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Nobody Asked Me, But... No. 92

Better Than Expected; More New Hotel Brands; Hotel Room Cleanliness; Lawsuit To Remove
Hammons CEO Dowdy; Hotel History: U.S. Grant Hotel; Quote of the Month

By Stanley Turkel, CMHS, ISHC
August 3, 2012

1.  Better Than Expected
reported on July 26, 2012:

Despite a softening economy, the outlook for future monthly overall business conditions in the U.S. hotel industry increased during June, according to's Hotel Industry Leading indicator.  The indicator increased 0.5% to 103.5 during June, following an increase of 0.6% during May.  It was set to equal 100 in 2005.
HIL's six-month growth rate, which historically has confirmed the forthcoming turning points in U.S. hotel business activity, was 4.1% in June, following a positive rate of 3.6% in May.
The probability of the hotel industry entering into recession in the near-term registered 0.8% in June, down from 0.9% reported in May.
Given the dire predictions of economic doom by certain political analysts, the report above forecasts a better future for the U.S. hotel industry.
2.  More New Hotel Brands

In addition to the 115 new hotel brands made public in the past 28 months, the following were recently announced:
  • Commune Hotels by Thompson Hotels
  • Ahn Luh by Beijing Tourism Group and GHM
  • The Refinery
  • Ambience Hotels by Kempinski
  • Swiss-Belinn Pangkalan Bun by Swiss-Belhotel International
  • ME by Melia London
  • SLS Hotels by sbe
Impertinent Question: How many professional market studies were commissioned to legitimize these new brands?

3.  Hotel Room Cleanliness

Following inauguration of Best Western International's "I Care Clean" program, recent research from Europe reported that almost 70% of hotel guests say that cleanliness and hygiene are most important.  The research completed across Europe by Hotelschool in The Hague in conjunction with Sealed Air's Diversey business shows that most people now make their decisions on where to stay using online ratings to tell their friends if they encounter poor conditions.
The cleanliness and appearance of bedrooms and bathrooms were the most critical areas for guests when forming their opinions.
"This research confirms our understanding of the critical areas to keep clean and the specific tasks that are vital to making that all-important first impression to guests," said Lill Kleven, global hospitality sector marketing lead for Sealed Air's Diversey business.
In addition, the research compiled of responses from almost 700 people in five major EU countries, asked guests about which aspects of cleanliness they expected the hotel to always get right in bedrooms and bathrooms.
In bedrooms, the three most important factors were clean linen, no evidence of previous guests and absence of bad smells or odors.  In bathrooms, over three quarters said cleanliness of the toilet seat and pan was a factor and almost half said it was the most important.
In total, 46% said review sites were the most important source of information when choosing a hotel and a further 28% cited personal recommendations as the biggest influence.
Two-thirds of the respondents stated that they had stayed in a hotel that was not clean, while 82% had told family and friends about their experience, 75% were put off returning and 72% recommended family and friends should not stay there.
The full research has enabled Hotel School The Hague and Sealed Air's Diversey business to make evidence-based recommendations to hotels that help increase guest satisfaction, retention and guest recommendations.
In addition, the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 North American Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study was released on July 25, 2012 and reported that overall hotel guest satisfaction declined seven index points.  This is a new low since 2006.  Room cleanliness, comfort of the bed, ease of adjusting the room temperature and guestroom smell among other factors are taken into account.
4.  Lawsuit To Remove Hammons CEO Dowdy

One of the heroes in my book "Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry" (AuthorHouse, 2009) is John Q. Hammons.
In 2006, I visited Springfield, Missouri where I interviewed Mr. Hammons (and his excellent executive team) and discovered that he had developed 185 hotel properties in 40 states.  This master hotel developer, builder, owner and manager disdained standard feasibility studies when assessing potential sites for hotel development.  Instead, he relied on his own experience, knowledge and intuition.
In 2010, Hammons was removed from the leadership of his company by Jacquie Dowdy, a   long-time aide who assumed the CEO position.  Hammons' seclusion ̶   long-time friends have reported being barred from visiting ̶  led to an investigation by the state to establish guardianship.  Now the Atrium Holding Co, owners of more than half the hotels managed by John Q. Hammons, has filed a lawsuit claiming that CEO Dowdy violated a contract in 2010 when she appointed herself as leader and Gregory Groves as general counsel.  The suit calls for an injunction preventing Dowdy from acting as CEO and removing Groves as general counsel.  It also seeks an injunction to allow Atrium to appoint a president for JQH Hotels as well as damages related to Dowdy's salary and staff bonuses.
Let justice be done!  

