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Dual Branded Park Hyatt Changbaishan and Hyatt Regency Changbaishan Officially Open

Hyatt Hotels Corporation announced the official opening of two new properties – Park Hyatt Changbaishan and Hyatt Regency Changbaishan – marking the first Hyatt ski resorts to open outside the United States and the first dual-branded properties to debut in China. With snowy peaks, breathtaking scenery and world-class skiing on Changbai Mountain, the hotels have opened just in time for millions of travelers and serious skiers this holiday season.

With both hotels located side-by-side in the Changbaishan International Resort development, this new multi-season destination offers a variety of mountain activities and experiences year round. Skiers and travelers from all over China and around the world have the opportunity to enjoy multiple experiences in one destination.

“It is with great pride that these two hotels open in the beautiful Changbai Mountain region, which shows our commitment to strategic, thoughtful and purposeful growth in China where we know our guests are traveling,” said Christopher Koehler, Vice President of Operations, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, China. “Park Hyatt Changbaishan and Hyatt Regency Changbaishan bring the best of luxury, accessibility, and relaxation to this outdoor lifestyle destination, and we are thrilled to be growing our Hyatt brand presence in this critical market.”

The highest peak in a range that borders China and North Korea, Changbai Mountain has a 5A rating as a Scenic Spot from China’s National Tourism Bureau and enjoys a reputation as ”the highest mountain touching heaven.” Meaning ”ever white” in Mandarin, it is also said that when couples visit Changbai, they will stay together for their entire life – even after their hair grows white. This romantic region has spectacular scenery, a rich ecological environment and its own unique culture and food that make it a standout destination.

“Opening these two properties here at Changbai Mountain has been quite a privilege,” said Anthony Gain, General Manager of Park Hyatt Changbaishan and Hyatt Regency Changbaishan. “It is an absolute joy to welcome travelers to this incredibly beautiful and historic location in China, and I am confident that both Park Hyatt Changbaishan and Hyatt Regency Changbaishan will exceed guest expectations, whether they are in town for skiing, spa breaks, business or simply to relax and take in the great outdoors.”

Just a 20-minute drive from Changbaishan Airport and Songjianghe Railway Station, Park Hyatt Changbaishan and Hyatt Regency Changbaishan have access to international-quality ski fields, an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus golf course, a 36-hole Robert Trent Jones golf course, a cinema, a Karaoke club KTV, and a shopping complex. There is an abundance of both outdoor and indoor activities for guests to enjoy, including local attractions such as the West Gate of Changbai Mountain and the Heavenly Lake.


Cotton Exchange Hotel to Launch Under Marriott’s European Brand

The historic Cotton Exchange Hotel in the Central Business District will be one of the first in the United States to operate under the brand AC Hotels by Marriott. That’s the brand that the international hospitality company is expanding from Europe.

Once a bustling center for cotton merchants, the hotel at 221 Carondelet St. was bought in June by Dallas-based hotel owner-operator NewcrestImage in a foreclosure sale for $17.8 million. When the sale was announced, the company said it had already begun talks in search of a new brand for the property.

The eight-story hotel will stay open during a six-month, $10 million renovation expected to begin in the first quarter of 2014, the company said.

“We are transforming a historic hotel into a new, hip and urban environment,” said Mehul Patel, NewcrestImage CEO and chairman. “Every detail, from the design to the service, will provide our guests with a memorable travel experience that is unique and authentic.”

AC Hotels by Marriott operates almost 80 properties in Spain, Italy, Portugal and France. It was launched in 2011 as a joint venture between Marriott International and the Spanish group AC Hotels.

Marriott describes the European brand as focused on design “inspired by the runways and fashion houses of Milan” with “a distinctly urban feel.” In June, the company announced it would bring AC Hotels into the United States.

The Cotton Exchange is one of the first three AC Hotels being developed in the United States, along with properties in Chicago and Miami, a NewcrestImage spokesman said.

“New Orleans is a vibrant destination that is ideal to help us establish the AC Hotels by Marriott experience on this side of the Atlantic,” said Callette Nielsen, AC Hotels by Marriott vice president.

Under the redesign, the Cotton Exchange will offer 220 rooms, 3,000 square feet of meeting space, a rooftop pool and a lounge serving a full breakfast in the morning and small plates and cocktails later in the day, the owners said.

