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Ballantyne Hotel, Charlotte, North Carolina is a 'Resort' No More:
Maintains Luxury Amenities, Adjusts Name to Cope with Stigma of Corporate Lavishness

By Rick Rothacker, The Charlotte Observer, N.C.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

May 5, 2009--Ballantyne Resort is no longer a resort -- at least in name.

The luxury meeting place and golf course has officially changed its name to The Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge after hearing from corporate customers who said the term "resort" carried too much of a high-dollar stigma in today's economic and political climate, officials said.

"Many of our customers are seeing a lot of pressure over meeting in hotels with the name 'resort,'" said Joe Hallow, president of Bissell Hotels, which owns and manages the facility. "We wanted to make it easier for our customers to meet where they want to meet."

Hallow said the new name also does a better job of highlighting Ballantyne's 200-plus room hotel and its 36-room lodge meeting facility. It also recently added The Cottage at Ballantyne, a four-bedroom residence on the golf course for private or meeting use.

The facility is upscale, but with room rates averaging around $225 to $250, it's less expensive than pricier locations around the country, Hallow said. The name change, however, doesn't mean Ballantyne is "downshifting on quality," he said.

The change comes as financial institutions and other companies are under fire for how they spend their money in a time of national belt-tightening. Banks that have received government funding are under particular scrutiny for any expenses deemed excessive. Looking to cut costs and deflect criticism, big banks such as Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. have significantly scaled back client entertainment and out-of-town events for employees.

Hallow said he's had no contact from Bank of America or Wells about Ballantyne's name, but he said he did hear from publicly traded companies outside of Charlotte. He declined to identify them.

Ballantyne officially changed the name about two months ago and switched some signs on the front of the hotel in recent weeks. It will roll out other changes more slowly, re-ordering shirts and other items as they need to be replaced, he said. Ballantyne hasn't promoted the name change, but plans to start this month.

Hallow declined to estimate the cost of the switch. "It's certainly money I'd rather send in another direction, but it's not anything significant," he said.

Since opening in 2001, Ballantyne has become a high-profile destination for corporate meetings, sales events, retreats and conferences, offering amenities such as a golf course, spa and restaurants to corporate clients from Charlotte and around the country. It's part of the Bissell Family of Companies, which developed the nearby Ballantyne Corporate Park.

While Ballantyne also attracts customers traveling for pleasure or simply looking for a weekend escape, corporate business is its lifeblood, Hallow said. Like at competitors around the country, that business is down significantly this year, Hallow said, but he's seeing encouraging signs lately: Companies are at least starting to inquire about hosting meetings, if not yet pulling the trigger and booking.

Ballantyne officials began considering the change late last year, but Hallow said he'd considered tweaking the moniker over the years, particularly because of Ballantyne's suburban Charlotte location.

The new name "better represents who we are, considering we're not on a beach and we're not on a mountain range," Hallow said.


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