Remembering a Giant of Hotel Design

The Atrium inside the Atlanta Marriott Marquis

Atlanta Marriott Marquis by John Portman // Photo: Wikipedia Creative Commons

When John Portman, the architect and developer, died at the end of last year, it was in many ways the end of an era of flamboyance in urban hotel design. Starting in the 1960s and through the 1970s and into the 1980s, Portman’s “big box” properties in Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles and other cities were famous for their soaring atriums, cantilevered balconies, glass elevators, sweeping interiors and, last but hardly least, their revolving rooftop restaurants that offered stunning 360-degree views along with dinner.

In many cases, Portman hotels were located in areas of cities that had fallen into disrepair, were deserted at night and no longer safe. Hotels like the 1,949-room Marriott Marquis in New York’s rundown Times Square had a transformative effect, helping to gentrify an entire neighborhood. Today, more than 30 years later, smaller, more modest hotels thrive in such surrounding submarkets now known as Times Square South, West Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton thanks, in part, to the success of Portman’s Marriott Marquis.

Styles fall out of fashion over time, of course, and today no one is building hotels like Portman did, with their soaring atriums and revolving restaurants. At the end of the day, they’re just not practical, considering their extravagant use of space and exorbitant consumption of energy.

What hotel owners, developers and managers shouldn’t lose sight of, however, is that sense of anticipation and wonder that guests feel the first time they step into a Portman hotel. In some form or other, no matter how modest, hotels that can create such a sense of excitement are well on their way to succeeding.


Extended Stay’s Special Challenge


While guests staying at business hotels typically spend no more three or four nights per stay, guests who choose extended-stay hotels may spend weeks or even months. In ways both large and small, hosting long-term guests calls for a different approach to service.

After years of experience operating business hotels, M&R Hotel Management this year will assume management of our first extended-stay hotel, the 113-room TownePlace Suites by Marriott at 324 W. 44th St. in New York. Getting this new relationship right is a top priority.

On the simplest level, extended-stay hotels strive to be more residential in feel. Design of the guest room as well as the public spaces tends to be more home-like. Guest rooms come with kitchens, allowing guests to prepare their own meals, although complimentary breakfast typically is provided. Consequently, many brands offer grocery shopping services. Similarly, they offer off-site dry-cleaning service and on-site laundry facilities.

But at a deeper and ultimately more critical level is the social aspect. Recognizing that being away from home for an extended period can be an isolating experience, extended-stay hotels may sponsor evening socials, movie nights or seasonal or holiday-related parties, where guests get the opportunity to mingle and “meet their neighbors.”

The staff of an extended-stay hotel typically become familiar with long-term guests, unlike those who arrive at night and leaves early the next day. Regardless of the type of hotel, hospitality is at the core of the business: Our job is the same, to put the guests first.

On the Delicate Subject of Hotel Security

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Hilton Garden Inn New York Times Square South

It’s understandable why hotel security is such a sensitive matter. Addressing the issue in detail would risk giving insights to wrongdoers.

Nevertheless, hotels go to great lengths to reassure travelers that they and their possessions are safe while on the premises. Such assurances are part and parcel of the larger presumption that surrounds the hotel experience, that hotels provide a safe and comfortable home away from home.

The challenge of assuring safety can be formidable, considering that hotels generally conduct business in an open atmosphere that provides 24/7 unfettered access to guests who are total strangers to their hosts. It is a cornerstone of hospitality that all guests be made to feel welcome from the moment they arrive until the morning when they check out.


Holiday Inn New York City – Times Square

While hotels are employing increasingly sophisticated technology to enhance security, the most important safeguard is employee training. And while training may involve specialized techniques and procedures, everyone knows to follow the Golden Rule of security: if you see something, say something.

Sometimes our commitment to guest safety simply means going an extra mile. Take a recent guest comment posted on TripAdvisor. After checking out from one of our hotels in New York’s Times Square neighborhood at 4 a.m., out-of-town guests called a taxicab for a ride to the airport. Given the early hour, a hotel staff member took the initiative to wait with them at the curb until they boarded the cab.

While we have detailed manuals that spell out the way we expect our employees to perform, this example illustrates the importance of common sense, courtesy and concern. The example discussion on TripAdvisor also puts a human face on the whole matter of hotel security. It’s all about ensuring that the guest presumption of safety is a reality.

When a Citywide Meeting Comes to Town


Large industry and association meetings can bring thousands of attendees to a destination, booking big-box convention hotels and the city’s convention center. Such meetings can bring millions of dollars in revenue to transportation providers, hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues. Cities vie for the chance to host these often-elaborate events, nicknamed “citywides.”

Major hotel companies make sure their properties are included in the room block. Marriott International’s dedicated Convention and Resort Network unit helps coordinate its big box hotels’ request for proposals.

What’s less widely known is that citywides benefit smaller hotels, too. While attendees are typically book the headquarters hotel or hotels, event planners often need additional rooms to house a range of other participants: consultants, speakers, facilitators and trade show exhibitors, not to mention designers overseeing stage sets and lighting, audio-visual and IT teams and entertainers.

M&R Hotel Management welcomes this business. In New York City, a popular group destination, many of our hotels are centrally located, attractively priced and offer complimentary breakfast and Wi-Fi. They’re also a smart choice for attendees looking for a good value to extend their time in the city with some pre-or post-convention R&R.

M&R Hotel Management Names Vice President of Operations

Sayed Alam 6731 9-2017M&R Hotel Management 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.