When I last interviewed Jim Evans, he was president and CEO of Best Western International. It was late 2001, and what struck me the most at the time when I visited his offices in Phoenix was his accessibility to his staff. As we sat and talked, colleagues stopped by to chat informally and to exchange ideas with their top executives.
The more we spoke, the more I realized Evans’ open-door policy extended way beyond his physical office; he had to handle the fact that Best Western was a 4,000-member hotel association comprised of hotel owners across the globe. Evans did an excellent job at the time of balancing the needs of the members with Best Western standards and for that reason I was delighted to learn that he had been selected as the CEO of the new Corporation for Travel Promotion, which will lead the first-ever marketing campaign for the United States in international markets.
The hotel industry should be delighted that someone from their sector has been selected to head this new entity, but what is even more gleeful is that this country will soon be marketing itself across the globe with a potential budget of $200 million. (Part of the new CTP requires that private industry contribute to the fund, so get ready to contribute.)
As I write this, news of Evans’ appointment is just a day old and he hadn’t yet given interviews to the media. We do know that the corporation will start receiving its funding when its fiscal year begins this October 1 and that the goal is to start marketing by the end of the year. Evans still has to build a staff and he’ll have to create a process for getting input from the 50 states on their marketing needs and desires. In the end, however, he’ll have to make resolute decisions to get the new marketing efforts out the door. After all, the U.S. has been waiting a long time for this.
Evans has a lot of work in front of him, but he’s got experience with starting up organizations; his most recent efforts include launching Ardent Hotel Advisors. And that’s exactly what the Corporation for Travel Promotion is -- a start-up.
I was reassured that Evans’ door will be wide open for input from the hotel industry, when, as a member of the audience at the World Travel and Tourism Council in Las Vegas in May, he stood up in front of 1,000 members of an international audience and asked the panelists of hotel executives on stage what suggestions they had for him as he started his new role. This occurred before he’d even formally started his new job.
Stephen Holmes, chairman and CEO of Wyndham Worldwide, suggested he find himself a good marketing team as his first step, while Hubert Joly, president and CEO of Carlson, said the perception of getting a visa to enter the United States needs to be fixed. “The perception is worse than reality,” Joly told Evans. Arne Sorenson, president and COO of Marriott International, who graces our cover this issue, told Evans that the marketing message should be kept simple.
Something tells me this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
We welcome Jim Evans to the helm of this exciting new venture and congratulate Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, for his efforts over the past five years to get the Corporation for Travel Promotion launched. I wasn’t sure I’d ever see the U.S. get a marketing effort going in my lifetime, but we’re clearly on a path to make that happen, and soon.
Finding opportunities in developing countries was the buzz at the International Hotel Investment Conference in Berlin last month. In fact, a series of country forums focused on Spain; Russia and the Ukraine; Brazil, Colombia and Argentina; and on North Africa, the region that had undoubtedly seen the greatest change in the past few weeks. I asked Kurt Ritter, president and CEO of The Rezidor Hotel Group, who was on hand at the IHIF, about prospects for the region and he quite correctly pointed out that it’s important not to put all of the countries under the same umbrella.
“They’re each in a unique situation,” he said. “I think Egypt and Tunisia will come back very quickly. Libya, however, is a case that’s really hard to predict. I think it can become a very sad story there. We’ve seen pictures of our Radisson and right now it’s a sad site. There are some bullet holes in the façade and windows.”
Over the next few days, I realized how suitable it is that the IHIF, which is all about new opportunities, is held annually in Berlin, a city that had undergone so much turmoil but today is a city of hope and exuberance. As Berlin has matured since the fall of the wall; its arts, retail and dining establishments and its hotels have become some of the most cutting-edge and innovative in the world.
It tells me there is hope for all places in turmoil; the human spirit intuitively wants to create better living conditions, and where there is such hope, a savvy hotel developer, sensing the potential, is often preparing to move on to the scene. That’s usually a very good thing; new hotel infrastructure helps a destination become more economically viable and enables it to do business on the world stage.
Tying it all up for me was a hotel developer at the IHIF who told me he’d been surprised to hear Iraq mentioned as a “next place” to consider building. We tossed the idea about and decided that that made perfect sense. When a destination is on the rebound, can fresh hotel growth be far behind?