The previous owner, Cotton Exchange Hotel LLC, was named in an involuntary bankruptcy petition by creditors in February, records show.

NewcrestImage owns and operates 16 hotels, mostly in Texas. In 2011, the company redeveloped the historic Fisk Building in downtown Amarillo, Texas, into a hotel under the Courtyard by Marriott brand.

The New Orleans Cotton Exchange was founded in 1871 to standardize trade in the  cash crop business. It first operated out of a few rented rooms and later built its own five-story building at the Carondelet Street site in 1883. But structural problems and cracked walls rendered the building unsafe.

Exchange members decided to rebuild on the site, finishing the $1.2 million building in 1921, according to records with the National Register of Historic Places. The exchange dissolved in the 1960s as the cotton futures market evaporated, and the building was sold in 1962.


Tokyo Marriott Hotel Opens

Marriott International announces the opening of the TokyoMarriott Hotel on a hilltop address known locally as Gotenyama. This represents the global hospitality company’s 12th hotel in Japan, and the third under its flagship Marriott Hotels brand, which comprises 500 properties in nearly 60 countries. Just minutes from the capital’s bullet- train serviced Shinagawa Station, the 249-room hotel enables direct easy access to the Tokaido bullet train as well as Haneda Airport and the Yamanote Line circling central Tokyo.

With the opening of Tokyo Marriott Hotel, Marriott International is poised to meet the growing demand for quality hospitality experiences in the country ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics – as well as UNESCO’s imminent announcement, expected early this month, recognising Japanese cuisine as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Tokyo Marriott Hotel offers superb access to the two main zones where the majority of the Olympic competition venues will be located, and two of its three restaurants specialise in traditional Japanese cuisine. A rebranding of the former Gotenyama Garden Hotel Laforet Tokyo, the extensively refurbished and renovated property is operated by Mori Trust Hotels & Resorts, which entered into a management agreement with Marriott International in February of this year.

Commenting at the opening ceremony, Miwako Date, president of Mori Trust Hotels & Resorts, said: “Tokyo Marriott Hotel is the fourth internationally branded hotel our group has launched in the past eight years. It is our pleasure to be partnering with MarriottHotels, the flagship brand of Marriott International. We are especially pleased that our alliance has enabled us to maintain our program of special club privileges for our established corporate customers.

“Both former and new guests alike will find much to discover about Gotenyama, which has a long and illustrious past as a center of tea culture and other aesthetic pursuits. We look forward to blending the unique traditional elements of this setting with the many exciting innovations Marriott is bringing to the guest experience. There is no doubt in my mind that Tokyo Marriott Hotel will be a destination loved by domestic and international guests alike.”

Simon Cooper, Marriott International’s president and managing director Asia, commented: “I am delighted to be here today at the official opening of this magnificent hotel. Marriott International’s business model for growth around the world is to work with local partners and real estate developers who have the local expertise, knowledge and skills, and who know their markets inside out.

“We also look for people who share our own values and culture, and in Mori Trust we have found an excellent partner to work with here in Tokyo. We are delighted to be working with Mori Trust and to have the Marriott Hotels brand associated with this stunning hotel.”

Tokyo Marriott Hotel shares its hilltop location with Gotenyama Garden, a 6,800-square- meter oasis of green and the former site of the residential villa of Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu (1604–1651). Steeped in history, and yet less than 20 minutes from the luxury shops of Ginza and the nightlife of Roppongi, its location offers both first-time and repeat visitors plenty to explore.

Marriott Hotels has been ‘re-imagining’ the guest experience, transforming lobbies and public spaces by designing them for a new generation of business travellers who blend work and play, demand style and substance and desire high-tech and high-touch. Marriott is introducing new concepts designed for the way younger travellers work today.

Those traveling for business or leisure or both will find fluid, tech-enabled meeting spaces, intuitively designed guest rooms, dynamic dining and drinking venues, and the polished service for which Marriott is known throughout the world. With a garden tea house designed by architect Arata Isozaki and two chapels (one slated for completion in February 2014) on site, this urban oasis also offers attractive celebratory opportunities for prospective brides and grooms.


