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February 1, 2010 / The_Mike_Johnson

We Are Not a Resort but We Still Want Your Business

In the January 26, 2010 Wall Street Journal, the article, “Don’t Use the R-Word: Hotels Find Trick to Business Bookings,” hotels (or resorts) that used to have the word “resort” in their name, are now dropping the “resort” from their name to attract corporations to hold conferences at their hotels. After the 2008 financial meltdown, and with those large banks that received bailouts funded by the taxpayers, these same companies are attracting media scrutiny, and the last thing you want to be accused of is getting a spa treatment using taxpayer money.

From the article:

The Ballantyne Resort in Charlotte, N.C., changed its name during the summer to the Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge after several corporate clients indicated it would have a better chance of landing their business if it weren’t called a resort. Same for the Westin Stonebriar near Dallas, formerly the Westin Stonebriar Hotel & Resort. Ditto the Renaissance Orlando at Sea World, no longer the Renaissance Orlando Resort at Sea World.

Other than the name-dropping, little else has changed. The bedsheets at the Ballantyne remain Egyptian cotton, and guests still can book an appointment at the spa. Guests at the Westin Stonebriar still can get a tee time for the property’s Tom Fazio-designed golf course. “It doesn’t change who we are,” Renaissance Orlando sales director Gary Dybul said. Resorts must also contend with public backlash against the conferences they host.

One resort closed due to the lack of business:

The resort stigma was stoked by widespread outcry late in 2008 about a $400,000 sales retreat that American International Group Inc. planned to host at the St. Regis Monarch Beach resort in Dana Point, Calif. Facing scorching criticism, AIG, the recipient of $180 billion in taxpayer assistance, canceled the event. The 400-room St. Regis couldn’t recover from the bad publicity and was foreclosed upon by one of its lenders, Citigroup Inc.

As always, it is how you are perceived that is the key:

Companies “are just being very conscious of the location selected, because everybody’s so paranoid about perception,” said Jennie Jacobson, president of event-planning company Unique Events Inc. in Agoura Hills, Calif. Allstate Insurance Co. early in 2009 canceled all its off-site meetings, including gatherings meant to reward its sales force. Not until last fall did Allstate resume the gatherings. “Our meetings were completely canceled by perception, not cost,” Allstate meeting manager Laurie Fitzgerald said at the Professional Convention Management Association’s conference in Dallas in January.

This change may have actually done some good as business seems to be improving:

Dale McDaniel, general manager of the 493-room Loews Lake Las Vegas, says a name change has improved his property’s bottom line. The change so far has helped the Loews Lake Las Vegas land five conferences totaling 1,000 room nights—four with pharmaceutical companies and one with an insurance company, Mr. McDaniel said. He declined to identify those companies. But two that held conferences at the property after its name change—Medco Health Solutions Inc. and Astellas Pharma U.S. Inc.—say their meetings there were all work and little play.”

Read the full article here.



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