Ted Teng, president and CEO of The Leading Hotels of the World, and Ruthanne Terrero, VP of content/editorial director
The economic environment is giving a wake-up call to our entrepreneurial colleagues, who see this as a time to take on under-performing assets that can be repositioned as three-and-a-half and four-star lifestyle hotels. It’s all reminding me of the late 90s when boutique hotels became the rage, most likely for the same financial reasons.
I thought I’d cull some of the intelligence I’ve picked up from various conferences, news reports and conversations I’ve had lately to develop a tip sheet on best practices for repositioning a hotel.
I’ve mentioned the early surge of boutique hotels in the 90s when several office buildings in New York were turned into lodging establishments. That leads me to tip No. 1.
Don’t let form overtake function. During that time, I stayed in a converted office building that had been “transformed” into a hotel. The bathroom in the guestroom was huge, but there was a tiny sink with very little surface space and the bathroom mirror jutted out. End result? When I bent over to brush my teeth, I banged my head on the mirror. Evidently, the designer had selected some funky, fun items for this bathroom and no one had intervened by testing out the experience. I checked out early.
Define your spaces. A recent USA Today article, “Is your hotel too hip for you?” wrote of “cutting-edge urban hotel design” that sometimes allows hotel lobbies to serve as party central for its youthful guests. The article cited visitors checking into a hotel who were greeted with a front desk littered with empty cocktail glasses. Hint: Don’t confuse your guest upon arrival; he or she has likely just flown coach and a long distance to get to you. Check-in should be a civilized and welcoming process, not a guessing game.
Turn on the lights! That same article indicated low lighting as one of the top complaints in hip hotels. We should all know better by now: Guests don’t want to have to feel their way along a hallway to get back to their guestroom. Does that even sound safe to you? Provide the basics at your property, such as the ability for a guest to see his hand when it’s outstretched in front of him.
Enough on not what to do. At the ALIS conference in January, a panel of industry visionaries advised attendees how to make money off a repositioning. “We find you can do this if you can shift segments, say by taking an upscale hotel to an upper-upscale asset, or by taking a midscale hotel to upscale,” said Neil Shah, president and COO of Hersha Hospitality Trust, which last year took two midscale properties and upgraded them to upscale establishments. Most recently, Hersha took over management of a hotel with exterior corridors and turned it into the Postcard Inn on the Beach in St. Pete Beach, which promotes itself as having “surfer flair.” “We moved RevPAR up by $20 and will move it another $40 this year,” he said.
“For repositioning, try to get the best amenities, such as spa, dining, bars, clever spaces, with great things to do on property for a leisure traveler,” said Nicholas Clayton, president of Viceroy Hotel Group. I stayed at the Viceroy Miami recently and loved its rooftop pool; it went on for days and days and definitely served as a destination unto itself. “People like to do something fun while they’re working so hard,” Clayton said.
Don’t forget the people factor when you’re taking over a hotel, warned Chip Conley, executive chairman of Joie de Vivre Hotels. By that, he’s referring to the people you may be inheriting with a management contract. “One thing anyone rarely does in due diligence is to look at the customer satisfaction data of a hotel to do a cultural assessment. You may find out that you may be inheriting a mess where you end up with a lot of wrongful termination suits.”
At the end of the day, Jim Anhut, chief development officer for IHG, summed it up neatly on the panel: “Repositioning is not for wimps,” he said.
I agree. Aside from obtaining lending and choosing the right talent for a repositioning project, hoteliers are dealing with a fickle consumer. To overcome the challenges, be practical, confer with colleagues you’ve worked with in the past to develop best practices and be sure to think creatively. The customer, as Viceroy’s Clayton said, wants to enjoy a hotel stay. Don’t make your concept too challenging for them and don’t get too cute with your concept. Daily life is hard enough.
