Memphis, Tenn.-based Peabody Hotel Group (PHG) is teaming with New York-based Green Stamp America Inc. on a $20 million renovation of The Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock, Ark. Upon completion of the renovations in September 2001, the hotel will be renamed The Peabody Little Rock. It will be the third Peabody hotel, joining The Peabody Memphis and The Peabody Orlando in PHG's portfolio of 11 hotel properties.

The renovations to the Little Rock hotel will include improvements to all guestrooms, public areas, restaurants and meeting rooms. Renovations, of course, will include the installation of the Royal Duck Fountain and construction of the Royal Duck Palace for the famous Peabody flock. In addition to renovating the Little Rock hotel, PHG is planning a 1,700-room expansion of The Peabody Orlando. Phase one, scheduled for completion in fall 2003, will include a 42-story tower and 1,000 rooms. Phase two, slated for completion in 2006, will add 700 guestrooms.

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Pet-friendly hotels Travelers who can't bear the thought of leaving Fido or Mr. Bigglesworth behind when they travel need not fret. On average, about 35% of hotels allow pets in guestrooms, according to data compiled by RealTime Hotel Reports. However, travelers should keep in mind that some hotel types are more pet-friendly than others. According to RealTime, motels located near highways are most likely to allow pets, while resort hotels are more likely to ask guests to leave pets at home. The percentage of hotels that allow pets by category include: Motel, 42%; Extended Stay, 39%; Convention Hotel, 39%; All-Suite, 33%; Bed & Breakfast, 22%; and Villa/Condo, 15%.

In related Starwood news, W hotels has opened its first all-suite hotel in Newark, Calif., in the Silicon Valley area. Located at the Sun Microsystems corporate campus, the 174-room, five-story hotel will feature ORiNOCO, a Lucent Technologies system that provides a high-speed, wireless Internet network. Another high-tech amenity, the Capital Area Internet Service (CAIS) printing service, will allows guests to print directly from their laptops to a centrally located printer.

Guests also will have the option of staying in a "home office suite" equipped with a combination fax/copier/scanner/printer. The hotel also features a fitness center overlooking the swimming pool, and rooms equipped with Web browser televisions and dual-line speakerphones.

La Quinta: The next generation Dallas-based La Quinta Inns Inc. has a simple goal: To become the best hotel chain in the midscale hotel segment. A franchising program set to begin this month is part of that goal. And La Quinta also will receive a boost from its parent company, Needham, Mass.-based Meditrust Corp., which plans to divest half of its healthcare facilities and switch its focus to lodging.

Butch Cash, the new CEO of both La Quinta and Meditrust, notes the franchising program will help La Quinta expand its market share. "Franchising also will help us meet our overall goal of becoming the best hotel chain in the midprice segment for our customers, employees, franchisees and investors," says Cash. By selling its healthcare assets, Meditrust will be able to provide capital to help La Quinta pursue development in areas with high barriers to entry, such as New York and Chicago, he adds.

Alan Tallis, vice president and chief development officer in charge of franchising, notes that franchising was the next logical step for La Quinta to grow its portfolio, which includes 301 hotels across the United States. "In order to remain a viable competitor in today's environment, the game is market share," says Tallis, a 22-year industry veteran and former chief development officer for the company. "It is virtually impossible today for any chain to grow solely through corporate development. We want to look to the franchise community to assist us in growing La Quinta."

Cash and Tallis are two of several executives who will implement La Quinta's growth strategy. Other key executives include CFO David Rea, senior vice president Stephen Parker, and group vice presidents of operations Brent Spaeth and Wayne Goldberg.

La Quinta is calling the franchising initiative a "relationship-oriented" franchising program in which franchisees will be required to carry out the company's emphasis on friendly customer service. "This is going to be a very guest-focused program," says Tallis. "All of the decisions that are going to be made relative to the franchise program are going to be guest satisfaction-driven. Franchisees will not be our customers. They're going to be our affiliates and our business partners in terms of meeting and exceeding guest expectations."

Franchisees will both own and operate La Quinta hotels. Cash notes La Quinta will help franchisees achieve the company's standards by establishing strict operating standards. "At La Quinta, we'll offer our franchisees a unique advantage - our franchise partners will benefit from our own 30 years of operating experience."

In 2001, the first full year of the program, the company plans to open 15 franchises. The company hopes to open 35 franchises in 2002, and 50 franchises in each succeeding year.

The franchise program coincides with a new prototype that will be unveiled this fall. The prototype features an interior corridor, and exterior designs will include southwest, tropical and New England-style motifs, says Tallis.