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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 August, 2003, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
Holiday Inn throws in the towel
"Borrowing" towels seems to be a national pastime
If you can't live with the guilt of having stolen a hotel towel in your wild youth, then the Holiday Inn chain is offering absolution.

The US hotel firm has declared 28 August "Towel Amnesty Day", an act of forgiveness for the hundreds of thousands of its towels pinched every year.

Theft from hotel rooms costs the US hotel industry $100m a year, the American Hotel and Lodging Association estimates.

But for Holiday Inn, the real purpose of the exercise is to help breathe some life into its dowdy brand-name.

'All is forgiven'

Holiday Inn does not really expect anyone shamefacedly to return long-lost towels.

Instead, it hopes to use the day to collect guests' reminiscences about their lives of crime, and plans to post the best on its website.

According to a recent survey, one in five Americans has snaffled a hotel towel at one time or another.

"Everyone has a Holiday Inn story, and some of those stories involve our towels going home with our guests," said Mark Snyder, in charge of brand management at the chain.

"We're not asking for them back. We don't want people living with guilt, so we're simply letting Americans know that all is forgiven."

Getting cosy

The firm admits that the day is a naked publicity stunt.

Holiday Inn, now 51 years old and a part of the upmarket Intercontinental Hotels Group, is seen as in need of a little image makeover.

The brand is widely trusted, especially in the US, but is regarded as anonymous and completely lacking in glamour.

Mr Snyder was brought to the chain from rivals Hilton, where he was credited with a drive upmarket.

At Holiday Inn, he intends to stress the brands virtues of homespun friendliness and cosy name recognition, placing the chain as the sort of friendly place that wouldn't kick up a stink about the odd stray towel.

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