Wednesday, November 30, 2011

India - Hot market for expats!

As the Western economies continue to remain in deep freeze, more and more foreigners, mostly from the US and Europe are looking at India for jobs, a trend that has seen up to 20 per cent spurt this year, according to head-hunters.
According industry estimates, there are as many as 40,000 expats working in various industries in the country today.
"Hiring of expats has picked up by 15-20 per cent at all levels since last year, mainly on account of India being one of the fastest growing economies offering huge job opportunities," recruitment process outsourcing firm Elixir Consulting manager for International Practices Ratnesh Kumar said.

Marriott leader in saving Energy

Through a wide array of 2006 programs, Marriott International has saved 4,700,000 kWh of electricity, 136,000 therms of natural gas and $672,000. Programs include extensive evaluation and planning to ensure maximum energy efficiency, actions to cut CO2 by 2% per room, promotion of a linen re-use program, a "group re-lamp" program to ensure maximum lighting efficiency, as well as peak-load reductions. Together, Marriott's programs have cut CO2 emissions by nearly 4 million pounds. Marriott International is a 5th Annual Flex Your Power Award winner.
Once again, Marriott leads all other franchises in an operational category.

Donald Trump to enter Presidential race

Donald Trump, real estate mogul and host of the Celebrity Apprentice, said that he was considering entering the presidential race as an independent in May if "the right person doesn't get nominated by the Republican party," he told told CBS News' Political Hotsheet.
He has been horsing with the idea of running for a while now, thus till he places a formal entry, this news may become recurring. However, if he were to place his name on the ballot, would you vote for him? Do you think he would be beneficial to the small businesses?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Starwood hotels loses lawsuit worth 44 million

Pryor Cashman LLP is pleased to announce that its client, Castillo Grand LLC, has obtained a $44 million award against Starwood Hotels’ subsidiary Sheraton Operating Corp. The substantial ruling was a result of Sheraton’s multiple breaches of its management contract with the owners and developers of the former St. Regis Hotel and Resorts. The parties had entered into a contract to bring New York's famed St. Regis Hotel brand to Ft. Lauderdale's Gold Coast, making it one of the first high-end, luxury hotel and condominium resorts in the beachside community at the time.
At the crux of the dispute was the absence of “St. Regis-style” brand standards in the design and construction of the hotel, caused in large part by the revolving door of senior leadership within the Starwood organization. There were four St. Regis regime changes during the design and construction of the hotel and with each change Starwood leadership imposed a new direction in the design for almost every facet of the hotel. The disorganization created ever-evolving interior building specs for the St. Regis brand and a moving design and construction standard that led directly to extensive construction delays and vast cost overruns for Castillo Grand. By the time the hotel opened in 2007, it was millions of dollars over budget, two years behind schedule, and the Florida real estate market was cratering to historic lows.
Its good to see Franchisees taking action against unfair Franchise practices.

Natural Disasters help or kill hotel sales?

Category-3 hurricane on the East Coast would impact the business travel industry. The results can be applied to any significant weather event that leads to widespread shutdowns and canceled travel plans, such as East Coast snowstorms.
Business travel is a major driving force in the economy and disruptions in business travel will have wide-ranging repercussions. In this situation, business travel would initially lose about 514,000 trips and $606 million in spending due to storm related cancellations.
"Hurricane Irene was a major wake-up call for the business travel community," said Joe Bates, GBTA Foundation senior director of research. "The impacts of a more severe East Coast storm of any kind may be frightening to contemplate, but vital to consider. Corporate travel programs must be prepared to deal with the monumentally disruptive impact of a storm like this, and all players in the travel industry, including airlines, hotels, and airports, need to build this kind of thinking into their contingency planning activities.
While, hotels would lose business travel, they would more than recover their revenue with hurricane evacuees. I believe it evens out. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Business Centers in Hotels

The hotel business center is not what it used to be.
Gone are the days of the big separate room, often windowless, with a line of computers and printers. Instead, hotels across the price spectrum are increasingly shrinking their business centers or transforming them from quiet work spaces to lounge and meeting areas. Some are turning sections of their lobbies into de facto business centers, while others are improving work spaces in guest rooms.
All that is left of many business centers is a small room with a few computers and printers, used mainly by travelers who have a document or boarding pass to print, or who need to check email and do not have a laptop or smartphone. Guests usually get in and out quickly, rather than spending hours working there. What do you prefer?

Source: The Seattle Times

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Member Benefit Programs a fraud?

"Member Benefit Discount" program allows Franchisors to share 5% of the 10% commission from agencies like AAA and AARP. They mandate franchise owners to offer a 10% discount on these programs, so they can get a 5% kickback. Franchisors state that the 5% profit that they make from the commission is spent on marketing for the franchisees. Unfortunately, with their lack of transparent disclosure the franchisees cannot confirm how the Marketing Funds are spent. I believe marketing funds have often been used for items that are not necessarily for Marketing the Brands. Due to the lack of transparency from franchisors such as Wyndham Hotel Group, all franchisees should continue to raise and ask questions regarding funds spent for Marketing.
Is the franchisor, pushing this rate code as it creates an "extra" member benefit for them in terms of an additional 5% in fees at the expense of the franchisees?
The Bottom line, franchisees give 20% discount off rack rate, 10% commission (of which franchisors makes 5%), 5% fees to Franchisors Rewards Program, plus GDS fees may apply and we as the operators suffer. Are they really benefiting the brands and the franchisees or are they "Helping themselves"? All hoteliers should stand united and fight the unfair practices of franchisors!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Most Popular Websites!