Court Approves Asset Sale of Hospitality Staffing Solutions to HS Solutions Corporation

Atlanta-based Hospitality Staffing Solutions or HSS said it obtained approval from the Court to sell its assets to HS Solutions Corporation. Hospitality Staffing Solutions, formed in 1990, is a hospitality staffing company which has a team of hotel industry experts working with 4-star and 5-star properties spread out in 32 states and 71 markets across the country. They provide housekeepers, janitors, stewardesses, laundry workers, food and beverage and grounds maintenance staff. In a statement, the company said their service model allows clients to have a continuous staffing of flexibile, full-time employees.

HS Solutions Corporation is a company established by LJC Investments I and other investors like the Littlejohn Opportunities Master Fund and Caymus Equity Partners and Management.

In a statement, HSS said the court-granted approval of the deal will enable them to significantly lower their outstanding indebtedness as well as shed some legacy obligations. The deal will allow them to emerge with the strong financial backing by its new owner, the firm said.

HSS President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Holliday said about the approval, “We are pleased to have been able to get through the process with the continued support of our clients and team members. Personally, I am pleased to be back as CEO helping to lead the organization along with our new partners. As a result of this process, the organization is in a better position to continue to drive our business forward and deliver for our valued customers across the U.S.”

HSS had earlier sought bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 with the US Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware to let the sale proceed. The firm said it intends to close the sale and extricate itself from bankruptcy in January next year. HSS continued to support the members of its team and serve its customers without fail throughout the sales process.


Shangri-La Breaks Ground for Second Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar

Shangri-La International Hotel Management will open its second hotel in Yangon, Myanmar in 2017 and with a prime location on the banks of Kandawgyi Lake, the 350-room Lakeside Shangri-La, Yangon will command magnificent views of the glittering Shwedagon Pagoda and unparalleled vistas over the lake.

The official groundbreaking ceremony for Lakeside Shangri-La, Yangon took place on 8 December.  The hotel site is near the new Shangri-La Residences, Yangon, which are also managed by Shangri-La.

The Hong Kong-based hotel group has been operating in Myanmar since 1996 when it opened the 334-room Traders Hotel, Yangon.

“The steady increase of domestic and foreign investment in Myanmar’s economic capital makes Yangon an important commercial centre,” said Shangri-La President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Dogan.

“Along with the city’s period buildings, traditional architecture and historic charms, it’s easy to see the multi-faceted attractions of Yangon.  We look forward to further contributing to the city’s tourism and welcoming visitors with Shangri-La’s hospitality from the heart.”

In addition to 350 well-appointed guestrooms and suites, the Lakeside Shangri-La, Yangon will have three restaurants, two bars, generous meeting and convention space, a health club, and an outdoor swimming pool.  Guests will also have access to the 44.5-hectare Kandawgyi Nature Park and the Yangon Zoological Gardens surrounding the lake.


New York City Sets New Tourism Record for 2013

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, NYC & Company Chair Emily Rafferty, and NYC & Company CEO George Fertitta have announced that New York has set a new tourism record for 2013.

With 54.3 million visitors, 2013 was saw nearly 20 million additional annual tourists over 2002. By the end of this year, visitors to New York City will have generated $58.7 billion in overall economic impact and $39.4 billion in direct spending, while jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector are anticipated to reach a monthly average of more than 370,000 by year’s end, demonstrating the importance of the tourism and hospitality industry to New York City and its economy. The Mayor also announced today that the City is on pace to reach 55 million annual visitors by next year, one year ahead of his original goal of 2015.

The good news comes as New York and New Jersey gear up for Super Bowl XLVIII this February. A recent study by hospitality reputation management firm TrustYou found that New York is the highest-rated destination among major U.S. markets by social sentiment.

Also recently, NYC & Company boosted tourism to the city with the return of the popular Sunday Night Stays promotion. This program offers special resources for travelers to take advantage of Sunday deals available in the city, including theater matinees and restaurant offers.

“Tourism plays a vital role in our city’s economy, and the work that we’ve done to strengthen tourism over the past 12 years has helped our city weather the national economic downturn and come out in far better shape than most other cities,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Since 2002, overall tourism here has grown more than 50 percent, while international visitation has increased more than 100 percent. In addition, more and more people are visiting attractions outside of Manhattan, thanks in part to our efforts to support cultural organizations in neighborhoods across the city.”

