Managing Editor Michelle Renn interviewed fellow Atlanta based hospitality expert Paul Breslin, Managing Director of global consultancy Horwath HTL, to discuss 2017 industry predictions for various topics including the Marriott-Starwood merger, Manhattan’s historic NoMad District, and the overall outlook for the industry this year.
Q: In your opinion, what are some of the most important impacts of the Marriott-Starwood merger?
A: The true take away from this merger has to be the increase in destinations offered to new guests as well as long time loyal guests. In addition, the strength of the Marriott brand speaks for itself, with the high standards, consistency of quality, and of course the solid rewards program. The Marriott Rewards program will swallow the competitors in terms of the increased options in magnificent destinations as well as the unique urban experiences that are offered. But the true value lies in the ability to be able to redeem those points anytime anywhere. Business ‘road warriors’ can vouch for the importance of a strong and beneficial rewards program.
Q: You have various market expertise, including the New York City MSA. There’s been recent talk of the NoMad District as one of this year’s hottest and vibrant areas for historic hotels to be found in Manhattan. Are there any major hotel developments that have contributed to the rebirth of this district?
A: The area is filled with boutique hotels containing years of rich history, unique design elements, and trendy atmospheres. Several properties have recently renovated while maintaining their unique traits, including The Breslin Hotel (no relation!), later transformed into The Ace Hotel, The NoMad Hotel, The Gershwin Hotel, Hotel Gansevoort and the King and Grove Hotel. Noteworthy are the vibrant red exterior of the Gershwin Hotel on East 27th Street, and the NoMad Hotel, renovated from the Johnston building, at 28th Street and Broadway with its Beaux-Arts cupola. These landmarks retain authenticity while enhancing an already diverse neighborhood.
Q: What recommendations would you share with industry leaders for their efforts in 2017?
A: Industry leaders need to focus on three crucial concepts: Time, Talent and Technology. Importance must be placed on utilizing time to create efficiency, building on the talent you currently have, and enhancing technology to achieve your goals. No doubt we anticipate unpredictable challenges this year, which we know should generate great opportunities. With these challenges and opportunities comes the call for leaders to step up and take action. This action should specifically be geared towards driving demand for room nights, as people are on the move more then ever before. This can seem daunting in a competitive market with new entrants such as Airbnb. But remember the simple logistics behind a marketing challenge: thinking about the customer solution, knowing who your target market is and what it is that they desire, and crafting the message to send and connect with that specific market. By establishing your “point of difference” you will be able to set yourself apart from your competitors.
Q: If you could isolate one topic or issue that we should prioritize as an industry, what would that be?
A: Technology. Technology should be at the forefront of every hotelier’s effort as a contemporary and user-friendly way to enhance the guest experience. If we’re speaking about business travelers, this segment represents the most sophisticated set of travellers known to date. And today, both business and leisure travelers favor technology that not only works, but makes traveling smoother, hassle-free, and a true value. The simple steps today are a must: low -cost or no-cost Wi-Fi, televisions with the ability to cast movies from the user’s IPad directly to the TV. These simple technological advancements can certainly enhance and personalize the guest stay.