Well-known Australian hotel chain Country Comfort has undergone a rebrand, as the chain adds on a franchising model and prepares to tackle the Asia-Pacific region.
Owned by Singapore-based company SilverNeedle Hospitality, the 28-year-old Country Comfort brand announced the rebrand and addition of a franchising model to its current licencing and management options earlier this week.
The aim of the move is to help the brand capitalise on the growing gap in the Asian market for quality, affordable accommodation, as the region becomes a business hotspot.
SilverNeedle group chief executive Iqbal Jumabhoy told SmartCompany there has been “an explosion” of business travel throughout Asia.
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“Economies there are growing rapidly and as this occurs there’s a gross amount of travel taking place because of the economic growth and proliferation of budget airlines,” he says.
“But on the flipside, there still hasn’t been any growth in the number of branded hotels and there is a need for an improvement in the number of quality rooms available at an affordable price. We also have parties speaking with us about upgrading an existing property where the owners need to grow in order to meet the demand of new-age travellers.”
SilverNeedle is as yet unable to release any direct goals related to its expansion, but Jumabhoy says he expects significant growth over the next 12 months.
“It wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect to sign up 30 to 40 hotels in the Asia-Pacific region in the next 12 months,” he says.
“I’m not currently able to tell you which markets specifically we’re looking at, but we’re in discussions with a number of interested parties in Asia right now, it’s been very quick.”
Jumabhoy says a franchising model will allow Country Comfort hotels to have a consistent quality standard across all of its locations.
“We already operate through various arrangements within Australia and New Zealand, including Country Comfort hotels we directly manage, and in other cases we license the name across the region. So the franchise model was a logical step so we can control the brand standards,” he says.
As part of the rebranding of the 20 Country Comfort hotels, predominately located in Australia, the brand has designed a new logo featuring the existing kookaburra (paying homage to its Australian origins), as well as implementing new beds, working spaces in all its hotels, free Wi-Fi and free local calls.
The upper-midscale hotel has also adopted a new slogan: ‘Rest today for a more productive tomorrow’ as it aims to target “road warriors” and businessmen on the go.
Jumabhoy says the decision to rebrand was motivated by customer research.
“We actually conducted a review of all our brands through a third party and one of the things we wanted to work out was where the brand stood in the market – how much recognition it had,” he says.
“The second part was to see where the brand stood out, if people perceived it as new, old or current … ‘Country Comfort’ we found had a high level of name recognition, but there was a lot that needed refreshing for more than one reason.”
Jumabhoy says the whole concept of the brand needed to be brought up to the standards required by customers by making sure what the hotels provided was relevant to the customer.
“We wanted the brand promise to be refreshed, but also wanted to retain the heritage, so that’s why it’s got the original logo, but the colours have been upgraded,” he says.
“We found the name of the brand resonated with a lot of people, so we also retained the name.”
Jumabhoy says the decision to rebrand and franchise was to help grow the brand.
“We wanted the brand to be a leading regional hotel company, so clearly we needed to make sure we have a consistent product,” he says.
The Country Comfort hotels will now be able to be operated under a licence, management or franchise model.
In the coming months SilverNeedle Hospitality will review its current Country Comfort licensees and either upgrade the hotels to fit with the refreshed brand, or find an alternate hotel brand within the group which is more suitable.