Following are the most popular websites in the world as given by
As a personal user of the web, I concur with these rankings. Like billions of people, Google is my search engine of choice, followed by Yahoo. Similarly, Facebook remains my preferred social networking site. As for Chinese search sites and, guess where I went for information on them -
Pretty accurate list, if you ask me. The only popular site that I thought would have made it was, and of course, (kidding!)

Hotels Trimming Security

Hard times are prompting cuts in security at some hotels. In essence, guests must take more responsibility for their own safety by being more vigilant when they arrive and after checking in.
"The current (economic) downturn is associated with significant cuts in security," says Dave Wiggins, a member and former president of the CaliforniaTourism Safety & Security Association. At the same time, he says, hotel employees are working fewer hours and making less money, which "may be pushing some otherwise honest people toward dishonest behaviors."

The fact is nobody knows how much crime is committed in hotels vs. elsewhere. Police don't keep statistics on that. And till hotels do not have a security system gathering data, there will be no future indication in theft trends.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Can hotels sell Personal Guest Database?

I just read an article today that cell phone companies are selling personal data of their users. Fore example, if you wanted to open an book store, you can simply buy a marketing report from major wireless carriers and get an better idea of your target demographic, who are book lovers. If cell phone companies can sell their database, why don't hotels? There are many websites such as,, etc, that offer customer mailing lists for the area you target. However, hotels have built in databases for all their clients who have been coming to their properties on a yearly basis. The business travelers are not limited to your market, they travel to different cities on a weekly basis. To say the least, these databases would be much more important to someone who is planning to join the hotel business, than websites that offer millions of contact, but none weeded out for your specific industry. Hotel Management groups who manage several properties in different markets would be primed to sell databases and tap into this lucrative revenue generating business. I would be finding more information on the legality of my suggestions, and working towards it myself. Anyone interested in sharing their thoughts?

Hotel Franchises foes or partners?

This picture below can say a thousand words - precisely it is an image of angry hoteliers who feel the franchises they are associated with them compete against them. Hoteliers understand the concept of marget segmentation. Owners of Days Inn, Knights Inn, Howard Johnsons, Super 8, Travelodge have one thing in common-they are part of the same Franchise group- Wyndham hotels group. All these franchises are low budget franchises that cater to the same clientale. However, instead of having secured areas of business for indivudual franchisees, Wyndham hotel group have been approving locations within the vicinity, sometime directly next to its sister property. They are simply competing against each other, and as the pie gets smaller, more and more hotel owners are filing for bankruptcy. Similiarly, Choice hotels have been pitting Sleep Inns, Comfort Inns, and Quality Inns in the same market with no clear distinction in its clientale. Hotel Franchises such as Wyndham Hotels Group and Choice Hotels are reaping the benefits for their unethical business practices, while Hoteliers are suffering. I think its time, the government takes a look at the sufferings of small businesses, and stop greedy franchises from manipulating hoteliers. Please share your thoughts.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The "Wow" Experience at Hotels

In today's wow-their-socks-off travel industry, no act is too big or too small. "The tiniest gestures can have a grand effect," says Donna Thomas, president of the Pennsylvania-based New Zealand Travel Inc. "If we are to spend [the time and money to travel], we want the wow experience." From large, luxury hotel chains to small B&Bs, she says, most properties know the future is in the details

In Singapore's business district, the 40-room Naumi Hotel devotes an entire floor to female travelers. Fashion magazines, aromatherapy and all-natural products-make-up remover, toner and cleanser from Aesop-fill the feminine-minded rooms. A security door makes sure the floor is restricted to women only, and an all-female staff fusses over guests' every need.

Across the board, the industry has moved from hotel staff filling requests to anticipating guests' needs. The Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi goes one step further: A week-long $1 million stay includes a private jet for day trips. One jaunt goes to Iran, where guests can ensure that a handmade Persian carpet from well-known craftsmen is done to their tastes.

What innovative tactic to attract travelers will hotels use next?

Can security systems for hotels be outsourced?

Hotel security has been a subject that has been featured prominently in many news outlets. However, most hotels take security very seriously, and in a time when nearly every hotel operation must run as cost effectively as possible, there are ways to efficiently run a security operation.

Maintaining and recording key information through the security system is vital to many investigations. It could be the difference between winning and losing an lawsuit. Just like home security agencies, hotel security can be managed for a nominal fee. Hotels spend thousands on security systems, and pay high salaries to security guards, who are not surveying cameras around the clock. Outsourcing would enable tighter security watch, plus a more organized recording system. I know of a company out there, let me know if anyone is interested.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What if you could select your room prior to arriving at the hotel?

How many times have you selected airline seats prior to boarding an flight? I bet majority of you have, as I have. What if hotels gave you an option to select your room prior to you arriving via an online system similar to what airlines offer. On many occassions, I have had business travelers mention to me that they would like the same room as last time. However, due to occupancy restrictions, they end up with different rooms. Airlines took notice of guests booking their exit row seats first, and put a premium on those seats for a nominal fee. They turned a request into an revenue generator. Hotels should place a premium on upgraded rooms and place an option for guests to select prior to arrival. Many times an hotel would get an negatice review due to guests not getting a room that they desired. This system would enable more guest satisfaction along with higher incremental revenue for hotels. Win-win situation!

Could hotel start using finger print technology?

What if we had a system so that the guest’s finger print can be stored. All the data can be processed via an terminal, which is programmed directly to the room lock. The same system can be applied by the housekeeping department to avoid false entry into the guest room and theft issues. It also prevents the use of duplicate keys (Which costs hotel tons of money in the long run).