In 2012, 52.7 million visitors came to New York City – a record high at the time. This year’s new record of 54.3 million visitors represents a nearly 54 percent increase since 2002, when the City was attracting approximately 35 million visitors.


AX Holdings Plans Resort for Elderly After Good 2012 Results

The final accounts for the past year show that 2012 was a very good year for AX Holdings. Hospitality, the biggest component of the group’s activities, had one of the best years ever, said AX Holdings chairman Angelo Xuereb in an interview.

Throughout the past year the group has been very focused, which resulted in steady growth in all areas of operation, namely hospitality, construction and development

In the hospitality sector, the group’s hotels registered excellent results. This is testament to the hard work of a young and very enthusiastic team. The past year has also seen an increase in online bookings, especially for the Palace and Victoria hotels as opposed to the Seashells at Suncrest and Sunny Coast Resort where business is still heavily reliant on tour operators.  The introduction of an all-inclusive package at the Suncrest was an instant hit with guests and has contributed to the success of this sector.

The construction sector has also experienced steady growth following a restructuring and rebranding process. In this sector, one of the group’s main successes was the construction of the super structure of the new parliament building. This proved to be an extremely delicate job that required extreme precision and know-how. The steel superstructure for the building involved no less than 7,000 bolts with a tolerance of just 2mm. Not only did AX Construction finish the job ahead of time but also received high appreciation from Bovis. In recent years, AX Construction has also been involved in a number of prestigious restoration projects.

The company has a very full restoration order book for 2014, double what it had this year. Much of this work will be done for third parties, such as the restoration work it is carrying out at the Catacombs of St Paul in Rabat where it is responsible for the construction of an interpretation centre as well as restoring a bigger stretch of the catacombs that have been open to the public so far.

The company has also been working on the restoration of the Valletta bastions and has restored the only gardjolastill in its original form.

On a group level, the group’s debt has been cut down and today the group has a debt amounting to just one-third of its equity, in other words a very low gearing.

As to the new projects the company has in mind, it has launched a €1.5 million refurbishing programme for its hotels. In particular, the Suncrest will continue to upgrade its facilities including the kitchen, back of house and restaurant. This in turn will lead to a €7 million investment refurbishment programme for the entire hotel, giving it a modern look and transforming it into an energy efficient building.

But the main project the company is working on is an entire village for the elderly entitled Hilltop Gardens.

This will be sited in a, 17,000 sq m site on the Naxxar promontory. The site offers enough space for residents to enjoy clean air and add to the quality of life for residents. Accordingly, only 43% of the site will be built up and 57% will remain an open space.

The buildings will be kept low with the highest buildings being three storeys high. It will offer 250 residences, such as apartments or units, each with a terrace, sun beds, and wide spaces inside offering accessibility to residents on wheelchairs. All construction and interiors will be of very high quality with a five-star level of service.

There will be two blocks for independent living with views available from all apartments while one block will serve as a nursing home with a clinic.

The whole site will be well secured with high-end facilities all around. Residents can choose between a self-catering and an all-inclusive type of accommodation. The amenities the village will have include a spa and an outdoor pool, a physiotherapy pool, a fitness centre, a bar and restaurant with a pub and a billiard table, a multi-purpose hall, as well as a crafts centre.

One novelty in this complex will be a stretch of land that will be turned into allotments where residents can spend their free time gardening.

There will also be a bocci club and a library, as well as a children’s play area where residents can look after and play with their grandchildren.

There will also be a 500-metre pathway where residents can stroll. And of course there will be a chapel, which is being designed by Mr Xuereb himself, surrounded by water and lit by natural light.

The entire village will be a green site with a near-zero energy buildings and an estimated 60% reduction in energy costs, through the use of PV panels, and a geo-thermal novelty.


TI’ME Pearl Residence Opens in Abu Dhabi

Dubai-based hospitality company, TI’ME Hotels Management, has marked its first foray into Abu Dhabi with the opening of the 72-unit TI’ME Pearl Residence.

The centrally located complex, situated five minutes from the city’s popular Corniche promenade and close to downtown Abu Dhabi’s commercial hub, boosts to eight the number of properties managed by TI’ME Hotels.

