hotel.”

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