Hotel Giraffe — New York
• Website — www.hotelgiraffe.com
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/hotelgiraffe
• Twitter — @HotelGiraffe
The Library Hotel — New York
The Library Hotel — New York
• Website — www.libraryhotel.com
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/libraryhotel
• Twitter — @LibraryHotel
Casablanca Hotel — New York
• Website — www.casablancahotel.com
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/casablancahotel
• Twitter — @CasablancaHotel
Hudson Hotel — New York
• Website — www.hudsonhotel.com
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/morganshotelgroup
• Twitter — @morganshotels
The Mercer — New York
• Website — www.mercerhotel.com
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=19425754592
• Twitter — N/A
NU Hotel — Brooklyn, N.Y.
• Website — www.nuhotelbrooklyn.com
• Twitter — @nuhotel
The Dylan — New York
• Website — www.dylanhotel.com
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/pages/dylan-hotel/124812674204190
• Twitter — @dylanhotelnyc
The Setai Fifth Avenue — New York
• Website — www.setaififthavenue.com/site-map/
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/setai
• Twitter — n/a
Hotel Elysee — New York
• Website — www.elyseehotel.com
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/elyseehotel
• Twitter — @hotelelyseenyc
Distrikt Hotel — New York
• Website — www.distrikthotel.com
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/DistrictHotelNYC
• Twitter — @distrikthotel
The Flatotel — New York
• Website — www.flatotel.com/index.shtml
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/FlatotelNYC
• Twitter — @flatotel
Duane Street Hotel — New York
• Website — www.duanestreethotel.com
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/pages/Duane-Street-Hotel
• Twitter — @duanestreet
Hotel Chandler — New York
• Website — www.hotelchandler.com
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/pages/Hotel-Chandler-New-York
• Twitter — @HotelChandler
The Whitehall Hotel — Chicago
• Website — www.thewhitehallhotel.com
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/pages/The-Whitehall-Hotel/
• Twitter — @thewhitehallhotel
Amalfi Hotel — Chicago
• Website — www.amalfihotelchicago.com
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/amalfihotelchicago
• Twitter — n/a
Burnham Hotel — Chicago
• Website — www.burnhamhotel.com
• Twitter —@kimpton
Sax Chicago — Chicago
• Twitter — @saxchicago
Dana Hotel and Spa — Chicago
• Website — www.danahotelandspa.com
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=82468131388
• Twitter — @danahotel
Hotel Monaco Chicago — Chicago
• Website — www.monaco-chicago.com
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/HotelMonaco.Chicago
• Twitter — @kimpton
The Angler's Boutique Resort — Miami
• Website — www.theanglersresort.com/index.php
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/pages/the-anglers-boutique-resort
• Twitter — @AnglersResort
Palmer House South Beach Hotel — Miami
• Website — www.palmerhousesobe.com
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/pages/palmer-house-sobe
• Twitter — @PalmerHouseSoBe
The Betsy Hotel — Miami
• Website — www.thebetsyhotel.com
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/thebetsyhotel
• Twitter — @theBetsyHotel
Pelican Hotel — Miami
• Website — www.pelicanhotel.com
• Facebook — n/a
• Twitter — @pelicanmiami
The Tides South Beach — Miami
• Website — www.tidessouthbeach.com
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/thetidessobe
The New Hotel — Miami
• Website — www.thenewhotelmiami.com
• Twitter — @newhotelmiami
Epic Hotel — Miami
• Website — www.epichotel.com
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/EPICHotel
• Twitter — @kimpton
The Colony Hotel — Miami
• Website — www.colonymiami.com
• Facebook — N/A
• Twitter — @colonyhotel
The Penguin Hotel — Miami
• Website — www.penguinhotel.com
• Facebook — N/A
• Twitter —N/A
Grafton on Sunset — Los Angeles
• Website — www.graftononsunset.com
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/graftononsunset
• Twitter — @GraftonOnSunset
Hotel Elan — Los Angeles
• Website — www.luxehotels.com/hotels/elan
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/pages/elan-hotel/99557491162?v=wall
• Twitter — @elanhotel
Farmer's Daughter Hotel — Los Angeles
• Website — www.farmersdaughterhotel.com
• Twitter — @farmdaughthotel
The Belamar — Los Angeles
• Website — www.larkspurhotels.com/collection/belamar
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/larkspurhotels
• Twitter —@LarkspurHotels
The O Hotel — Los Angeles
• Website — www.ohotelgroup.com
• Facebook — www.facebook.com/OHotel
• Twitter —@ohotel
As we see the hospitality industry begin a slow but encouraging economic recovery, I know we still we haven’t forgotten the economic instability of 2008 and 2009. Many distressed properties are prevalent in today’s market and so we’ve decided to host the Distressed Hotel Summit again this year to help all the stakeholders in the industry understand the best ways to not only continue to survive, but also thrive in the coming months.
