|By Tony Adams, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Ga.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 28, 2004 - Valley Hospitality, the company that owns the Columbus Wyndham hotel, is working to change the brand of the 177-room property to Marriott.
Although management with Valley Hospitality managers would not comment on the change Wednesday, the company already has purchased an advertisement in BellSouth's Real Yellow Pages telephone directory listing the 800 Front Ave. hotel as a Marriott.
The full-page ad also includes Valley Hospitality's other Columbus-area hotels -- Hampton Inn North and Econo Lodge Inn & Suites, which it owns, as well as the Ramada Limited in Phenix City, which it manages.
BellSouth began delivering the new directories to customers about a week ago.
Darcie Brossart, spokeswoman for Dallas-based Wyndham International, confirmed Wednesday her company has been in negotiations with Valley Hospitality for several months concerning a possible change.
"That's right, but at this point there's no resolution to that, and we'll see where it goes," Brossart said. "As far as where we stand, we believe we have a fully enforceable agreement which remains in effect until Oct. 31, 2012."
The agreement can only be voided if the performance of the Columbus Wyndham falls below certain levels, Brossart said. Performance indicators, she said, include average daily room rates, occupancy levels and the number of reservations guided to the Columbus hotel by Wyndham.
"We did not breeach any part of the contract," she said. "We met our performance requirements."
Betsy Higgison, spokeswoman for Bethesda, Md.-based Marriott International, said she could not comment on a potential reflagging, or rebranding, of the Columbus property.
"Marriott is a big company, and we are approached a lot with offers and ideas every day, and we also are always on a lookout for new opportunities in the market," she said. "The basic thing is that it would be inappropriate to comment on something like this. That's just the bottom line."
Asked about the telephone directory ad, Higgison called it "quite odd."
"It's very odd that you would see it in a phone book there," she said.
"I just cannot comment on that."
Wyndham owns and operates 145 hotels in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Bethesda, Md.-based Marriott International, meanwhile, has 2,800 properties around the world under several brands, including Courtyard and Residence Inn, both with locations in Columbus.
More significantly, Marriott is well known for its exceptional customer service and frequent-guest rewards program. That's precisely why Larry Campbell, executive director of the Columbus Convention & Trade Center, wouldn't mind seeing the Marriott logo on the brick hotel across the street from him.
The Trade Center completed a $35 million renovation last spring.
Campbell said a Marriott property would help him lure conventions to his 177,000-square-foot meeting and banquet hall.
"Because they know the name Marriott, I think people would relate Marriott with quality," he said. "So I would think the fact that it's such a much better-known flag than a Wyndham, it would be a real plus for us."
The city has about 3,200 hotel rooms and attracted nearly 900,000 visitors last fiscal year. Peter Bowden, president of the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the Marriott name could be a big boost to the local hospitality industry. Nearly 900,000 people visited the city in the last fiscal year.
"Based on my experience, the Marriott has a reputation for excellence," Bowden said. "Not that the Wyndham doesn't, but when you hear Marriott you hear certain standards have to be met, certain customer-service expectations have to be delivered. It's a very tough flag to achieve and to maintain.," Bowden said. "So I think that would send a strong message to our customers that Columbus is serious about being a meeting destination and supporting that Trade Center piece."
The 177-room property is located at 800 Front Ave. in Columbus.
Dallas-based hotel company Wyndham International sold the hotel to Columbus-based Valley Hospitality for $11 million in November 2002, shortly after converting it from the Hilton brand to a Wyndham.
Valley Hospitality, owned by businessman Jack Pezold, owns, operates and manages several hotels in the Columbus area. It also has a catering operation. The company opened a Houlihan's chain restaurant in the hotel and completed a $3 million renovation in late 2003.
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