“Demand for modern and competitively priced accommodation in Abu Dhabi continues to grow and with TCA Abu Dhabi noting an increasing trend towards longer stays – with an average of 3.16 nights – this puts TI’ME Pearl Residence in prime position to capitalise on sector growth with a new modern product in the heart of Abu Dhabi city,” Mohamed Awadalla, CEO, TI’ME Hotels, said in a statement released Sunday.

More than 120,000 GCC hotel guests checked into the UAE capital’s hotels and hotel apartments in the first eight months of this year, according to TCA Abu Dhabi statistics, representing a 17 percent increase on 2012.

Guest nights year-on-year also rose by 19 percent over the same period to 262,290, with a length of stay by GCC hotel guests slightly higher than the overall Abu Dhabi average at 4.4 nights.

“The TI’ME Pearl Residence addresses the issue of any potential gap in our product portfolio by offering competitive longer term rates in Abu Dhabi,” Awadallah said.

“Abu Dhabi aims to attract 2.5 million guests by the end of this year and TI’ME’s popularity with GCC travellers at our other UAE properties continues to underpin our strategy as we roll out net properties across the region.”

TI’ME said that as well as GCC countries, the property would also be marketed to international visitors especially those working on mid to longer-term projects.

The second Abu Dhabi property under construction, TI’ME Deluxe Hotel Corniche Apartments, is scheduled to open in 2015.

The 42-storey property will feature 262 studio and one-bedroom apartments, with facilities including a health club with swimming pool, all-day dining restaurant, retail space and basement car park.


Hospitality Investor Lee Pillsbury on 100 Years of Industry Disruption

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of startup founders that would pay for the insights that Lee Pillsbury, co-founder and CEO ofThayer Lodging Group and advisor at Thayer Ventures, has accumulated over the years.

After his company joined the top five percent of hotel investment firms, Pillsbury worked with the principals of Quest Hospitality Ventures to launch Thayer Ventures. It has since invested in travel companies including Hipmunk, TripBam,Duetto, and Liftopia.

Pillsbury says he built a venture capital fund focused on the travel industry due to the founders’ industry knowledge, the vast opportunities present in the enormous global sector, and the fund’s ability to help portfolio companies succeed.

Skift spoke with Pillsbury at the Revenue Strategy Summit in New York City last month. Pillsbury talked about what he looks for in a startup, why he’s not worried about Airbnb, and how hotels could likely be the next industry that Apple disrupts.

Skift: Let’s start with Thayer Ventures. Why did you start a venture capital fund focused on the travel industry as opposed to a general fund?

Lee Pillsbury: The Kauffman Foundation came out with a study last year that suggested venture capitalists have done very poorly over the past decade and that it’s been an unsuccessful investment strategy. Travel, as a class, has not been a good investment or a good place for institutional investors to be.

We think that’s driven by three problems with venture: One is underwriting a new idea. In a complicated value train like the travel industry, an idea might appear to be a good one, but when you really understand the business you recognize that it’s not.

A great example is the check-in kiosk that is so successful in airports and a complete failure in hotels. It’s obvious to a hotel investor why that wouldn’t work and wouldn’t be appealing to guests, but a Silicon Valley capitalist might logically think, “If it works in the airport, we’ll put it in the hotel lounge.” Some venture capitalists thought that and lost a lot of money. So, the first reason for a specialized fund is industry knowledge. We think the importance of industry knowledge has been underrated in the venture world.

The second reason is that the travel space is enormous. Travel and hospitality is the largest employer in the United States. This is an enormous global industry. There are lots and lots of tentacles and lots and lots of players and different pieces. It’s not just evaluating if the kiosk is a good idea, it’s the ability to understand the whole value chain, if the idea is going to fit or not fit in that value chain, and who the competitors are. Competitors are not always obvious in this business.

And the third reason for a specialized fund is the ability to help portfolio companies succeed. I think the real differentiator for Thayer Ventures is our advisory board, which is made up of C-suite executives across the travel industry including airlines, hotels, and restaurants. There’s a lot of people on the investment committee that are in a position to underwrite a deal, but more importantly, there’s a lot of people there in the position to help the company go forward. The companies that we invest in are all either serving the same customers, selling to the same customers, or dealing with the same customers. There’s a lot of overlap here.