Designed specially for management companies, lenders, owners and buyers of distressed hotels, special servicers and lawyers, the 2010 Summit will focus on the four ‘R’s of distressed asset management: recapitalization, repositioning, receivership and recovery. Attendees will also see topics presented by industry experts including strategies for buying, preserving and selling assets, asset valuation, revenue creation, cost savings on the upswing and so much more!
I’m also pleased to report that we are bringing back the most popular session from 2009—The Special Servicer panel. This year, panelists will delve into issues facing special services under the CMBS model and focus on strategies for working out defaulted loans with servicers and opportunities that may result from this distress.
Join us November 1-2 and register today for the Distressed Hotel Summit at www.distressedhotelsummit.com. We look forward to seeing you this fall in Washington, D.C. at the Almas Conference Center.
Few industries serve to annoy more people than the airline industry. What even compares? Maybe the IRS, banking, insurance companies or the legal profession. But airlines sometimes seem to be built as companies that invite frustration from their customers.
It's rather amazing, then, that one of the most respected brands in the world today is Virgin. Although the Virgin empire includes disparate ventures such as music, cell phones and trains, many people equate the brand with Virgin Atlantic, its upscale airline based near London.
My sole experience with the airline was flying coach from Boston to London years ago, and the flight was one of the most pleasant I've had. From seating to food—even down to the design of the overnight bag that contained earplugs and eyeshades—I felt well taken care of.
The Virgin approach is to be a brand that comes at industries as an outsider, according to Anthony S. Marino, Virgin Group managing partner, who spoke at last week's transform: design differently conference at the St. Regis Deer Crest Resort in Park City, Utah. Marino said Virgin was all about "clever design and consumer-focused innovation."
He also stressed that although its customers want cool, the thing they really want is service.
"None of our businesses compete on price, but we do compete on value—where a customer feels like they got more than they paid for," he said.
Marino said what was on a lot of people's minds when he told attendees, "Hotels are a very natural fit for us."
Virgin has a small collection of ultra-luxe properties called Virgin Limited Edition—mostly former getaways of rock-star owner Sir Richard Branson—but there has been speculation building over the past year that the brand would jump more fully into the hotel industry.
(See Hotel Design's recent cover story on Virgin Limited Edition and Sir Richard Branson.)
While Marino wouldn't comment specifically on the company's plans or a timeline, it seemed obvious that Virgin is seriously weighing jumping into the hotel game. After his presentation, I asked Marino whether any potential entry into the market would come as a standalone Virgin product or as a partnership with an existing hotel company. His feeling was that if it happened, it would certainly be 100-percent Virgin. That's an interesting change from past rumors I've heard.
And if Virgin really isn't thinking about a new "Virgin Hotels" brand, I'm curious as to why they're apparently soliciting branding ideas, like those shown on this designer's website.
Virgin Hotels could be a great fit as a luxury brand in gateway cities, along the lines of what W Hotels has built over the past few years. And it could mean a lot in our industry. Because, as the recently launched Virgin Galactic brand shows, Virgin likes to dream big.
As editors, we are programmed at an early age to malfunction at the mention of sales. Well, maybe not malfunction, but we tend to have an awkward relationship. That's what made going on sales calls for In Your Shoes so interesting. Would I start—gulp—thinking like a sales person?
The Mystic Marriott (Conn.) is a four-star, full-service property that offers a high-profile steak house, a Red Door spa and more than 20,000 square feet of meeting space. It has attributes to sell, but in a down economic period, it's much tougher to do so.
The property's biggest client has roomnights just about every day of the year and hosts most of its meetings at the Mystic as well. This relationship really illustrates the hardships of a sales staff. I'm sure the client knows how important they are to the hotel, and I'm sure they try to use that as leverage in negotiations. And as a member of the sales staff, can you really play hard ball with a client that accounts for so much business.
