Meetings & Conventions: Newsline
CHAINS SHELVE PLANS, CUT STAFF
Hotel Market Hangs On for Recovery
Robert Moore of Starwood
lready hurting from a lackluster
economy, hotels were dealt a severe blow by September's events. As
occupancy levels in some cities plummeted to 40 percent and below,
many chains were forced to lay off or furlough staff and shelve
White Plains, N.Y.-based Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide
was the first to cut staff. Some 12,000 were laid off, and $3
million worth of construction projects were deferred. In September,
PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated 6 percent of hotel projects
scheduled for completion in 2002 and 2003 would be canceled or
In October, Dallas-based Wyndham Hotels & Resorts announced
1,600 workers would be let go, following layoffs of 850 earlier
this year. Wyndham also halted nearly all capital expenditures.
Both Loews Hotels and Marriott International cut staff hours to
trim operational costs.
Some hoteliers remained optimistic. "I don't expect any
deterioration in service," said Robert Moore, Starwood's executive
vice president of sales and marketing, North America, and senior
vice president of global sales. "When occupancy increases, we will
ramp up quickly," he added.
Mike Beardsley, senior vice president of field sales for USA and
Canada at Bethesda, Md.-based Marriott International, concurred.
"People have to get back to business," he said. "When they do, we
will adjust our staff accordingly."
Steve Armitage, senior vice president, sales, of Beverly Hills,
Calif.-based Hilton Hotels Corp., said some lost business has been
rebooked for early 2002. By late September, he noted, the
property's occupancy rates were near 85 percent of pre-Sept. 11
"Our greatest exposure is whether groups scheduled for the next
few months will come through with their projections," said Jill
Cady, Atlanta-based director of business development North America
for Six Continents Hotels.
Analysts agree that recovery will take time. "I suspect we won't
see any real improvement until the second half of 2002," said
Robert Mandelbaum, director of research for PKF Consulting in
• CHERYL-ANNE STURKEN
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