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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

June 28, 2007

Welcome to the Hotel Memorial Union

by Erin Rosacker

Hotel room

Hotel room

Hotel room

Changes at the Memorial Union are not limited to the ongoing construction. Beginning next month, the MU's guest rooms will sport a new moniker. Worthy of an Eagles song, the Hotel Memorial Union debuts July 1, boasting updated amenities and free parking.

Last fall, MU officials hired a consulting group to take a look at the guest rooms operation and help pinpoint its target market. What it found was a limited awareness of the facility among the groups that would benefit most from its location - the top three floors of the MU's seven levels.

MU director Richard Reynolds pointed to a lack of aggressive marketing, something that's been on the back burner as the accommodations have undergone updates and improvements.

"We just had not kept pace with the industry, related to providing amenities for our guests," Reynolds said.

But over the last few years, Reynolds said they purchased new mattresses, high-quality linens and towels, and introduced in-room coffee service, irons, hair dryers, toiletries and 19-inch color TVs with cable service. In addition, upgraded phone service provides free high-speed internet access. This fall, a parlor room will be reconfigured to offer guests a complimentary cold breakfast service, with a selection of pastries, cold cereal, bagels, breads, milk and juice. Reynolds noted the service will be especially appealing to guests who stay through Sunday, when there are no dining options open in the MU food court.

With these new features, Reynolds said MU officials will retool their marketing approach to focus on consumer groups identified by the consulting team. Primarily, that would include alumni, international students and scholars, and guests of campus units, departments and students.

"Our market is really a group of people who are looking for convenience to the campus," Reynolds said.

He said the hotel implemented a toll-free number for reservations (800-433-3449), making it easier for out-of-town guests to book rooms, and a frequent-stay incentive plan is in the works.

The hotel also plans to host a batch of tours to familiarize campus members with the changes. This awareness campaign will give groups a chance to see the variety of floor plans offered in the 52-room hotel and a look at what Reynolds hopes will be their lodging recommendation for visitors.

"We want to create an awareness with the people who are affiliated one way or another with the university," Reynolds said. "We would like to get people into the facility to see the different floor plans that we have."

What's in a name

By using the word "hotel" in the new name, the consultants anticipate more recognition for the facility as a commercial hotel property - especially online. A Google search of hotels in Ames, Iowa, fails to mention the MU Guest Rooms in the first few pages of results, but a switch to Hotel Memorial Union will give the facility better visibility in the increasingly popular method of online booking.

"Really, it's a way of better marketing our services and the availability of the guest rooms," Reynolds said. "We need to convey exactly what the facility is through its name."

Another marketing tool is advertising something that hasn't changed - free parking in the MU parking ramp. Enclosed, protected parking adjacent to a hotel may be common in the big cities, but not paying extra for it on your final bill is rare.

Memorial Union

Hotel Memorial Union room rates (1-2 people per room)

Standard rooms, $63-$85

Suites, $73-$95

$5 each additional person

Children under 12 are free

Long-term and winter weather rates available