5.  Hotel History: U.S. Grant Hotel San Diego, California

The U.S. Grant Hotel was built by U.S. Grant, Jr. in honor of his illustrious father, President Ulysses S. Grant.  Grant bought the 100-room Horton House Hotel and demolished it to construct the current hotel in 1910.  It was designed by the famous architect Harrison Albright, best known for the West Baden Springs Hotel (1902), French Lick, Indiana with the largest free-spanning dome in the world, then known as the "Eighth Wonder of the World."
When it opened, the U.S. Grant Hotel featured top floor arcadia windows, balcony balustrades and imposing lentil cornices. Inside, a grand white marble staircase with a carved alabaster railing led from the lobby up to the hotel rooms. 

In 1919, Baron Long acquired an interest in the hotel and for the next twenty years instituted the following improvements:

  • converted the hotel's Bivouac Grill into a speakeasy during Prohibition, named the Plata Real nightclub with live music and dancing and illegal beverages
  • created the Italianate Ballroom on the lower level with a travertine marble floor and a unique hand-painted ceiling (now the Crystal Ballroom)
  • installed the tallest radio towers on the West Coast on the hotel's roof which became the home offices for radio station KFVW.  President Franklin Roosevelt delivered one of his first radio speeches to the country from this radio station
When the Grant Hotel went through another ownership change after World War II, the     second-floor Palm Court was enclosed to create the Palm Pavilion and the Grand Ballroom on the 9th floor was converted to guest rooms.  But perhaps the most successful decision was to create the Grant Grill off the lobby on Fourth Avenue.  Until 1969, after sit-ins by a group of female attorneys, the Grant Grill had a "mens-only" policy.  As a tribute to these brave women, a brass plaque was installed outside the Grant Grill reflecting the end of that discriminatory policy.
The hotel was extensively refurbished in the 1980s by the New York-based Sybedon Corporation and Christopher Sickels but fell on hard times due to a subsequent nationwide financial slump.  Sybedon also acquired and restored the historic Jefferson Hotel (Richmond, Va.), the Jung Hotel (New Orleans, La.) and the Montauk Manor (Montauk N.Y.)
At about the same time that the hotel renovation project was underway, a 26-square block shopping mall ̶  the uniquely-designed Horton Plaza ̶  opened across the street from the Grant Hotel.  Along with the massive restoration of the Gaslamp Quarter and the relocation of the San Diego Convention Center to Harbor Drive, these major projects transformed the area.
In 2003, the hotel was purchased by the very ancestors of the land on which she stood.  The Sycuan Tribal Development Corporation (STDC), the business arm of Sycuan, a sovereign tribe of the Kumeyaay Nation, acquired the 11-story hotel for $45 million.
The Kumeyaay Indians are one of four Native American tribes that are indigenous to San Diego County.  The Kumeyaay can trace their San Diego roots back more than 10,000 years.  Their people lived from the northern edges of San Diego and south past the Mexican border, with land that includes the very spot where the U.S. Grant now stands.
President Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States, disapproved the treatment of the Indians of the American West.  In 1875, he passed an executive order setting aside 640 acres of land in Dehasa Valley in East San Diego County for the Kumeyaay Tribes.  In great part due to his efforts, the United States Government in 1891 passed the "Act for the Relief of the Mission Indians" which officially recognized the sovereign status of California's Indian Tribes.
The Kumeyaay, who had suffered so enormously at the hands of generations of Westerners, remember Ulysses S. Grant as a rare soul among politicians ̶  forthright and generous, he gave them what so many before attempted to take away: dignity, in the form of land.  In an act of poetic justice, the extraordinary restoration of the U.S. Grant Hotel pays respect to its history and to the heritage of the Kumeyaay Nation.

6.  Quote of the Month

"The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions"

                                                                                    Oliver Wendell Holmes                                                          

Reviews of My New Book:  "Built to Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York"
  • "passionate and informative"
                 The New York Times
  • "You have done an amazing job... your research into the history.... of these properties embellishes the topic immensely"
                Stephen Rushmore, President, HVS International

It's easy to order the book.  Just visit


Stanley Turkel, MHS, ISHC

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