Hotel Online
News for the Hospitality Executive


Nobody Asked Me, But... No. 96

Superstorm Sandy Storms Into the Northeast; Disaster Economics; Hotel History: The Hotel Jerome;
Litigation Support Services; Quote of the Month

By Stanley Turkel, CMHS, ISHC
December 6, 2012

1.  Superstorm Sandy Storms Into the Northeast
After Superstorm Sandy delivered a knockout punch to New Jersey, New York and Long Island, dozens of hotels and thousands of residents are assessing the severe damage.  Since I have lived in Queens in the same house for more than 40 years where Rima and I raised four children, we received many personal inquiries about our condition.  I am pleased to report that we suffered no power outrage and, except for some broken tree branches, no physical damage.  How lucky can you get?!  But in the past five years our Queens location has been victim to more hurricanes, noreasters, earthquakes and tornadoes than in the previous thirty-five years.  It seems clear that a drastic climate change is taking place.
I want to share with you a realistic and honest assessment of possible solutions which appeared in the New Yorker magazine in the December 3, 2012 issue:
2.  Disaster Economics
On February 1, 1953, a fierce, sustained storm created a huge surge in the North Sea off the coast of Holland.  Floodwaters overtopped the dikes, swallowing half a million acres of land and killing nearly two thousand people.  Within weeks of the storm, a government commission issued what came to be known as the Delta Plan, a set of recommendations for flood-control measures.  Over the next four decades, the Dutch invested billions of guilders in a vast set of dams and barriers, culminating in the construction of the Maeslant Barrier, an enormous movable seawall to protect the port of Rotterdam.  Since the Delta Plan went into effect, the Netherlands has not been flooded by the sea again.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which brought havoc to the Northeast and inflicted tens of billions of dollars in damage, it's overwhelmingly clear that parts of the U.S. need a Delta Plan of their own.  Sandy was not an isolated incident: only last year, Hurricane Irene caused nearly sixteen billion dollars in damage, and there is a growing consensus that extreme weather events are becoming more common and more damaging.  The annual cost of natural disasters in the U.S. has doubled over the past two decades.  Instead of just cleaning up after disasters hit, we would be wise to follow the Dutch, and take steps to make them less destructive in the first place.
There is no dearth of promising ideas out there, such as building a seawall beyond the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (the Dutch engineering firm Arcadis has proposed a movable barrier, like the Rotterdam one), burying power lines  in vulnerable areas, and elevating buildings and subway entrances.  The question is whether we can find the political will to invest in such ideas.  Although New York politicians like the City Council Speaker, Christine Quinn, and Governor Andrew Cuomo have called for major new investment in disaster prevention, reports from Washington suggest that Congress will be more willing to spend money on relief than on preparedness.  That's what history would lead you to expect: for the most part, the U.S. has shown a marked bias toward relieving victims of disaster, while underinvesting in prevention.  A study by the economist Andrew Healy and the political scientist Neil Malhotra showed that, between 1985 and 2004, the government spent annually, on average, fifteen times as much on disaster relief as on preparedness.
Politically speaking, it's always easier to shell out money for a disaster that has already happened, with clearly identifiable victims, than to invest money in protecting against something that may or may not happen in the future.  Healy and Malhotra found that voters reward politicians for spending money on post-disaster cleanup, but not for investing in disaster prevention, and it's only natural that politicians respond to this incentive. The federal system  complicates matters, too: local governments want decision-making authority, but major disaster- prevention projects are bound to require federal money.  And much crucial infrastructure in the U.S. is owned by the private sector, not the government, which makes it harder to do something like bury power lines.
These are genuine hurdles, and safeguarding the great expanse of the Atlantic coast is a much more expensive proposition than defending Holland's smaller one.  But there's a more basic problem: the U.S., as a rule, tends to underinvest in public infrastructure.  We've been skimping on maintenance of roads and bridges for decades.  In 2009, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave our infrastructure a D grade, and estimated that we'd need $2.2 trillion to bring it up to snuff.  Our power grid is, by the standards of the developed world, shockingly unreliable.  A study by three Carnegie Mellon professors in 2006 found that average annual power outages in the U.S. last four times as long as those in France and seven times as long as those in the Netherlands. (The past two years' data would likely be even worse.)  This isn't because of lack of resources ̶   the U.S. is the world's biggest economy.  But, though we may have the coolest twenty-first century technology in our homes, we're stuck with mid-twentieth century roads and wires.
Meaningful disaster-prevention measures will certainly be expensive: estimate for a New York seawall range from ten to twenty billion dollars.  That may seem unreasonable at a time when Washington is obsessed with cutting the federal deficit.  Yet inaction can be even more expensive ̶  after Katrina, the government had to spend more than a hundred billion dollars on relief and reconstruction ̶  and there are good reasons to believe that disaster-control measures could save money in the long run.  The A.S.C.E. estimates that federal spending on levees pays for itself six times over, and studies of other flood-control measures in the developed world find benefit-to-cost ratios of three or four to one.  The value for money is even higher on poor countries, where floods obliterate weak infrastructures.  And a 2005 independent study of disaster-mitigation grants made by FEMA found that every dollar in grants ended up saving taxpayers $3.65 in avoided costs.
The size of our current deficit does not change this calculus.  In fact, there's never been a better time for a Delta Plan in the U.S.  With interest rates so low, it's cheap to borrow money, and there are plenty of unemployed workers and unused resources that can be put to work.  In a time of austerity, there's bound to be opposition to expensive infrastructure projects.  But if the government ̶  and, by extension, tax-payers ̶  is already on the hook for all the damage caused when disasters strike, we owe it to ourselves to do something about how much those disasters cost.
                                                                                                James Surowiecki

