JOHN KAEGI LA QUINTA

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Hotel marketers often try to be all things to all travelers. Not La Quinta Inns.

The economy hotel chain in 1993 began abold reimaging program that included narrowly targeted advertising and a $60 million facelift.

With a limited ad budget-$2 million last year-La Quinta decided to narrow its advertising to focus on its core market, "road warriors," or traveling sales executives. Word-of-mouth would bring the rest, executives felt.

Advertising from GSD&M, Austin, Texas, took an irreverent flare, featuring actual guests-a real-estate sales executive, a carpet salesman and a woman's apparel sales rep-pitching the chain's value, free continental breakfast and new look.

"We're letting [our customers] do what they do best-sell product," says John Kaegi, La Quinta's senior VP-marketing.

Direct mail sent to frequent guests, including an audio newsletter, also is used.

The in-progress reimaging program already has boosted La Quinta occupancies and revenues, even in the midst of construction disruptions. Occupancies are up 3.9 points to 65.4% for the first quarter ended March 31, compared with the same period the previous year.

Revenues jumped 29% to $78.2 million; operating income increased 23% to $20.3 million.

Mr. Kaegi, 45, was hired in 1992 as part of a new management team, and he came aboard because of the challenge La Quinta posed.

He even helped choose the architectural firm for the new Southwestern motif.

It was a return to the hotel business for him; previously senior VP-marketing & strategic planning for KinderCare Learning Centers, he was with Holiday Inns before that.

What's up next for Mr. Kaegi and the hotel chain? Ad spending, budgeted at slightly more than $4 million this year.

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