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woman with luggage checking in to hotel

Employment and the Next Lodging Industry Downturn

Speculation continues to swirl around the lodging industry regarding the likelihood of a slowdown beginning as early as 2020. Fueled by panels at industry conferences and commentary in the trade press, questions remain as to how widespread and long lasting such a downturn might be.

Given the industry is essentially cyclical, an eventual downturn appears to be more or less inevitable, although the next contraction will follow an unusually extended period of growth and profitability.

Complicating the industry situation is the strength of the national — and even global — economy, along with consumer confidence, employment data and the impact of ongoing trade wars, all in light of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

A recurring theme at the Hotel Data Conference sponsored by STR this summer had to do with employee recruitment and retention in light of a downturn. While it’s true during periods of expansion as well as contraction, the famous dictum attributed to J.W. Marriott Jr. is especially true during downturns: “If you take care of your associates, they’ll take care of your guests.”

Well-looked-after guests result in higher guest satisfaction scores and more positive reviews on social media, which typically translate into more repeat bookings, increased trial usage due to positive word of mouth, higher occupancy and greater profits.

Consider the challenge of finding and hiring people with strong interpersonal skills. The most promising approach is to seek applicants who consider entry-level hotel jobs to be a stepping stone to a career in hospitality.

Considering that international travelers are likely to remain a reliable guest segment in many markets, downturn or not, it makes sense for hotels to pursue multicultural candidates who can help communicate with guests in their languages of choice.

Providing training is essential to retaining motivated employees because it helps satisfy their desire to pursue a career path. Cross-training is a good option because it not only satisfies the employee expectations but expands their ability to handle new and different tasks on property.

M&R Hotel Management Names Vice President of Operations

M&R Hotel ManagementSayed Alam, Vice President, Operations today announced the appointment of Sayed Alam as vice president, operations, responsible for managing the day-to-day operation of the company’s 13 hotels, ensuring they meet, if not exceed, the high service standards set by both M&R and its affiliated brands.

Alam, a 26-year hospitality industry veteran, previously served Montreal-based Lixi Hotels Group as regional vice president of operations, overseeing nine hotels, including brands of Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide and the former Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. Prior to that, he was area director of operations for Lixi, district manager for Le’Tap Hospitality Group and general manager of hotels in New York, Boston and Connecticut.

Alam earned bachelor and masters of business administration degrees from Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti. He earned the Certified Hotel Administrator designation from the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Educational Institution; general manager brand certifications for Courtyard by Marriott, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn by Hilton and Best Western; and Starwood Executive Training Certification for Aloft, Element and Four Points by Sheraton hotel brands.

“Sayed brings a broad range of experience in hotel operations to his new position, including with many of the brands in our portfolio,” said Brian McSherry, M&R Hotel Management chief operating officer. “This breadth of knowledge will make him an invaluable part of our executive team as we continue to grow.”

M&R Hotel Management, based in Great Neck, New York, operates six hotels in Manhattan, including the Hilton Garden Inn New York Times Square South, Fairfield Inn & Suites New York Manhattan Central Park, Holiday Inn New York City – Times Square, Holiday Inn NYC – Lower East Side, Holiday Inn Express Manhattan Midtown West and Comfort Inn Midtown West.

The company also manages six hotels in Queens, including the Holiday Inn New York JFK Airport Area, Holiday Inn Express New York JFK Airport Area, Best Western JFK Airport Hotel, Days Inn Jamaica – JFK Airport, Holiday Inn Express LaGuardia Airport and Holiday Inn L.I. City – Manhattan View as well as one in Nassau County, New York, the Holiday Inn Express Roslyn-Manhasset Area.

M&R’s portfolio includes the brands of Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide, InterContinental Hotels Group, Choice Hotels International, Wyndham Hotel Group and Best Western Hotels & Resorts.

M&R’s business plan calls for expansion of its portfolio in major markets across the U.S. through third-party management contracts. In addition to management, M&R provides consulting services in hotel site and contractor selection, feasibility analysis, permitting, financing, human resources support, sales and marketing, revenue management, food & beverage management, brand management, account and risk management audits, e-commerce, design, procurement, accounting and engineering.

When a Guest Must Cancel

Fairfield Inn & Suites New York Manhattan Central Park guest check-in

Photo: Fairfield Inn & Suites New York Manhattan Central Park

Balancing the business needs of hotel operators on the one hand and guests on the other can be tricky on a variety of fronts, none more so than when a guest must cancel a reservation at the last moment.

In most high-demand markets, 24-hour cancellation policy has been the standard. This provides leeway when guests’ plans change due to illness, family emergency, inclement weather or a host of other reasons. Traditionally, hoteliers have been eager in such circumstances to release guests from their reservations.