Those are the types of issues I saw discussed in the morning sales staff meeting. Sales staff and revenue managers sat in a cramped office going over leads: which prospects wanted which rate for which days and so on. It was intense, and it should be intense because these decisions make or break the hotel … but I'm telling you, there was almost bloodshed at one point.
Anyway, I learned the key to all of this sales stuff is relationship building. Don't approach a client like an adversary or a target. Just like any normal relationship, as long as you are open, honest, accommodating and real, no one should end up sleeping on the couch.
I traveled with director of sales Eileen Milano and Ariel Crohn, senior catering sales manager. We ventured to two nearby clients, and almost as if it was planned, each call presented a different sales scenario.
The first stop on the tour showed promise to become a bigger relationship—like a mature person we met in college who has the same political beliefs and taste in movies. The client had a client base that would probably benefit from what the Mystic has to offer, and Milano and Crohn calmly relayed that message.
"We're just trying to be a resource," Milano said a couple times. She didn't intend on booking 15 meetings that day, just planting the seed.
"It's important to start face to face and build that relationship," Milano said to me. She believes in the soft sell and not mindlessly pushing product. For example, she'll sometimes e-mail clients a recipe that she likes, with no business strings attached, to keep the lines of communication open and foster the relationship.
The next stop wasn't quite the opposite of the first meeting, but it was close. The contact didn't get up from her desk and didn't really listen to what we had to offer. She already had her preferred hotel for incoming guests. It's this awkwardness that I couldn't deal with in sales. In terms of a relationship metaphor, this was more like being ignored by someone on Facebook.
The last client seemed like she wanted to give the Mystic business … but the Mystic was a little too expensive for her almost nonexistent budget.
From what she was saying, it seemed like a lost cause to me. But Milano still told her to consider the Mystic when the time was right. If it is off-peak time, the hotel might be able to work with them. Just keep the lines of communication open.
This relationship felt more like an everyday boy-girl acquaintanceship. Maybe it will be something someday, but for now, we're just friends.
Venturing out and starting all three of these relationships was a new experience for this editor, but I'd rather get back to my usual relationship with sales. A distant one.
One of my great fears in life has always been food service.
Growing up, I avoided part-time work in any type of food service establishment. It's not necessarily the food part; it's the service part. Being a waiter or working the counter at Burger King freaks me out for some reason. I'm more of a behind-the-scenes guy.
So, I walked into Day 3 of my In Your Shoes experience at the Mystic Marriott (Conn.) much less enthusiastic because it was filled with work in the kitchen.
The Mystic Marriott has a fairly large kitchen area that accommodates Octagon (its steak house and lounge), a Starbucks, room service, the spa cafe menu and all banquet services. Food-and-beverage is really important to this hotel and is one of its big differentiators. Because of the scope, everybody pitches in when they can.
"There's lots of cross-functionality," said Amechi Osime, director of outlets. "Everyone is willing to work in different departments, even from different parts of the hotel." I've spent a lot of time with executive chef Steve Rosen and others in the restaurant staff during my stay here discussing the hotel’s food philosophies.
Octagon has more than 200 wines on hand and many Certified Angus Beef steaks, which are cuts of meat in the upper 8 percent in terms of quality in the U.S. Octagon doesn't mess around.
And if foodservice didn't intimidate me enough, there's a lot more math involved than I thought. From Osime to Antonio Rodriguez, who is in charge of purchasing, to executive chef Steve Rosen to director of catering Mechele Shiner-McCracken, everyone is calculating figures based on the number of people in an event, how many pounds or ounces a group needs of a certain item based on the group's size, what percent more should be stocked (just in case) and what time plating should begin … all without breaking the budget allotted to both the restaurant and the banquet team. It was dizzying.
So it makes sense that I was given little responsibility in the kitchen. But there wasn't a lot of activity today either. It was a slow part of the day and tomorrow didn't have too much on the docket.
Yesterday, I equated laundry to football and housekeeping to golf. Banquet service is like NASCAR: It's fast and nonstop. I got scared to tweet. I got scared to do pretty much anything.