Anyone know of such technology currently in use at hotels? If not, its worth a debate! You can email me at for any suggestions, questions, or concerns.

90,000 Hotel Rooms in NYC?

New York City will reach a record 90,000 hotel rooms by the end of this year, representing a 24 per cent increase since 2006. This information was given by Michael R Bloomberg, Mayor, New York City. He was speaking at the newly opened Z NYC Hotel in Long Island City, where he was joined by Michael Gianaris, State Senator, New York City, George Fertitta, CEO, NYC & Co and Henry Zilberman, Owner, Z NYC. Bloomberg also mentioned that more than 7,000 rooms are in the pipeline that will add to the city’s hotel inventory, with an average 40 per cent of new openings taking place in boroughs other than Manhattan. This included Long Island City, Queens.“More people want to visit New York City than ever before and with a record 90,000 rooms, we have great places for them to stay. That is good news not just for tourists, but also for the city’s economy. Our tourism sector employs 323,000 people and those jobs are now increasingly located outside Manhattan, as tourists want to visit all of the city’s great neighbourhoods,” he said.

As you know, same was being done in Orlando - the number one leisure destination in USA for years. They kept on approving more zoning for hotel rooms, and now more than half the hotels are facing foreclosure. When can you have enough hotel rooms? This is a time to place down a strategy so that hoteliers do not hurt other hoteliers. Even if Occupancy remains the same, Average rate will decrease due to increased competition. As a consumer, I am loving the idea of more hotels; As a hotelier, I despise it. Let me know your thoughts.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Does an hotel generate enough roomnights to justify discounts in pricing?

There was once a time where it made sense for hoteliers to strategically lower their rates because competitors would be slow to catch on. But in today's world, hoteliers see the movements of their competitors instantly and adjust their practices to follow suit.
Because third party wholesalers such as are biting into an already thin margin, can hoteliers afford the net rate they generate? I have discussed on my past article about the dependecy hotels have on online travel sites. Bottom line is if we did not have online travel sites, the industry’s occupancy would be slightly lower and room rates would be considerably higher. Would it even out?

Demand and Supply for Hotels

Demand - While demand is improving, it is not overwhelming supply. Industry data and forecasts support modest growth— occupancy forecasts for 2011 and 2012 is to be less than 60% (58.5% and 59.5%, respectively), and the U.S. Travel Association predicts only a 1.8% increase in total domestic person trips for 2011. With $4 a gallon gas in some areas prompting travelers to cancel spring break trips and rethink summer vacations, lenders aren’t ready to loosen the purse strings for development projects.
Supply-The U.S. hotel market is still in the process of absorbing the more than 480,000 new rooms that came online between 2007 and 2010. Many of these properties are not yet stabilized because of the impact of the economic crisis on demand, suppressing the need for new supply.
Existing debt. Lenders still are dealing with many maturing hotel loans. Banks are focused on trying to free up their balance sheets by a) getting strong borrowers to refinance or pay down principal and b) modify or sell distressed loans. While the secondary market has returned, it is not as robust as in the past, meaning many lenders will be focused on the above for a while, limiting the availability of capital for new projects for another two to three years.
I believe this is the right time for acquiring existing properties rather than building more rooms in the market. One reason is you dont want to add another dimension to an already shrinking pie that hotels share, but also construction will cost more than an exisiting asset. Some of these hotels were built 2-3 years ago, so acquiring a newer product at a discount is even more beneficial.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How to reduce hotels energy bill

Many hotels and motels can benefit from quick low-cost or no-cost solutions for saving energy in various parts of their operations.
Peripheral and back rooms - Make sure that HVAC settings in lobbies, offices, and other such peripheral rooms are at minimum settings during hours of low use.
Laundry - Set laundry hot water temperatures to 120° Fahrenheit. This is a good temperature for all hot water uses outside of the kitchen, where codes are specific about water temperature.
Pools and hot tubs - Make sure that all pools and hot tubs are covered after hours to diminish heat loss. Covering a heated pool can save 50 to 70 percent of the pool’s energy use, 30 to 50 percent of its makeup water, and 35 to 60 percent of its chemicals.
Housekeeping procedures - Encourage housekeepers to turn off all lights and set temperatures to minimum levels after cleaning each room. Closing drapes when a room is unoccupied will reduce heat gain in the summer and heat loss in the winter.
Kitchen and food prep - In the kitchen, food preparation equipment should not be turned on for preheating more than 15 minutes before it is needed; simply reducing the operating time of kitchen appliances can cut cooking-related energy consumption by up to 60 percent.
Bathrooms and fitness rooms - Use automatic faucet shutoff, single-temperature fittings, and low-flow showerheads with pause control to reduce hot water waste in bathrooms and fitness rooms.
Front desk - Teach registration staff that they can help save energy costs by booking rooms in clusters, so that only occupied building areas or wings need to be heated or cooled to guest comfort levels. Rooms on top floors, at building corners, and facing west (in summer) or north (in winter) can be the most energy-intensive to heat or cool; therefore, consider renting them last.
Computers and office equipment - For hotel office spaces, a computer monitor can use two-thirds of the total energy of a desktop system, so it is important to power down monitors whenever they are not in use.
Guest service options - Some lodging facilities offer guests the option of forgoing daily linen changes or nightly turndown service. Some guests may not perceive a need for daily sheet and towel replacement or for lights, radios, or televisions to be turned on for them when they are not in the room.