Lately, however, a growing number of hotel brands have switched to a 48-hour cancellation policy. Typically, they cite the rise of booking technology that allows for dynamic pricing as the reason. In today’s Internet world, for example, when desirable Hotel A sees it has a block of unsold rooms coming up, it can drop its rates dramatically in the hope of generating a spike in demand that will help fill that excess inventory on the upcoming nights.

Meanwhile, across town, a guest was reservations at less-desirable Hotel B might see Hotel A’s decision to discount its more desirable rooms. That guest easily could cancel the Hotel B reservations within the 24-hour window advance window, then book Hotel A across town.

The management of Hotel B finds this very frustrating. The good will they extended by offering a 24-hour cancellation policy has been abused, in their minds, by a guest who neither is ill nor facing a family crisis. It’s a scenario they can encounter numerous times on a given night. Managers of such hotels may try to sell their suddenly vacant rooms by giving the inventory to a third-party online agent at a steep discount.

As hosts and business leaders, it’s easy to be torn between what’s best for guests and what’s best for the bottom line. While we wait to see if the 48-hour policy makes an appreciable difference, industry watchers continue to ponder “what is fair and equitable?”

Manhattan’s Newest Hilton Garden Inn Opens Near Times Square

Hilton Garden Inn New York Times Square South exteriorM&R Hotel Management today announced the opening of the 250-room, 23-story Hilton Garden Inn New York Times Square South at 326 West 37th St., between Eighth and Ninth avenues.

The hotel, which joins M&R’s management portfolio of 12 other open hotels and three under development in New York, is near the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, Times Square, Broadway theater district, emerging Hudson Yards neighborhood and New York Penn Station and Port Authority Bus Terminal.

The hotel features six Sky View rooms with soaring 22-foot ceilings and city skyline views from the 23rd floor, two City View rooms on the 17th floor with panoramic views and two Balcony rooms on the 18th floor that provide outdoor access.

Doyler’s, a full-service, three-meal-a-day restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating on the lobby level, specializes in Irish pub-style food and beverages. A media room on the second floor offers game stations and large flat-screen televisions for viewing movies.

Other hotel amenities include a meeting room, room service, 24-hour fitness center and The Shop Market, offering toiletries, snacks and beverages. Complimentary wireless internet service is available throughout the building.

The hotel’s executive team includes General Manager Felix Maldonado and Mirian Ortega, director of sales and marketing.

“The addition of the Hilton Garden Inn New York Times Square South − our first Hilton Worldwide brand − marks an important milestone for M&R Hotel Management,” said Brian McSherry, M&R Hotel Management chief operating officer. “We now are a franchisee of one of the world’s most respected hospitality companies.”

McSherry said guests will experience Hilton Garden Inn’s high level of customer service while earning points in the Hilton Honors guest loyalty program.

M&R Hotel Management, based in Great Neck, New York, operates five other hotels in Manhattan: the Fairfield Inn & Suites New York Manhattan Central Park at 538 West 58th St., the Holiday Inn New York City –Times Square at 585 Eighth Ave., the Holiday Inn Express Manhattan Midtown West at 538 West 48th St., the Comfort Inn Midtown West at 548 West 48th St. and the Holiday Inn NYC – Lower East Side at 150 Delancey St.

The company also manages six hotels in Queens, including four near John F. Kennedy International Airport, one near LaGuardia Airport and one in Long Island City. M&R also manages a hotel in Nassau County, New York.

M&R’s portfolio also includes the brands of Marriott International, InterContinental Hotels Group, Choice Hotels International, Wyndham Hotel Group and Best Western Hotels & Resorts.

M&R’s business plan calls for expansion of its portfolio nationwide through third-party management contracts.

In addition to management, M&R provides consulting services in hotel site and contractor selection, feasibility analysis, permitting, financing, human resources support, sales and marketing, revenue management, food & beverage management, account and risk management audits, e-commerce, design, procurement, accounting and engineering.

Training Is an Ongoing Pursuit in Hospitality

couple with luggage checking into hotel

Like any successful business, the hotel industry can’t afford to rest on its laurels. Considering that guest service is at the heart of the hotel experience and that rank-and-file associates have the most direct contact with guests, it, shouldn’t come as a surprise that hotel companies invest a lot of time and energy in developing training programs to ensure that associates understand the fine points of guest service.

Hotel companies have learned that the most effective training is not a one-time occurrence. To the contrary, while new employees need guest-service training as part of their initial orientation, experienced associates benefit from periodic “refresher” courses, as well.

A recent example is InterContinental Hotels Group’s True Hospitality online training, which was launched last summer. Working by themselves, associates view a video and then complete learning modules covering a range of topics. While face-to-face training is valuable, a computer-based approach allows for greater flexibility in terms of scheduling and consistency.

Given the diverse nature of today’s hospitality workforce, the best training programs take cultural differences into account as well as proficiency in English. Critics might argue that refresher courses are unnecessarily repetitive. But repetition may be helpful in making sure participants fully grasp the core concepts being discussed.