Duetto and Nor1 are both dealing with Four Seasons. The CEO of Four Seasons, Allen Smith, is a long-time friend of mine. One CEO to another, I can pick up the phone and call him and say, “Hey, I’d like you take a look at this, I’d like you to tell me what you think, or I’d like your revenue managers to jump on this.” That’s something that we can do that Sequoia can’t do. I couldn’t do it in the roofing business. If someone said, “I invented a new shingle invest in my business,” I couldn’t possibly add any value there. But our advisory board can add a lot of value to companies here.

One of the benefits to us is that because of these reasons companies want us in their capital stack. We’re increasingly finding companies that come to us and say, “We’re out talking to the venture community, but we really want to talk to you because anybody can write a check but you guys can do more for us.”

We’re a small fund. We can’t compete with Sequoia or any of these big groups, but even those big groups now are beginning to recognize us and say, “If Thayer Ventures underwrites you in this space, we’ll be there, but we want Thayer there too.”

Skift: What makes one startup succeed over another? How do you discover new startups and how do you vet them?

Lee Pillsbury: We’ve looked at well over 800 in the space, and we’ve invested in 15, so it is weeding out the needle in the haystack. I will tell you from having spent a long time in strategy that it’s 15 percent inspiration and 85 percent perspiration. When it comes to an investment in a startup, you’re betting on the jockey much more than you’re betting on the horse.

It is inevitable that the business plan isn’t going to work and that it isn’t going to turn out exactly the way that everybody thought it was. What it comes down to is the CEO. Are they dominant and are they impatient? I want a CEO that’s got those two characteristics. I’m damn well going to make the world the way I want it to look and I’m not going to wait a whole long time to do it.

Skift: Are you seeing hotels and hospitality brands open up to working with startups more than they have in the past?

Lee Pillsbury: The larger and more dominant companies can afford to be followers. They can afford to be late adopters. The smaller companies searching for competitive advantage need to be more nimble and they need to be early adopters.

A 500-hotel company has got to be more aggressive in this area than the company with 3,000 hotels. One explanation is that the bigger companies have bigger staffs and they’re more inwardly focused, I don’t know if that’s the reason or not, but that’s a characteristic of them.

There has been disruption in the value chain in the hotel industry for 100 years. It started in 1907 when a guy named Ellsworth Milton Statler started the first chain of hotels in the United States. It accelerated in 1927 when Conrad Hilton built his first hotel in Abilene, Texas, and started the Hiltonchain. In the 1950′s Kemmons Wilson came along and did Holiday Inns.

In the second half of the 20th century, the disruptions occurred in the balance sheets, separating ownership and management, the financial engineering, and real estate investment trusts. In ’96,Expedia arrived and launched a whole other set of disruptions that have taken place down towards the consumer. Disruptions have moved over a hundred years closer and closer to the consumer.

One of the interesting things to think about, today, is Apple. Apple has had a history of destroying industries. It destroyed the music industry, then the cellphone industry, and now the PC industry.

Skift: Do think Apple can touch the hotel industry?

Lee Pillsbury: Yes, they’re coming. Right now they seem focused on TV and things like Google Glass, but there’s potential.

Skift: Why can’t hotel software be as easy as Apple software? Hotel software is horrible from a user experience perspective.

Lee Pillsbury: Not just that perspective, hotel software is obsolete. One major hotel company’s central reservation system is built on code that was started in 1972. And how many million lines of dead code do you think are embedded in something that was started in 1972?

Skift: So how long do you think it will be before the major players, who are not adopting right away, have before they have to adapt or risk becoming obsolete?

Lee Pillsbury: The disruption that has gone on for 100 years will go on for the next 100 years. It looks to you like there all these factors that are causing disruption now, but what you don’t see if the disruption that’s coming 10 years from now, 20 years from now. And it’s going to look every bit as disruptive then as it looks today. There is no end to the disruption.

As far as how long can big companies survive? I don’t know. The graveyard is full of companies that didn’t adapt.

Skift: What on the user experience side excite you for 2014?

Lee Pillsbury: The most important thing about travel is experience. And as travelers become more sophisticated, they become much more focused on the experience. And so things and innovations that help enrich the experience is where the opportunity is. I don’t think things that tend to diminish the experience or minimize it, like kiosks, have a future.

Skift: So you don’t think that tech beyond a certain point has a play with the check-in experience?

Lee Pillsbury: No, I want to be greeted when I walk into a hotel. I want somebody to say, “Welcome, Mr. Pillsbury. It’s nice to have you here.” And I don’t want it to be Siri.