Payroll differences between hotels in the world

Financial operating differences among the different regions become apparent when the rooms department expense percentage is compared. India has the lowest at 10.4% and Europe is the highest at 30%. China, South America and the U.S. are similar at around 22%. India's extremely low labor cost is the primary reason why the rooms department expense is so low. Indian hotels appear overstaffed, and usually provide a high level of service. However, wages are extremely low there, which results in a highly profitable department. Europe's labor costs are very high. Unions, government regulations, vacations and benefits, high cost of health care and social security contribute to staffing costs and a high rooms department expense.

Lower payroll and better service seems like the mantra to be a profitable enterprise in the hotel industry. Ever thought about investing in India?

Motel 6 App on Android

"We have seen success with the introduction of the Motel 6 App for iPhone, with over 25,000 downloads since its launch in June," said Jim Amorosia, CEO of Motel 6 and Studio 6. "Given Android's market share dominance in mobile app downloads and high penetration among Motel 6 guests, we have very positive expectations for the new Motel 6 app in both download volume and revenue generation."
The Motel 6 app for Android uses the smartphone's built-in GPS to locate the closest location available and can also search locations by city, state, or airport code. Once the Motel 6 location is identified, the Motel 6 App provides guests with specific information about amenities, brand policies, property images and daily rates and enables guests to book rooms seamlessly on their smartphones.
In my opinion, Motel 6 is not a motel best known for its cleaniliness, therefore should concentrate more on making their hotels adequate for guests looking for a clean fresh room to stay in. Using technology to market their product is a good idea, pending they place pressure on their properties to consistently improvise their product, generating better reviews.

Proactive or Reactive Sales more important?

Do you ever spend the time to measure how much time you spend in reaction versus how much time you are proactive? Some people believe that it is in your proactive time that you actually get things done. From my experiences, receiving calls for a lead and closing the deal is more productive than cold calling. Sales blitz, Cold Calls, etc are all good way to receive potential future business, however, you might target 10% of all monies spent in these endevours. On the contrary, while you are out of the office, you receive voicemails from potential clients wanting to work with your facility, however you are unavailable at that given time. I know when I start calling companies for services, I will keep on calling different places till I get to talk to a person. And more than likely, the first few companies that extend prompt service, is the ones I book with. I am not undermining the power of proactive sales, but am just suggesting reaction time to a lead is more important. Please share your thoughts.

Top 10 Tourism Countries

As per the data complied by the United Nations World Tourism organisation (UNWTO), out of a global total of 940 million tourists, the top ten international tourism destinations in 2010 were as below:

International tourist arrivals (mn)
1 France 76.80
2 United States 59.75
3 China 55.67
4 Spain 52.68
5 Italy 43.63
6 United Kingdom 28.13
7 Turkey 27.00
8 Germany 26.88
9 Malaysia 24.58
10 Mexico 22.40

Despite the abundant natural beauty and vast history, what stops India to make it among the top tourist destinations?

I believe hygiene, population, and security would probably be the key reasons tourists prefer to skip India. What are your thoughts?

US travelers set to return to Europe

Despite the downward revision of the countries' economic growth forecast, US tour operators predict US travelers will return to Europe in growing numbers. This is the main finding of a new World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)/European Travel Commission (ETC) report on US outbound travel presented at the World Travel Market with the support of the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) (London, UK, 8 November 2011).
The report offers reassuring insights into the US outbound market, indicating that in spite of the downward revision of national economic growth forecast, US travelers will gradually return to Europe in growing numbers (detailed overview of some of the main findings follows this release).
"Although the industry's focus has turned towards emerging markets like the BRIC countries, we should not forget Europe's most significant market, the USA," said Petra Hedorfer, ETC President. "In 2010, Europe attracted 11 million US citizens, a figure expected to rise in the future. It is therefore our duty to strengthen Europe's image as an exciting and dynamic destination in spite of economic turmoil and changing consumer interests."
Research also shows that "although US travelers to Europe tend to be more financially resilient than many, they are still keen on finding value for money at every turn."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cockroaches on Flight?

A North Carolina couple is suing Air Tran Airways, alleging they were sickened by cockroaches coming out of air vents and storage areas on a recent flight. They say flight attendants ignored their concerns.
WCNC-TV states that Charlotte attorney Harry Marsh and his fiancée, Kaitlin Rush, saw the cockroaches soon after takeoff on a Sept. 15 flight from Charlotte to Houston with a stop-over in Atlanta. They say Air hostesses were too busy to investigate the problem. Marsh said Rush became nauseous and now doesn't want to fly.
They're claiming mental and emotional distress and seeking more than $100,000, plus the price of their tickets. Air Tran said it can't comment on pending litigation, but it denies several allegations. The airline says cleanliness is important and that planes are regularly and professionally treated for bugs.

Blackjack Player responsible for Casino loss?

Blackjack whiz Don Johnson scorched Tropicana Casino and Resort for $2 million in October, adding to the $15 million he had previously won in Atlantic City during an incredible streak of good luck.
Johnson was not the only gambler who scored big last month. Figures released Thursday by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement showed that casino table games revenue plunged nearly 17 percent industrywide in October, while slot machines were down 4 percent.
Overall, the 11 casino hotels posted $261.7 million in revenue, a decline of 8 percent compared with $284 million in October 2010. Atlantic City's wobbly gaming industry has suffered 38 straight months of revenue declines.
October's figures were remarkable for the casinos' awful luck at the table games. In other words, gamblers beat the house this time around. Johnson disclosed that he won $2 million at Tropicana's blackjack tables. His story was confirmed by Tropicana Chief Executive Officer Tony Rodio after Johnson spoke to The Press of Atlantic City.
He hit it big again at Tropicana in October. His exploits were the main reason Tropicana's table games revenue plummeted 57 percent for the month. Rodio said another Tropicana table games player won close to $1 million in October. The gambler's name was not revealed.
"Other casinos took a drubbing at the tables in October. Figures show table games revenue fell nearly 50 percent at Golden Nugget Atlantic City and about 47 percent at ACH, formerly known as the Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort. Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino and Harrah's Resort both saw their table games revenue decline by about 35 percent.
Good to see players making money and the house losing! Keep up the good work, players!

