Fun Read! 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Holiday Inn

From fun facts to pioneering moments, illuminating the brand’s ongoing leadership in mainstream hospitality, 10 things you didn’t know about the Holiday Inn hotel brand.

By Sam
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Fun Facts and 10 Things We Bet You Did Not know About Holiday Inn


On August 1, 1952 – with the opening of its first property in Memphis, Tennessee – Holiday Inns, Inc. became the first hotel company in the world where children under 12 years of age could stay for free. Kemmons Wilson, the founder of the Holiday Inn brand, was motivated to start the hotel chain after being forced to pay an additional $2 for each of his five kids during a family road trip. Kids staying for free (if they are in the same room as their parents) is a Holiday Inn standard that continues to this day. The brand later included that kids under 12 would eat for free – cementing its place as the prime choice for family travel.

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The Holiday Inn brand was the first hotel chain to have an onsite restaurant at every property, one of its most popular offerings in the 1960s was a Sunday night chicken dinner served family-style. The price? $1.95 for adults and $1 for children under 12. Today, the Holiday Inn brand is debuting a new breakfast buffet with fresh, hot staples like eggs, potatoes and bacon – along with one regional item to reflect the culture and ambiance of the surrounding locale. The brand’s latest design is also evolving with guest needs, making the restaurant and bar the center of the lobby experience. 


In February of 1983, the Holiday Inn company established the first-ever hotel loyalty program and set an industry standard that srved as a launchpad for IHG to have one of the world’s largest loyalty programs to this day – reimagined in 2022 as IHG One Rewards. With faster earn, richer benefits and exceptional choices, IHG One Rewards is a loyalty program that recognizes no two travelers are the same, and everyone should be rewarded in ways that work for them. 



The Holiday Inn brand was the first in the industry to have televisions and telephones in every room – providing technology and entertainment at a scale that had never been done. Today the world is busier than ever, and IHG launched its refreshed IHG One Rewards app (which has won three Webby Awards to date) to provide a redesigned mobile experience that unlocks access to its 19 brands, more than 6,300 hotels, and the IHG One Rewards loyalty program. 


There was one thing all five of Kemmons Wilson’s kids had in common. According to Wilson’s family, the kids were always pestering Kemmons for a swimming pool. So, once again, Wilson drew inspiration from his kids – ensuring that every Holiday Inn had a swimming pool at every hotel. In colder climates, the brand created indoor entertainment arenas that were known as Holidomes, with a swimming pool, games, and more. It was an entirely new experience for families. For today’s families, playful pools and beachside getaways can be found at Holiday Inn Resorts properties in cities all over the world.



As the Holiday Inn brand’s rapid growth continued with hotels opening in Europe and beyond, Kemmons Wilson reached out to IBM to create the first centralized hotel reservation system – Holidex. It revolutionized the industry, and according to insiders, once Holidex was in place, selling franchises was like “selling hot dogs at a baseball game.” While Holidex was phased out in the late 90s – it laid the foundation for tech innovation across hospitality. 


In 1971, the first black-owned franchise hotel in the country was a Holiday Inn hotel, a property in Tuskegee, Alabama. It was a monumental day for the company and the industry. Today, IHG has partnerships with two leading Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) – Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College – both located in Atlanta, Ga., the home to IHG’s Americas region headquarters. 



Kemmons Wilson was an entrepreneur through and through – investing in an eclectic array of ventures. He even sponsored the Powder Puff Derby air races by female pilots. The two women who flew did so under the Holiday Inn brand name – they were an owner and Holiday Inn employee. A Memphis Holiday Inn property also housed the world’s first all-female radio* station, WHER. It was on the air for over 10 years – hosted and operated entirely by women. Female ownership and leadership in the hospitality space is a priority for IHG. Speaking of the radio, fun fact for music lovers: the Holiday Inn brand has been featured in some of the greatest songs and pop culture moments over the past several decades. In fact, more than 50 songs mention “Holiday Inn,” and several hits have originated as scribbled lyrics on the hotel’s stationery.


Here’s a fun fact for sports buffs: Former New York Yankees player Mickey Mantle was a Holiday Inn property owner. The location was in Joplin, Missouri, and it was partially owned by the baseball legend. 


By 1971, the first hotel and restaurant chain to have locations in all 50 U.S. states was actually the Holiday Inn brand. Soon after, the brand went global, and was the first international brand to open in China. Today there are nearly 1,200 Holiday Inn properties worldwide with plans to open more than 250 new properties. 

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