3.  Hotel History:  The Hotel Jerome (1889), Aspen, Colorado
The Hotel Jerome was built in 1889 by Jerome B. Wheeler, co-owner of Macy's Department Store.  He visited Aspen in 1883 and, impressed by its beauty, began investing in the community.  He commissioned the hotel and the Wheeler Opera House.  The Hotel Jerome was the first hotel in Colorado with electricity and indoor plumbing. After surviving the Panic of 1893, the Jerome passed through some trying times and a variety of different owners.  In 1911, Mansor Elisha, a Syrian American drummer with a travelling band, acquired the hotel and owned it through a flu epidemic when its parlors served as a morgue.  Elisha's ownership survived the Prohibition when the most popular drink was the Aspen Crud, a vanilla ice cream soda or milkshake spiked with bourbon.
The Elisha family continued to own and operate the Jerome through World War II.  Earlier, U.S. Olympic bobsledder, Billy Fiske saw the perfect terrain for a ski resort and formed the Highland Bavarian ski club.  After WWII, some veterans of the U.S. Army's Tenth Mountain Division's "soldiers on skis" returned to Aspen to help develop the ski resort.  After construction of a new swimming pool, the Jerome attracted many movie stars including Gary Cooper, Lana Turner and John Wayne.
In 1945, Walter Paepcke, president of the Container Corporation of America, envisioned Aspen as an ideal location for an American counterpart to the Salzburg Festival.  Paepcke acquired and/or leased many buildings including the Hotel Jerome.  With Friedl Pfeifer, an Austrian, Paepcke invested in the Aspen Skiing Company and completed Ski Lift No. 1, which claimed to be the longest in the world.
Paepcke created the Aspen Institute as an ideal gathering place for thinkers, leaders, artists and musicians from all over the world.  His participation in the Great Books seminar, led by philosopher Mortimer Adler, inspired the Institute's Executive Seminar.  The Aspen Institute continues to be one of the greatest intellectual and music venues in the world.
After a variety of investors and owners, the Hotel Jerome suffered some down periods of neglect and subsequent restoration projects.  In 1998, the J ̶ Bar was restored to its original appearance and four years later, a $6 million project added a new rear wing and grand ballroom and updated the guest rooms.
The Hotel Jerome is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Each beautifully appointed guestroom is spacious ̶ even the smallest is more than 500 square feet.  Bathrooms, finished with white marble and octagonal tiles, have oversized tubs and separate showers.
The Hotel Jerome is part of the Auberge Resort collection.  The Garden Terrace Restaurant serves Alpine Colorado cuisine.  The Library serves tapas ̶ style dishes while the J ̶ Bar continues to feature the hotel's signature drink, the Aspen Crud.  The 93 ̶ room Hotel Jerome was recognized as one of Travel Advisor Readers 2011 "Top 10 Hotels in the World."