Hotel Rates in relation to NFL Games

Many of you wonder, what effect Sunday night Football or Monday night Football have on hotels in cities hosting those games. Like any event, one would expect rates to increase around the stadium of the hosting city. However, it is quite the opposite when it comes to Sunday and Monday night games. Hotels are offering discounted rates on these nights as compared to other days of the week. The main reason being they are willing to discount rates, while wanting to maximize their occupancy levels. In hotel terms, raise the REVPAR. Also, Sunday nights in most markets are the slowest day of the week-thus to fill rooms, you would expect cheaper rates on Sundays irrespective of a night event in town. Sunday nights are similar to Tuesday and Wednesday for Airlines (slowest day of the week-where you get cheap rates). Thus, unless it is Super Bowl weekend, do not be scared of hotel rates if wanting to go see a game during the season. You are more likely to be paying cheaper rates. Go for it and root for your favorite team.

Best Swimming Pools in Las Vegas

DialAFlight, one of the UK's leading travel operators, is proud to unveil its top selection of hotel swimming pools in Las Vegas. The city, famed for its grandeur hotels and casinos, also holds a reputation for its surreal range of luxurious hotel swimming pools- a selling point which is persuading more and more families to book holidays to Las Vegas.
Mandalay Bay Beach: Laden with 3000 tonnes of authentic sand, Manadaly Bay Beach has certainly been created to resemble a real seaside. The pools themselves cover a massive eleven acres and are equipped with wave machines and rapids to keep swimmers occupied. Beach villas on the 'shore' allow extra privacy and even private service.
The Garden of the Gods: Located at Caesar's Palace, these pools echo the hotel itself- decorated with Greco-Roman statuary and palatial splendour. The most unusual pool here is the newly opened "Chocolate Pool," officially dubbed the Sokolati Pool, which features a chocolate waterfall and three acres of literally sweet swimming. A must for Charlie and the chocolate factory fans!
The Flamingo: The pool complex at the Flamingo is a tropical paradise squeezed into 15 acres along the main Strip. Lagoons and a waterfall connect the various pools together, and a seasonal waterslide is certain to amuse both the young and the young at heart. Lifeguards keep watch over the swimmers here and pool attendants roam the grounds seeing to the refreshment needs of guests.
The Monte Carlo: The lazy river at this pool complex is hundreds of feet long, and there are four pools in total, including one equipped with realistic wave action to mimic the seashore. On weekends, the complex adopts a "beach party" theme complete with a sand volleyball competition and live DJs playing a variety of music from the golden oldies to the most recent hits.
The Tropicana: This casino is themed as a Polynesian resort, with the pool completing the image of a South Pacific paradise. The main pool features a central island complete with foliage, a perfect place to stretch out and relax after an invigorating swim through cool crystal waters

Do you guys have varying opinions about this list?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Lost and Found - Mostly Lost?

In my experience in traveling, I have seldomly recovered items left behind. If my experiences are indicative of any trends, most hotels invest little effort on organizing an effective lost and found process. The most common experience these days is being transferred to a "lost and found" voice mailbox, in which you are forced to leave my verbal plea for the return of your item. I believe a good lost and found department is a hotel's best PR (public relations) tool. It develops trust with the guests and its followed by them telling others about the honesty and integrity of the hotel. On the contrary, once a lack of trust is built, gaining it back could be harder than convincing your guests to come back after they checked into a dirty room. I would like to get statistics on which hotel brands perform the best when it comes to Lost and Found Department. If I were to guess, the industry Stalwarts like Marriott, Starwood, and Hilton might be near the top, while sloppy Franchises, namely Choice and Wyndham products are near the bottom.

Hotels looking to challenge Tripadvisor

Marriott will join Starwood in allowing guests to post a review on their website. Like Starwood, Marriott will confirm whether a review writer actually stayed in the hotel before publishing the review, eliminating skepticism that a bad review might come from someone looking to undermine a hotel's reputation for whatever reason.
Also like Starwood, Marriott does not plan to offer incentives to customers to write reviews. Tripadvisor allows the general public to write an review on hotels, thus a negative campaign against a particular hotel competitor could do some serios damage. Here is an article about an hotel suing Tripadvisor over accusing her of posting fake reviews.

Starwood and Marriott have started a great trend, which I hope other hotel companies like Choice International and Wyndham follow. Irrespective of the review being positive or negative, the key here will be qualifying the person who is writing the review.

Are more Hotel Foreclosures on the way?

There will be a "huge increase'" in U.S. hotel foreclosures next year as debts come due and little financing is available, said Robert Sonnenblick, a hotel developer.
The wave of commercial mortgage-backed securities needing replacement debt "is going to be a close-to-catastrophic problem," Sonnenblick, chairman of Sonnenblick Development LLC, said today at the Bloomberg Commercial Real Estate Summit in New York. "The end result of all of this is you're going to see a huge increase of hotel foreclosures."
About $21.7 billion in commercial mortgage-backed securities on 232 hotels are coming due in the next 12 months and need to be refinanced, according to Realpoint, a securities ratings firm now owned by Morningstar Inc. At best, a third of that will be refinanced, with many properties being taken over by lenders, Sonnenblick said.