The slowness relates a little to what sous-chef Kate Decker said about the biggest challenge she faces: It's not the food or the staff, it's working in the new economic environment. Meetings and group business isn’t as plentiful as before, and many of the events come together in a shorter time frame and with a smaller scope.
"Food prices can be an issue," she said. "We're trying to keep huge clients, but some don't have the money. How can you help them and not sacrifice the quality?"
However, there was a decent-sized meeting going on during my time in the kitchen. That was my next stop. The staff had taken down the a.m. break presentation in the hallway and had just finished building the lunch presentation. I now had to jump in and help feed 180 people who work for the hotel's biggest client, Pfizer. And this is what I fear: service.
People start coming out of the doors and I tense up. When I'm in a banquet line, I give little thought to anything other than, "GET OUT OF MY WAY!!! I WANT TO EAT!!" But that's all internal. Actually going through a line is mundane. Being on the other side of it, though, is intense. Yesterday, I equated laundry to football and housekeeping to golf. Banquet service is like NASCAR: It's fast and nonstop. I got scared to tweet. I got scared to do pretty much anything.
Shiner-McCracken told me that the banquet team has the most longevity of any department in the hotel. Most have been there since the hotel opened nine years ago. She attributes it to hiring from within, the flexibility of the hours and the regular off-site catering the team does. I partly attribute it to the unique salary distribution she has set up. Instead of paying her staff by event or by task, she pools the week's event total together and distributes payment based on hours worked in that week. This removes in-fighting about who gets what job during a banquet and more fairly determines pay, she said.
Shiner-McCracken also told me to keep an eye on one of the salad tables and make sure nothing runs out. And then, when everyone piled out of the meeting room, I was asked to help dish out soup, too.
Then I discovered my true calling in food service: clearing plates. It was my best performance since vacuuming yesterday. I liked the surveying. I liked the little amount of pressure involved. I liked the quick, forgettable, polite interactions with people. I was born for clearing plates. And luckily, I didn't get to find out if I was born to wash dishes. I'm pretty sure I wasn't.
Cleaning holds a special place in my heart. Not because I clean much or do an especially good job of cleaning, but because I've always been yelled at by my grandmother to clean. She constantly cleans, only taking time off to cook. She'd come over our house when I was little and start cleaning up and say, "You gotta learn."
You gotta learn. Heard that phrase roughly 452,746 times from her in my life. Still hear it. Well, she'll be proud to know that, today, I learned. I'm at the Mystic Marriott in Connecticut for Hotel & Motel Management's In Your Shoes program, and I was put to work in the back of house.
I started my day in laundry. And not just any laundry. The Mystic Marriott handles the laundry for three other properties the Waterford Hotel Group manages in the area, and because of this, its laundry room is gigantic, full of equipment and bustling with energy. It's also roughly the temperature of the earth's core.
There was plenty to do, but every employee assured me today was very slow. Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays are the worst.
I started off working with Vlado, a kindly Slovakian man who spoke little English. We separated sheets and linens and started a few wash cycles. Very advanced system. A couple button pushes and you're all set. Just remember to wear your rubber gloves.
I moved to the towel folding station with Marcio, a large, gregarious fellow who spoke a little more English than Vlado. He greatly emphasized how fast-paced it normally is back there. He also emphasized the immense capacity many of the machines could handle—up to 600 pounds of dirty sheets at a time. Not an appealing image, but an impressive figure.
At the folding station, I picked up dry towels and put them on a belt; the machine folded the towels and Marcio put them in another bin. When that bin was full, we loaded it on the truck that would take the towels back to the hotel from whence they came. I enjoyed the folding station. Marcio reminded me that this is a person's job for eight hours a day normally. Constantly feeding the machine. That doesn't sound quite as fun.
Then I moved onto sheet folding. This is handled by another machine. I worked with Bobbie. She told me that 10 years ago, the hotel she worked at did not have this type of machine and she used to do this stuff by hand. She fell in love with the folding machine instantly. It messed up a few times while I was using it with her. Bobbie insisted it wasn't my fault, but I'm pretty sure she was trying to make me feel better.
