After building a network of 60 upscale hotels in 23 years, the Doubletree hotel chain has arrived in Maryland.
The area's first Doubletree hotel opened this summer at the Colonnade, a 2-year-old condominium and inn complex at 4 W. University Parkway, just north of the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus in Baltimore.
Doubletree replaced the Potomac Hotel Group, original operator of the 125-room Inn at the Colonnade. The Phoenix-based hotel chain has a five-year contract to manage the inn, which occupies the first three floors of the 11-story building.
Richard Rymland, a member of the Colonnade Limited Partnership, which built and owns the Colonnade, said the partners changed operators after Potomac's management contract expired and Doubletree approached them.
At the end of last month -- two months after the management change -- the inn had an occupancy rate of 81 percent. That figure is up 10 percentage points from the average for the previous six months, Mr. Rymland said, and "we're looking good into the first quarter of 1993."
Doubletree is an ideal operator for the Colonnade, he said, because it is known for providing "a high level of service and elegance" and has a extensive reservations system.
"We're perfect for each other," Mr. Rymland said. "These are not administrative hotels. These are customer-service hotels. Everyone working here is out front relating to the customers."
An affiliate of the Cafritz Group of Washington, Potomac had 16 hotels when the Colonnade opened in February of 1990, but the number had dropped to four by this summer, Mr. Rymland said.
Doubletree, by contrast, owns or operates 60 hotels with 16,700 rooms in the United States and Canada and is expanding rapidly. Eighty-percent of the company is owned by Canadian Pacific Hotels Corp., which has another 25 hotels with 11,300 rooms, and the two companies are gradually merging under the Doubletree identity.
"It really makes a big difference," Mr. Rymland said. "Before, we had no national exposure. Now, you can pick up the pages of an airline magazine or business publication, and you can't miss their ads. They advertise on CNN and in USA Today, so we'll get a lot of national exposure."
The new Doubletree Inn at the Colonnade is also part of an aggressive effort by the hotel chain to establish a series of upscale, university-related hotels along the East Coast. In addition to the inn just north of Hopkins, Doubletree operates The Inn at Harvard, a 113-room property in Cambridge that is owned by the trustees of Harvard University.
Mr. Rymland said Doubletree brought in a new general manager from Phoenix, Frank Leone, but most of the 60 employees at the Colonnade have not changed. The change also does not affect the Colonnade's restaurant, the Polo Grill, which provides room service.