4.  Litigation Support Services

Since 1992, I have provided litigation support services to attorneys specializing in hotel-related litigation and have served as an expert consultant and/or witness in 35 cases over the past 20 years.
My extensive hotel operating experience enables me to provide objective opinions to attorneys who are litigating cases that involve:
  • Hurricane damage and/or business interruption cases
  • Franchisee/franchisor disputes
  • Management contract disagreements
  • Wrongful deaths
  • Fire and other catastrophes
  • Slip and fall accidents
Since more than 65% of hotels are franchised, a hotel expert should be thoroughly familiar with franchise license agreements and franchise disclosure documents.  I am one of the most widely-published hotel consultants in the United States with more than half of my 250 published articles dealing with franchising.  I've also written and published two hotel books: "Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry" and "Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York" (which the New York Times called "passionate and informative").
A knowledgeable hotel expert can provide thorough research, expert report writing, thoughtful testimony and indispensable litigation support assistance.
5.  Quote of The Month
"The public and private edifices that were founded for eternity, lie prostrate, naked, and broken, like the limbs of a mighty giant; and the ruin is the more visible, from the stupendous relics that have survived the injuries of time and fortune."
                                                                                                          Edward Gibbon
                                                                                                        "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire"


Stanley Turkel, MHS, ISHC

Receive Your Hospitality Industry Headlines via Email for Free! Subscribe Here

To Learn More About Your News Being Published on Hotel-Online Inquire Here
Also See: Nobody Asked Me, But...No. 95; Strong Growth in NYC Demand, ADP and RevPAR; Dear Waldorf, Mummy Stole Your Teapot Back in 1935; Quote of the Month / Stanley Turkel / November 2012

Nobody Asked Me, But...No. 94; Are You Better Off Now Than Four Years Ago; The Beat Goes On; Hotel History: Shattuck Plaza; Quote of the Month / Stanley Turkel / October 2012

Nobody Asked Me, But...No. 93; July Breaks U.S. Hotel Occupancy Record; 65-and-Older Population Soars; Hotel History: Hotel New Netherland / Stanley Turkel / September 2012

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 / Stanley Turkel / August 2012

Nobody Asked me, But...No. 91; Drop In European Travel to the U.S.; AAHOA Needs to Level the Playing Field; Expand the Javits Center; At Long Last, Cleaner Hotel Rooms; Litigation Support Services; Quote of the Month / Stanley Turkel / July 2012

Nobody Asked me, But...No. 90; Governor Cuomo's March of Folly; Origin of Memorial Day; Hotel History: Fisher Island Hotel & Resort; Quote of the Month / Stanley Turkel / June 2012

Nobody Asked me, But...No. 89; The Beat Goes On; Good News: U.S. Hotel Profit Recovery; Surprise: Nearly Half of NYC Hotel Developments are Outside Manhattan; Hotel History: The Mission Inn, Riverside, CA; Quote of the Month / Stanley Turkel / May 2012

Nobody Asked me, But...No. 88; California's Level Playing Field Act of 2012; Rooftop Urban Gardening; Belleview Biltmore Hotel Reprieve; Quote of the Month / Stanley Turkel / April 2012

Nobody Asked me, But...No. 87; Expand the Javits Center Cost-Free; Is This the Science or Art of Brand Management? Hotel Histories; Quote of the Month / Stanley Turkel / April 2012

Nobody Asked me, But...No. 86; Choice’s Settlement with AAHOA; Don’t Demolish the Javits Center; NYC & Company’s Successful Marketing Strategy; Quote of the Month / Stanley Turkel / March 2012

Nobody Asked me, But...No. 85; Praise for President Obama's Travel & Tourism Strategy; Proposed Queens Convention Center is a Poor Idea; Hotel Rooms and Floors Created Just For Women; Quote of the Month / Stanley Turkel / February 2012

Nobody Asked me, But...No. 84; EB-5 Visa For Immigrant Investors; The Pistilli Lecture; A NYC Hotel Bargain; 'Built To Last'; Quote of the Month / Stanley Turkel / January 2012

