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Top Stories of 2017: New Hotel Designed with Millennials in Mind

HottyToddy.com recently attended the groundbreaking ceremony for Oxford’s newest hotel, Tru by Hilton. Described on the Hilton website as “a brand-new hotel experience … that’s vibrant, affordable and young-at-heart,” Tru by Hilton is a new concept aimed at millennials, that much-hyped demographic consisting of Americans born between roughly 1982 and 2004.
HottyToddy’s Steve Vassallo visited with Janet Watkins, Chief Operating Officer at Charter Road Hospitality Inc. (CRH), to find out what makes Tru so different.
Vassallo: Janet, this is an exciting new concept for CRH’s fifth Oxford hotel. Tell us a little bit about it.
Watkins: It absolutely is an exciting new concept. With 470 Tru hotels in various stages of development, this brand is the fastest-growing in history. We are so excited to be a part of its future success. Hilton has done so much research to get this right. It appeals to millennials—a growing demographic that needed a market niche—but it also will appeal to all travelers. Who doesn¹t want fast Wifi and a 55-inch TV, a comfortable bed in a streamlined room, and a lobby with tons of space?
Vassallo: How does the Tru brand encourage guest interaction?
Watkins: The lobby has four spaces for the guests to work, play, lounge and eat. We actually toured the prototype earlier this year at Hilton’s headquarters. There will be a breakfast area featuring a “Top It” breakfast bar so the guest can customize his breakfast, plus comfy lounge seating, a game area complete with a foosball table and board games, and a work area with cubicles providing sound barriers. The lobby area is almost the entire first floor. The Tru brand is encouraging interaction in the lobby by creating an inviting and versatile space.
Vassallo: What are some other features that will appeal to millennials?
Watkins: This hotel is bright but also very thoughtful. For example, the rooms are streamlined with ample space to plug in electronics, and the Wifi will be super-fast. Our researchers found that millennials value experiences over things. So, the hotel was designed with that concept in mind. It is a streamlined hotel, but they put thought into what matters to the guest. For example, wifi is incredibly important to travelers—they want to do work and stream on their own devices. We will make sure they have the best Wifi experience possible and we can exceed their bandwidth needs.
Vassallo: The check-in desk is also unique, right?
Watkins: It is. The check-in desk is circular and will feature a 24/7 market with amenities such as premium snacks, light meal options and single-serve wine and beer. All of these are available for purchase at a 24/7 retail market. It is the center of the public space, which includes four areas where guests can work, play, lounge and eat.
Vassallo: With the addition of Tru to Charter Road Hospitality’s portfolio here in Oxford, your employee count is projected to reach 150. This is significant.
Watkins: Yes, our employees are our family, and we are thankful for the opportunity to employ so many members of the Oxford/Lafayette Community. We look forward to hiring new team members in early 2019 for the Tru by Hilton.
Vassallo: I understand that Tru will represent an $11 million capital investment here. It also gives CRH three hotels in the shadow of the Oxford Conference Center. What will this latest hotel mean to the Conference Center?

Tru Hotel Stuttgatt Arkansas
Hilton executives turned out for the grand opening of a Tru hotel in Stuttgart, Arkansas.

Watkins: The Oxford Conference Center opened in 2004, and it is my understanding that they struggled for several years until Charter Road Hospitality built the Hampton Inn in 2011. Since 2011, the Oxford Conference Center has seen an increase in revenue from $378,000 to $1.2 million in 2017. This certainly is a testament to the Conference Center’s amazing staff, but it is also because the center needed walking-distance lodging to be successful. We are very happy to fill that need, and we feel it is an investment in our community and an endorsement for our tourism industry.
Vassallo: In his remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony, Governor Phil Bryant said Mississippi’s tourism industry is alive and well and set a new record for visitors in 2017. Does this suggest great timing for the opening of the Tru hotel in Oxford?
Watkins: Absolutely. Mississippi is known for its hospitality and culture. It is no surprise that we have seen a boost in the tourism industry. In particular, I think Visit Oxford has done a great job of promoting our city and helping our hotels provide lodging to our visitors.
Vassallo: Janet, what Tru features have we failed to discuss?
Watkins: We didn¹t mention that the property will have 104 rooms or that it will include a state-of-the-art fitness center. And I think the breakfast offering is really cool because the guest can customize their breakfast with over 30 sweet and savory toppings for their bagels, donuts, Greek yogurt and oatmeal.

Steve VassalloSteve Vassallo is a HottyToddy.com contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. Currently, Steve is a highly successful leader in the real estate business who lives in Oxford with his wife Rosie. You can contact Steve at sovassallo@gmail.com or call him at 985-852-7745.

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