By J.D. LeipoldJune 12, 2009
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 15, 2009) -- Soldiers in a temporary duty or permanent change of station status who need lodging aboard Army installations will begin to see improvements in those accommodations as the service moves to privatize lodging at 10 posts beginning Aug. 15.
Under the privatization of Army lodging or PAL program which followed in the footsteps of the Army's successful family housing privatization program, lodging facilities will begin getting facelifts at Fort Rucker, Ala., Forts Leavenworth and Riley in Kansas, Fort Polk, La., Fort Sill, Okla., Forts Hood and Sam Houston in Texas, Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., Fort Myer, Va., and Fort Shafter's Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii.
The Army will first transfer responsibility to Actus Lend Lease to correct commercial code noncompliance issues and begin overhauling the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems which affect 3,200 rooms at the 10 installations. InterContinental Hotels Group will assume all lodging operations which will temporarily be branded as "IHG Army Hotels."
According to Rhonda Hayes, chief of capital ventures under the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for installations and environment, the Actus/IHG team will convert five hotels comprising 933 rooms to Holiday Inn Expresses over the next two years at no cost to the Army. The remainder will be renovated as Holiday Inn Expresses over the next few years or replaced by newly constructed brands such as Candlewood Suites or Staybridge Suites. Plans also include renovation of the existing historic facilities which will be designated as the "Historic Collection."
"This will be like a private sector hotel operation where Soldiers have the benefit of priority club reward points just like they have in the private sector when they go to a Holiday Inn Express," Hayes said. Some other perks depending on the IHG brand include complimentary breakfasts, free high-speed Internet, fitness and business centers, courtesy shuttle vehicles, 24-hour honor system convenience stores, check-in/out kiosks and free guest laundry service. Patrons will also be able to make global reservations via phone or the Web and pets are welcome. Hayes said that while the properties are being renovated, she expects the first improvements will be in those service areas.
"Ultimately Soldiers will have the same level of service in those branded properties as they do if they were to stay downtown in a private sector hotel," said Hayes. "This is not a matter of putting a sign up and calling it a Holiday Inn Express. There are a number of criteria that have to be met in terms of service and facility improvements to get it to that brand standard so we'll start with the services and migrate toward having the full brand standard at all installations."
The goal, she added, is to improve quality of life for Soldiers and their families by delivering superior hotel amenities and services while maintaining a 75 percent average weighted per diem cost. If rooms are unavailable on post Soldiers can be booked at a sister hotel in the private sector.
The transfer of hotel operations to IHG will also affect the hotel management and employees at the 10 installations. Thus far, said Hayes, seven of the 10 general managers have accepted positions with IHG. More than 80% of the 600-plus Army lodging employees who have applied for positions with IHG will receive offers of employment with the hotelier. Hayes said formal memos will have been received by today advising employees that their federal positions would be abolished and on-post hotel operations officially taken over by IHG on Aug. 15.
She also said IHG will give retained Army lodging employees year-for-year credit for their Army lodging service which would match the same level of seniority within the IHG family.