Nobody Asked me, But...No. 83; Congratulations To Lodging Hospitality Editor Ed Watkins; Did You Hear About 'Airbnb'?; A Sows Ears Becomes a Silk Purse; On The Verge; Quote of the Month; Give This Perfect Gift for The Holiday Season / Stanley Turkel / December 2011

Nobody Asked me, But...No. 81; AAHOA Strikes Back; Would You Believe Such a Study? Independent Franchisee Associations On The Rise; Quote of the Month / Stanley Turkel / October 2011

Nobody Asked me, But… No. 80; Impertinent Questions Still in Search of Pertinent Answers; Questions for 32,500 Franchised Hotel Owners; Quote of the Month / Stanley Turkel / September 2011

Nobody Asked me, But… No. 79; Relevant Brand Management?; Save the Belleview Biltmore Hotel; The Magical Americana of New York; Quote of the Month / Stanley Turkel / August 2011

Nobody Asked me, But… No. 78; AAHOA Chairman Hits a Home Run; Universal Franchisee Bill of Rights; HomeSpun; Quote of the Month / Stanley Turkel / July 2011

Nobody Asked me, But... No. 77: Public Relations Trumps Common Sense; Nobody Does It Better; Plaza Hotel’s Oak Room to Close; Pay Attention to State Franchise Laws; Quote of the Month / Stanley Turkel / June 2011

Nobody Asked me, But... No. 76: Empire State Building's 80th Anniversary and the Waldorf-Astoria; "Defying Time: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York"; Impertinent Question Seeking a Pertinent Answer; Wyndham Hotel Group Reports; Save the Belleview Biltmore Hotel; Quote of the Month / Stanley Turkel / May 2011

Nobody Asked me, But… No. 75: Blackstone Reportedly Prepping Hilton for Flotation; Things Are Seldom What They Seem, Skim Milk Masquerades As Cream; Quote of the Month; First Announcement / Stanley Turkel / April 2011

Nobody Asked me, But… No. 74: The Triumph of Public Relations; Helpful Hotels; Court Rules Holiday Inn Commits “Reprehensible Fraud”; Quote of the Month / March 2011

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 73: Impertinent Question Still Seeking a Pertinent Answer; The Fountain of Old Age; Quote of the Month / Stanley Turkel / February 2011

Impertinent Question In Search of a Pertinent Answer; Does The Industry Really Need Another Brand?; Hilton’s Hands Get Slapped in Starwood Settlement; China- Based Developers Buy U.S. Hotels; Quote of the Month / Stanley Turkel / January 2011

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 71 - Impertinent Questions Still Seeking Pertinent Answers; The Baseball Business…Where Next?; Quote of the Month / Stanley Turkel / December 2010

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 70 -John Q. Hammons, Impertinent Question, Quote of the Month / Stanley Turkel / November 2010

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 69 - Large Banks Creating Crisis For Hoteliers; Are Room Telephones Obsolete? / Stanley Turkel / October 2010

Impertinent Questions in Search of Pertinent Answers; The Best Franchise Website; Free Wi-Fi at Top of Amenity List / Stanley Turkel / September 2010

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 67 : Stanley Turkel's Review of Budget/Economy Hotels Following a Three Week Pennsylvania Road Odyssey / Stanley Turkel / August 2010

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 66 : Recognizing Three Hotel Industry Experts Whose Accomplishments Are Unique - Bjorn Hanson, Peter Greenberg and Richard Warnick / Stanley Turkel / July 2010

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 65: A Well-Deserved Compliment for Steve Rushmore; Impertinent Questions in Search of Pertinent Answers / Stanley Turkel / June 2010

Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 64: Best Western Finally Makes a Move; Cuba, The Caribbean’s Hottest Destination / Stanley Turkel / May 2010

Nobody Asked Me, But - No. 63: Can Airlines Learn From Hotels?; Memo to Ian Schrager / Stanley Turkel / April 2010

Nobody Asked Me, But No. 62 / Do the Radisson Franchisees Agree with Carlson's billion-dollar Makeover Program? At Last: A Win-Win Victory for Tourism; Congratulations to the Harris Rosen Foundation / Stanley Turkel / March 2010

To search Hotel Online data base of News and Trends Go to Hotel.OnlineSearch

Home | Welcome | Hospitality News
| Industry Resources

Please contact Hotel.Online with your comments and suggestions.