Skift: So you don’t think the hotel check-in desk is going away?

Lee Pillsbury: No, but it may take a different form. I have a lot of young people in my company who think that they’re going to invent something to make it go away, but unless they invest something that’s going to suck up, I’m not buying it. I travel 200 nights a year all over the world. I don’t want the airline experience 24 hours a day. I’m in a place and what makes it a place is people.

Skift: What are your thoughts on Airbnb and the sharing economy?

Lee Pillsbury: A parallel is to think about that time sharing industry in the 1970s and 1980s and the exchange network that RCI and Interval International built. How much impact did they have on hotels and second-home vacation homes? They were a factor, but it was not a big factor.

There are 5.2 million hotel rooms in the U.S. You think about 5.2 million hotel rooms at 66% occupancy, over a year, and that’s one heck of a lot of room nights. You think about that, and against that, how big an impact can this be.

Skift: Less than one percent of all tourists in New York City stayed in an Airbnb last year.

Lee Pillsbury: So if it got to 4 or 5 percent, would hotels feel it? How much of that one percent was because guests couldn’t get into a booked hotel or they couldn’t afford it? Occupancy in Manhattan is through the roof.

I’m worried about it right now, but maybe my nephews and nieces should be. I don’t think it’s going to have a significant impact in my lifetime.


The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. and Jean-Michel Cousteau Launch Ritz Kids at Hotels and Resorts Around the World

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C., announced the launch of new, exclusive Ritz Kids children”s programming through an expanded partnership with Jean-Michel Cousteau”s Ocean Futures Society.

The Ritz-Carlton aims to delight their youngest guests by making memories that last well beyond their hotel stays. Ritz Kids is an engaging and immersive experience that builds upon the adventures of travel that children will always treasure at 84 hotels from Hawaii to Kazakhstan.

“We are very excited to continue our highly successful relationship with a unique individual whose entire life has been spent dedicated to preservation of the environment, with particular attention to marine conservation and education,” said Herve Humler, president and chief operating officer of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.

The new global brand standard for children”s programming includes robust activities for resorts, in addition to multiple touch points for children at city and urban properties. The refined luxury experience for young guests aged four to 12 provides a differentiated program which engages children to explore the world around them.

“The fun and exciting activities appeal to a child’s innate love of discovery and sense of curiosity. All kids start out as scientists, constantly asking “Why? What”s that? How does it work?” I have spent my life exploring the natural wonders of the world, seeking to understand how our planet works and how we can better protect it,” said Jean-Michel Cousteau.

“Ritz Kids is offering something no other hotel company has before – globally consistent, immersive programming that builds upon the adventures of travel your child will always treasure. These experiences will be remembered long after their stay,” he added.

The content of the Ritz Kids programming was created by Ocean Futures Society exclusively for The Ritz-Carlton. The environmental expertise of Ocean Futures Society allows The Ritz-Carlton to craft fascinating experiences that are based on four key pillars:

  • Water: Emphasizing the importance of sea life and health.
  • Land: Encouraging exploration and discovery.
  • Environmental Responsibility: Promoting the environmental health of our planet for the future.
  • Culture: Exposing young minds to a variety of art forms, including music, local customs and history, as well as cuisine.

Whether at a city or a resort destination, children will be exposed to an array of environmentally focused experiences that foster interaction with the world in which they live. The content created by naturalists is as diverse as the natural world around us and is tailored specifically to intrigue and thrill bright young minds. Every family-friendly Ritz-Carlton hotel around the world incorporates Ritz Kids touch points for children throughout their stay. Specifically, Ritz-Carlton resorts offer an array of exciting adventures, each rooted in one of the key pillars, designed to engage dialogue, spark curiosity and draw wonder from each hotel”s dynamic culture and locale. Examples include searching for indigenous birds in the wild, exploring gardens for Food Fun, playing games to learn about various types of fish, exploring how fish are different from people and learning about local cultures, myths and legends.

Jean-Michel Cousteau and The Ritz-Carlton have also introduced Ambassadors of the Environment eco-travel programs at resorts in Kapalua, Grand Cayman, St. Thomas and Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve which include an environmental and cultural education center with excursions for all ages led by expert naturalists.