From my understanding, this means, buyers will wait to bid on thousands of bank owned assets rather than building new hotels. It makes sense, as statistically, 2011 has shown a growth in occupancy levels - with the market starting to show an upward trend hereon. Therefore, the reason for the foreclosures would be the bad inflated loans the hoteliers signed of on, not because of business. Thus, look out for these bank owned hotels to be a good buy.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Increased US VISA Demand?

“As the U.S. seeks to regain the historic 17 percent share of the world travel market it had in 2000, the U.S. visa system must evolve with innovative solutions and new resources,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “We greatly appreciate the attention Secretary Clinton and Deputy Secretary Nides have given to improving the U.S. visa process, and our industry looks forward to working together to develop and implement systemic and long-term visa processing improvements across all high-growth travel markets that, at the same time, maximize security.”Of the 9.6 million visa applications in fiscal year 2011, 7.5 million U.S. visas were issued, an increase of more than 17 percent over 2010. Increased demand continues to come from some of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

Lets hope this trend continues. Disney World must be smiling!

Stalled Baltimore hotel project to be auctioned Nov. 30

A former downtown Baltimore office building that was being converted to a Staybridge Suites Hotel is scheduled to go on the auction block Nov. 30. The foreclosure sale will be held on the site of the 11-story Jefferson Building at 101 N. Charles St., according to auctioneers GoIndustry DoveBid. In August, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge cleared the way for lender RL BB Financial LLC to foreclose. Work on the hotel stalled during the financial downturn, but the lender was prevented from foreclosing after the developer, 101 Charles Street LLC, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August 2010.
The developer had a nonbinding letter of intent from the InterContinental Hotels Group, a management company for the Staybridge Suites brand, but completed only about half the renovations before running into financial trouble. No work has been done since 2009.
I am familiar with the Baltimore market, and I believe any hotelier interested would be getting a good opportunity in a growth market.

Best Western new marketing tactic:Brand USA

The first-ever marketing plan to attract international visitors to the United States—dubbed Brand USA and launched at the World Travel Market in London on Monday—is just the first step of many on the path to America’s greater competiveness in global tourism.

“It’s about experiencing the American Dream. The key for hoteliers is to integrate Brand USA's efforts at every level,” said David Kong, president and CEO of Best Western International, regarding the the organization's new national marketing push. “Every hotel should deliver on the promise of America as a one-of-a-kind, world-class destination, regardless of location or property type.”
Brand USA is both the name of the new campaign as well as the organizing body, which was formely called the Corporation for Travel Promotion.

Future hoteliers will need to adapt to better satisfy a host of hypothetical foreign clients, as well as devising the means to not only convince international guests to choose the United States as their destination, but to also book at one’s own hotel, rather than the competitor down the street

Hotel Credit Card Scam

Hotel employees everywhere are exposed to Credit Card numbers given by guests on a daily basis. What if they were to misuse it? An auditor for a stylish New York City hotel chain has been indicted for allegedly selling credit card numbers and selling it to a man accused of using it to buy $840,000 worth of airline tickets and other items, the Associated Press reports. The indicted hotel auditor, Lukasz Kruk, 27, worked for Amsterdam Hospitality Group, which runs eight hotels including the chic, four-star Empire Hotel across from Lincoln Center that's popular with celebrities.

People who use their credit card oftens, can often overlook a charge unless checking their account on a daily basis. However, hotels have access to authorize their cards at any time, and one cannot overlook that threat. I recommend guests to ensure they pay attention to all hotel transactions placed on their accounts. Has anyone experienced an hotel charge that was unauthorized?

Las Vegas Hotel maid brutally raped while on the job

New information on a brutal rape last week in a strip casino. 19-year-old David Randell Ferren was arrested Saturday night and charged with four counts of sexually assaulting a woman over the age of 65. Police say the victim is a housekeeper at Bally's hotel.

According to investigators, she went to a room to clean it, when Ferren punched her in the face and attacked her.

All hotels should have a safety guide for housekeepers. These events can be prevented by placing rules and guidelines. For example, place a cart outside the room you are cleaning and keeping the door closed so entry will not be a surprise. Safety for all employees should be a first priority for hotel owners. Please post your thoughts on ways to help prevent such attacks.

New Marriott to open in NYC

The hotel, on the northeast corner of 6th Avenue and 35th Street, will occupy the former Atlantic Bank of New York building, constructed in 1928. Construction will begin this fall, with a completion date in early 2012.
The 17-story building will maintain its façade, with 5,000 square feet of leased retail space on the ground floor. The Courtyard signature lobby will be on the 3rd floor, complete with a “Table Concept” F&B. Guest rooms will occupy floors 4 to 17, with the Courtyard signature room.
“This will be our seventh Courtyard by Marriott hotel in New York City when it opens in 2012, and we are excited to be in this fabulous location, near Macy’s and New York’s Penn Station,” said David Marriott, chief operations officer -- Eastern Region, The Americas. “We look forward to managing this hotel and incorporating all the hugely successful elements of the Courtyard brand.”