After lunch I moved onto housekeeping, where I worked with Nery. I didn't take a poll, but I'd say she's the MVP of the housekeeping staff. She was very efficient, meticulous, organized and willing to put up with a bumbling writer who literally could not put a pillow in a pillowcase the right way.
I pretty much handled vacuuming and asking dumb questions. Nery went over all of the little tasks to keep in mind when turning a room over, and I would no doubt forget many of them every time I did a room.
Nery is very good at what she does. She has no interest in moving into a supervisor role because it would interfere with making dinner for her two kids and with her second job. She almost quit working at the hotel after she started six years ago because she thought she was doing a bad job.
"I almost quit because I was going too slow," she said. Her manager, Karen, told her to not quit "because, she said, 'When you're done, I know it's ok.'" The Mystic Marriott places more of an emphasis on a perfect job than a speedy job, she said. But if you're going to take your time, it better be right, which, if Nery cleans it, I'll guarantee it is.
A couple tips, thoughts and other Mystic Marriott nuances I picked up:
• Don't put bedding you're going to reuse on the floor. Guests find it unseemly.
• Leave the pillows a guest put on the floor where they are. The guest put them there for a reason. Loved this philosophy. More hotels should adopt it.
• To me, laundry is a team sport, probably football, and housekeeping is an individual sport, probably golf … perhaps gymnastics. Feel free to ask me why.
• A visible hair, anywhere, is a scarlet letter. I shed hair like a house cat, so I was nervous to enter the bathroom after she finished.
• The duvets are the least-popular feature to most housekeepers. During training, beds alone occupy three days of practice. Just beds. Very important and arduous task.
• Hold the top corners of the pillow together and push the folded corners to the end of the inside of the pillow case. Grab said corners from the outside with your other hand and then let the fold go. Pull the rest of the case up in two pulls. These are tight, so pull hard. Lastly, fold a side of the open end of the case in over the pillow and tuck the other side in after it and press down.
Don't worry … you'll learn.
Follow Chris' adventures in real time on Twitter @HWN_Chris
Columbus, OH -- Yesterday I learned that it takes a village to bring a hotel project to completion, even before the first stake is driven in the ground. The Hilton Columbus Downtown is a true collaboration between brand, owner, developer and city.
The city estimates the Hilton Columbus Downtown will bring 550 permanent jobs to the city and lead to $1.5 billion in new spending in Columbus.
At the official groundbreaking ceremony for the 532-room project, which is expected to open its doors in 2012, I got a taste of how difficult it is to develop convention center hotels. Convention center managers have to match the groups they target with the capacity of the surrounding city--Where will people eat? Where can they hold events? And most importantly--where will they sleep?
Columbus and Franklin County have long had a hotel supply problem, which Mayor Michael Coleman pointed out during the groundbreaking ceremony, when he spoke about his fruitless attempts to recruit large-scale national events, like national political conventions and NCAA basketball tournaments, to the city.
Despite that, the area surrounding the convention center known locally as the Arena District, and bordered by the hip Short North neighborhood, has bloomed in recent years with the addition of visitor-friendly restaurants and shops. Still, hotel rooms are few and far between.
Experience Columbus president and CEO Paul Astleford drove the point home:
"Our customers told us loud and clear that we needed another full-service convention hotel," he said.
He cited three main reasons why this particular project is happening:
• Provide supply to offset demand: "We must retain the hotel business that has been outgrowing our hotel package," he said.
• Provide consistency: "This will help keep the convention center running year-round," he said. "We need multiple headquarter hotels so we can support more than one convention at a time."
• Get new business: "Now we are able to attract larger regional and national conventions and trade shows that have been out of our reach," he said.
"We as a company could not be happier," said Ted Ratliff, SVP of operations for Hilton. He called the project "truly in the right place at the right time."
The 532-room property will connect to the convention center via a glass walkway.
Beyond bringing much-needed (and close by) guestrooms online, this project is set to showcase what can happen when all the development players are on the same page, for the most part. What is one small step for Hilton Worldwide will be a giant leap for the city of Columbus.
"We've heard of the stimulus package," Mayor Colman said. "This is the Columbus stimulus package. This will bring jobs. This will bring people. This is another step in our city becoming a destination city.