What the Olympics taught Philly's hotel-association director about winning, losing
Jane M. Von Bergen | Philly.com | December 7, 2017 3:26pm
Dec. 06--Last year, for the first time since 2002, Army took home the trophy in the annual Army-Navy gridiron contest, drowning Navy's 13-year victory streak. In Philadelphia, no matter which side scores most, the city's hotels are the real winners, booked to the max, with reservation pressure extending into the suburbs.
"The Army-Navy game is very good for us because it's December," said Ed Grose, 50, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, the trade group representing 100 area hotels. "There's nothing else going on."
Grose has a dual identity. In the news, he usually speaks for the hotel association. But his real business is Alta Management Services, which administers business and professional associations, including the hotel group.
His hotel-association role is taking on new importance. Starting Jan. 1, the association will receive 0.75 percent of the daily Philadelphia hotel-room rate to market the city for events that fill rooms. That's $1.50 on a $200 room, or an estimated $5.8 million in 2018.
The association has already pledged $300,000 a year to secure the Army-Navy game until 2022, except for 2021, when it will be played in New York. "All these folks are not just watching the game and going back to their hotel. It's impossible to get a dinner reservation that weekend," Grose said. "They're dropping a lot of money while they're here."
How will the fund be used?
Just say a convention is trying to decide between Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, and Philadelphia. To make us a little more competitive, the Convention and Visitors Bureau might say, 'Hey, if we could pay for their opening reception, which could be about $200,000, they'll choose us.' The meeting planner looks good for saving the organization money. In return, we're expecting an 8-1 return on that $200,000.
What type of event wouldn't be able to apply?
The Mummers Parade -- a great event for Philadelphia, but unless you're a hotel on the parade route, you don't see business from it.
You grew up in Alaska and graduated from Oregon State University. How did you wind up in Philadelphia?
When I graduated from Oregon State, I was on the crew team. I had three job offers, but I told them all, I'm going to take the summer off and come East and row. Philadelphia and Boston are the meccas. I joined a club. At the end of the summer, my coach said, 'You should stick around and try out for the national team.' So I called all my job offers and turned them down, thinking I would stay in Philadelphia and find a job here. But then a recession started.
What did you do?
Anything. I worked retail. I worked at a restaurant. I'd get through the interview process, and I would say to the employer, 'Well, I need some flexibility because I row,' and they'd say, 'No dice.' I got a job installing accounting systems. I didn't make the national team the first or second year. When it came time to go to the selection camp, the third year, the employer said, 'You can either keep your job or go to the selection camp.' I left the job, and that year I finally made the national team -- from 1993 to 1996. I traveled the world.
Ultimately, you managed to snag a job training people in construction safety while training for the Olympics.
I had three practices a day sometimes. When it came down to it, I thought I was going to the Olympics, but I lost my spot and didn't get to go. So I stopped rowing [competitively] in 1996.
What does rowing teach you that has made a difference in business?
It taught me a lot of discipline. And I learned how to handle failure.
The year I didn't make the national team, I would spend a little time feeling sorry for myself. Eventually, I would train that much harder. I realized that when I raced someone in June, I either won or lost that race by the training I did in January, when it was 15 degrees outside and dark and miserable. I remember one time, at the Olympic Training Center, I was so exhausted, it was hard for me to lift my hands to wash myself in the shower. In 1996, when I didn't make the Olympics, I was very disappointed. But I knew there was nothing I could have done differently. I showed up at every workout with the intent to compete. The first day of practice, there were 100 people going for my seat. I held off 98 of them.
Family: Wife, Betsy; children Kaitlyn, 14; Eddie, 12; Kyle, 11.
Diploma: Oregon State University, political science.
Passion: Rowing; trained for the Olympics.
ALTA MANAGEMENT SERVICES
What's that: Association-management company founded by Grose. "I couldn't name it after myself, for obvious reasons. Alta is where I like to ski."
Major clients: Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association; Building Owners and Managers Association; Mid Atlantic Construction Safety Council.
GREATER PHILADELPHIA HOTEL ASSOCIATION
Leadership: Scott Nassar, managing director at Loews Philadelphia Hotel; Ed Grose, executive director.
Rooms: 12,147 in Center City; 16,813 in Philadelphia; 38,038 in the five-county area.
Members: 100 hotels in five-county area, 160 allied businesses.