With limited open space in NYC, this hotel will replace the 17 story Atlantic Bank of New york. For hoteliers hoping to join the NYC market, a similar move to target suffering businesses with land, would be a good start.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Facebook as a Booking Tool

People can now book through an interface to the hotel booking engine through Facebook. Imagine how easy it would be for them to see a promo that has been posted and take the next step without ever leaving Facebook!
This is an amazing opportunity for independents to have a new promotional and booking source. The price is right — after the widget is developed there are no addtional fees!
However, this wont work unless you are drving Fans and Friends to the site. Many hotels are running contests on their page to increase traffic, create more Fans and keep them returning. The large Franchise organizations are doing this but it is so easy for any hotel to do it.
Use your Facebook page as a marketing tool. Have Fan only offers! It’s FREE and if one strategy doesn’t work — it’s really cheap to try another one.

Value of Assets/SBA Loans

Hotel owners need to learn more about how assets are valued in the current marketplace, where increasing occupancy or rate alone does not necessarily translate into a higher property value. Professional hotel brokers and consultants help explain lending parameters such as cap rate and LTV’s (loan-to-value ratios) to owners looking to buy, sell, or refinance. Though the prolonged wait for an economic upturn is beginning to slow things down. Lenders still active in hotel projects often need a second party to absorb some of the risk. This is where the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 504 program comes in. The SBA’s 504 loan program is designed to “finance fixed assets for eligible small businesses on reasonable terms.” What does this mean? Essentially, the program provides up to 90% of the financing for eligible projects through a partnership between the SBA, the hotelier, and a traditional lender. The reasonable terms include a low down payment, a fixed interest rate, and a 20-year term for the maturation of the loan. This loan program is meant for small businesses, and many limited-service hotels fit the parameters; owners and investors can use the loans for transactions, new builds, and refinancing. Contact the professionals at to find out more information on where you stand.

International Hospitality Summit in Mumbai

At the first Cornell International Hospitality Summit (CIHS), industry leaders and academics will examine the future of the hospitality industry in India. The summit, which will be held Tuesday, January 17, 2012, in Mumbai, India will be co-presented by the school’s Center for Hospitality Research (CHR). Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces is title sponsor of the summit, and all summit sessions will be held at the Taj Mahal Palace.
"We are excited to host the first Cornell International Hospitality Summit in India, one of the foremost emerging markets in the hospitality industry in the world, and we are honored to partner with Taj," said Michael D. Johnson, dean and E. M. Statler Professor at SHA.
Just few days ago, I had posted about my personal experience during my stay at Courtyard in Mumbai, India. Its just a matter of time, all hospitality bigwigs start conducting training sessions and meetings in India.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

You can Auction Hotel Rooms

RateGain's online channel management solution – ChannelGain integrates with Cultbay, a solution used by thousands of hotel and travel suppliers to sell their products on eBay. CultBay, Cultuzz's most globally respected solution for selling on eBay, is used by thousands of hotel and travel suppliers to sell their products on an 'Auction' or a 'Buy-it-now' basis.
Using its advanced features, hoteliers can place their rooms on auctions, assign a start price and sell it to the highest bidder. This enables hoteliers to leverage local events; festivals, celebrity shows etc. and offer their rooms on auctions, and optimise the opportunity of increasing their Revenue Per Available Room through higher yields.

I have noticed Marriott and Hilton Brands using this technique to generate higher revenue. Seems like market managers from all the other franchise brands need to stay on top of the news and inform General Managers working for their respective franchises. Overall, good to see innovative ways of selling hotel rooms!

Direct Hotel Bookings to go up?

FastBooking Direct Link debuts with long-time travel and price comparison site partners Google (Google Maps, Google Hotel Finder), TripAdvisor and Trivago. The service is scheduled to extend to Kayak and Wego in Q1 2012 and continue to build momentum over the course of the coming year.
"Direct Link is completely in line with our key promise: increasing hotel direct bookings," says Jean Louis Boss, FastBooking Vice President, Marketing. "Direct Link gives independent hotels and groups critical visibility on travel and price comparison sites when Internet users are searching for accommodations. The hotel benefits from increased traffic on its official website, greater potential for bookings and profit, and the very real advantage of 'owning the relationship' with the customer."
The Direct Link program extends the hotel's brand visibility to a global customer base with high purchasing power.

Hopefully, we see more and more initiative by hotel companies to direct traffic to their own website. The trendsetter has definitely arrived.

Sabre develops first global reservation system

Sabre Travel Network, a global technology leader serving travel agencies and corporations, and Polycom, Inc. (Nasdaq: PLCM), the global leader in standards-based unified communications (UC), announced today the two companies are developing the first global reservation system for booking and scheduling public and corporate-owned HD video conferencing and telepresence rooms. Sabre Virtual Meetings will allow users to locate, reserve, and connect public and corporate-owned video conferencing rooms and set up "face-to-face" HD video conferences with colleagues, partners, and customers anywhere around the world. When integrated into travel applications such as online booking tools or travel agency systems, employees, agents, travel arrangers, and other travel buyers will be able to reserve and schedule video conferencing rooms at the same time they book flights and hotels.
"The need for a centralized reservation system to facilitate business-to-business video meetings has grown tremendously in recent years. Incorporating a global reservation system into existing travel distribution channels is an innovative approach"
An industry-wide solution, the Sabre meeting room system will be open to multiple telecom and video conferencing providers, and be accessible through several travel and third-party distribution channels including global distribution systems, travel management companies, online booking tools, and directly on the Internet. Sabre Virtual Meetings will increase the adoption and use of corporate-owned video conferencing solutions, delivering a faster ROI on those assets. Additionally, the platform will increase use of public video conferencing rooms, such as those Polycom is helping to establish at Regus locations worldwide.
"Advances in technology have changed the way we live our lives and run our businesses," said Greg Webb, president of Sabre Travel Network. "Sabre Virtual Meetings will create a step change in the way corporate employees communicate and collaborate with each other and their customers. By making telepresence scheduling as simple as booking airline travel, Sabre and Polycom will help companies and employees form closer relationships with customers, enhance internal collaboration and increase productivity."

HVS wins Management Consultant of the Year Award

HVS has been announced as Management Consultant of the Year at the International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) Awards, held at a dinner at London's Hilton Metropole Hotel on Tuesday evening, 1 November 2011.The awards celebrate the achievers in the European hotel investment community and were voted for by several thousand senior figures in the European hotel industry following a shortlist drawn up by two judging committees."The HVS team was delighted to receive this award. It has been an exceptional year for us with a number of high-profile transactions and assignments, and it is a real team effort by all our European offices and divisions," said HVS London managing director Russell Kett.Chairman of the judging panel Andrew Sangster, editorial director of Hotel Analyst, commented: "HVS is hugely active in the market and has gained a lot of market share. It wasn't just HVS's professional knowledge that the judges were impressed with, but the company's integrity when dealing in high pressure situations."The Management Consultancy of the Year Award is given to the consulting firm that demonstrates the best value-added work around hotel investment such as merger and acquisition advice, feasibility work and market assessment. Factors taken into consideration were the ability to overcome unique challenges, creative solutions to problems, and value enhancement to clients as well as work that contributes to the wider hotel investment community.

Franchise vs Independent

My answer would be based on my financial capability. If everything else constant, and I have the financial luxury to choose between an independent or franchise, I would buy a franchised business. The risk is a lot lower than with going with an independent business. The money you pay to an franchise is worth the strong branding you get in return. I have met many franchisees, who end up owning multiple units, for example - subway, dunkin donuts, hotel chains, etc. On the flip side, I rarely have met people create their own branding on a large scale. The other positive is visibility and marketing - an franchise is nationally recognized - and you do not have to rely on word of mouth locally to attract customers, like you would if you are running an independent business. I would definitely become a franchisee.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Comparing Hotel Brands and their Consistency

Comparing hotel brands are not only limited to the pricing structure and size of the hotels. Cleaniliness is something all hotels (small, big, full service, limited service) should have distilled in place. There is no excuse for operating a hotel with bad housekeeping or trash comnmon area maintenance. Here is a summary of Brands that I would recommend travelers stay in depending on their individual needs:

1. Marriott International - Marriott is the model of consistency. They offer extensive 2 week training to all their employees so that they live and breath the Marriott Way. They stress that everything starts with good attitude. I have never been to a Marriott property with bad service. Their loyalty program is the strongest in the industry. Last but not least, they do not franchise to just about anyone who has money! They require extensive hotel experience along with strong financials to apply for a franchise. After they which, they place their own management in the hotel. My first job in the hotel industry was at Marriott- and I still go by the Marriott Way while having managed hotels in almost all the major Hotel Companies. They have good market segmentation starting from their economy brand Fairfield Inn all the way on top with the Ritz Carlton. Definitely recommended!

2. Hilton Hotel Group- They sit right behind Marriott in most major categories. However, their Hampton Inn product is giving the Courtyard a run for their money. Hilton is a constant innovator in the Customer Service Department. They were the first hotels that gave undisputed refunds to unsatisfied guests. That gave them the initial exposure they needed with the Hampton Inn brand. Since then, their policies are modified, and rightfully so. Hilton is definitely recommended.

3. Intercontinental Hotels Group - 15 years ago, I would not have recommended IHG hotels. Half the inventory was filled with old outdated properties that were not up to standard. Franchisees simply were not renovating to keep up with standards, while IHG did not place pressure on their poorly rated properties. However, things started to change with the emergence of the Holiday Inn Express Brand. It came as a breath of fresh air, and changed the dynamics of the company. With its success, IHG started getting rid of old Holiday Inns from their portfolio. They eliminated exterior corridor properties, which was passe at that point in time. They now pressured Franchisees into capital improvements - and the result shows. today, they are considered a good product, and the Priority Club membership can be said to only trail the Marriott Rewards. With reasonable pricing - it definitely is worth a stay!

4. Choice International and Wyndham Hotel Group - Too many properties located in clusters . Franchisees competing against each is the norm. The thought of staying at a Quality Inn, Howard Johnson, Days Inn, Travelodge, Super 8, Rodeway Inn, etc, without reading an online review would be the biggest mistake of their life. Too many properties associated with these companies are on the verge of collapse, with no secured future with their franchises. Wyndham Hotel Group had to change their name from Cendant, to move its focus on their namesake Wyndham hotels. However, most of their economy brands are still poorly reviewed. Choice is a better choice than Wyndham Hotel Group, however, franchisees have been crying foul because of same brands being placed around the corner from each other. Choice should receive a reality check when all franchisees come together and fight a legal battle! (Im getting of the subject, this post is supposed to be from the guest view)

Honorable mention as good brands (Hyatt and Starwood Properties)

Feel free to post and question or concern in this highly debatable post.

Online Hotel Booking Tax (Hotel Occupancy tax)

Proposed federal legislation called the "Internet Travel Tax Fairness Act" (ITTFA) would prevent state and local governments from collecting room taxes from online third party intermediaries (TPI) when hotel rooms are booked through such companies. If enacted, such legislation would place hotel companies at a competitive disadvantage with respect to marketing their own rooms. There is a good article about recent legal actions against OTAs

Contact your Senators and Representatives about this issue and let them know you oppose this unfair legislation