Originally appeared in Lodging Magazine in November, 2017
The acceptance of “modular construction” is evolving. USA Today announced in June that Marriott has made the decision to strongly support franchisees’ use of modular construction in the development of appropriate brands. While largely recognized in Europe, modular construction has been notably slow to take off in the United States, encompassing just 3 percent of all construction in North America. That reality along with the hospitality industry’s historically low adaptation of the method begs the question, “What’s the hold-up here?”
In a world where people constantly look for more cost-effective and timely ways to deliver quality products–whether a hotel project or Apple’s new iPhone–at first glance, it is curious that modular construction has not already cemented itself as the new norm in the construction and development culture. However, what we have found through our experience with modular construction is that while the concept presents some distinct advantages, it is best used in certain circumstances and environments to achieve those advantages.
What is Modular Construction?
Modular buildings are sectional, prefabricated buildings that are manufactured in a factory and delivered to the job site in modular sections. For a hotel, the modules are typically one room in width and two rooms in depth and include the central corridor. These units are constructed in an enclosed facility where poor exterior environmental conditions do not hinder the construction timeline or quality. When factory production of the units is complete, they are then transported on trailers to the hotel location and sequentially staged for placement to create the hotel’s upper floors. Erection and placement of the modular units occur rapidly and is completed on most hotel projects within a week to ten days. A significant advantage in comparison to traditional construction practices is that modular construction could deliver units of higher finish quality and consistency.
Modular Construction at Washington State University
Our first venture into modular construction began in 2016 with a Courtyard by Marriott in Pullman, Wash., located on the Washington State University campus. As we researched further into the benefits of the practice, we continually asked ourselves how we could best get an objective opinion on the long-term feasibility of this construction method. Once we decided to pursue the modular route, we saw that there was an opportunity to involve hospitality and construction-focused students at WSU and give them hands-on exposure to a project in the field they had chosen to study.
Recruiting students from WSU’s Construction Management and Hospitality Management schools, we challenged them to test our hypothesis that modular construction is a viable method for hotel development in the future. We believed that it had merit; however, we wanted to obtain findings from an unbiased viewpoint and to see what these students would come up with in terms of cost/benefit analysis and whether modular construction is sustainable in the long term.
The students participated in a real-life, cutting-edge project with class sessions taught on the job site by professionals involved in the hotel project. Classes included a multi-day field trip to the modular fabrication plant. Faculty members from WSU’s Hospitality Management and Construction Management Schools jointly facilitated the class, which culminated in the presentation of the students’ findings to the Stonebridge executive team.
Some of the uncovered results are as follows:
Construction Schedule Compression
Because modular construction accelerates the completion of the building envelope, the overall project can be constructed in less time. The modular construction duration period from start of construction to hotel opening can be 30 percent to 40 percent less than conventional site-built construction. Buildings that typically take 12 to 14 months with traditional construction can be completed with a schedule ranging from 8 to 10 months with modular construction. This is partly due to the potential to significantly reduce site-related delays; the guestrooms are essentially complete upon placement. When properly designed and coordinated, modular construction also has the potential to reduce costs and has been reported to decrease design and construction time by approximately 30 percent to 50 percent with fewer change orders. As with many investment decisions, the ability to deliver product to market, reduce construction carry costs, and get “heads-in-beds” faster can significantly improve the property’s pro forma and increase the attractiveness of modular construction.
Once the modular units are designed and a production schedule is established, there is typically little variance in the production and on-site placement schedule. The controlled environment of the modular fabrication plant eliminates weather delays and subsequent impacts to completion of the building tower. However, the on-site preparation to receive and place the modular units requires careful scheduling and coordination to ensure that the modules are installed in an efficient manner. For a hotel with relatively few guestrooms on the ground floor, it is best to include those rooms in the conventional structure of the ground floor, and use modular units for the upper floors. For hotels with a large footprint and numerous ground-floor guestrooms, having those rooms constructed from modules can be advantageous.
Consistent Quality, Appearance, and Acoustic Performance
Modular fabricators are generally organized to achieve high efficiencies in design and production workflow. Modular buildings also abide by the same building codes as traditional construction. Consequently, modular construction delivers the same or superior quality, durability, and longevity as would be achieved with conventional construction. Since the modules are fabricated with a consistent work crew and staff within the modular factory, there is a great degree of consistency within the rooms in terms of finished quality.
The modules are constructed as individual units, which requires that each unit have separate walls on each side, as well as separate floor and ceiling assemblies. As a result, when the modules are placed side-by-side and stacked vertically, the guestrooms have walls, ceilings, and floors that are of double thickness. It is our expectation that the additional structure and insulation will provide improved acoustic separation between rooms as compared to conventional construction. As a result, we anticipate greater guest satisfaction.
Improved Pre-opening Labor Costs
As previously indicated, the modules are delivered to the site with the rooms essentially complete. During connection of the units and final construction of interior corridors, the rooms are sealed to prevent the incursion of dust and dirt that is produced during the finish work in the corridors and stairs. In this manner, the rooms are kept clean and require less effort to prepare for guest occupancy.
In Pullman, we found that one deep-cleaning pass was needed to get the rooms in guest-ready condition. In conventional construction, three to four passes are required by the hotel housekeeping staff to ready rooms for guests. This represents a significant savings in labor costs, and enables the hotel staff to focus on other aspects of preparing the hotel for opening. The decreased amount of required cleaning also represents further compression of the overall project schedule, allowing the hotel to open sooner than if constructed conventionally.
Where and When is Modular Best Applicable?
What Stonebridge and the WSU students ultimately concluded was aligned with what we had originally hoped for in terms of time effectiveness and quality. However, it is worth noting that the cost-effectiveness of this method is up for debate. Modular construction has a future–and it is here to stay, mostly due to the fact that it is able to save time on projects. From our experience, modular construction works best in terms of cost-effectiveness in an urban environment development where site constraints, logistics, and/or an environment with sub-contractor labor shortages are dominant factors. It should also be noted that modular construction does not lend itself well to all-suite products—it works best when applied to conventionally sized hotel rooms, due to construction and transportation constraints.
While it’s a known fact that the employment of modular construction has been historically low in the hotel construction sector, the recent support from Marriott and Hilton may help bring more awareness, acknowledgment, and, ultimately, an embrace of the concept into projects that fit the right criteria and environment. In retrospect, we also concluded that there is potential for further improvement of the modular process both in the fabrication plant and on-site, and that these improvements will increase the long-term viability for incorporating modular construction into future projects.
written by Navin Dimond, Dr. Nancy Swanger and Jason Peschel
Originally appeared in Morgantown Magazine in November, 2017
The new Morgantown Marriott at Waterfront Place aims to engage with a millennial demographic as well as with the community it calls home.
The sleek brick-and-glass tower with its modern silhouette and pristine landscaping perched on Morgantown’s revitalized Wharf District has become something of an icon. For parents and new WVU students, tailgaters and tourists, natives and transplants traveling on Don Knotts Boulevard, the former Waterfront Place Hotel has been a landmark symbolizing Morgantown’s growing and ever-evolving business and tourism economy.
But when the hotel’s ownership changed hands in 2014, Morgantown didn’t bat an eyelash. Transformation is common—and essential— in this university city. And with the tourist demographic shifting toward younger, more affluent travelers, the hotel had to change to stay relevant, says Jennifer Millstone, director of sales and marketing. “We wanted to capture that millennial traveler. That’s an inventive customer, a business customer. It’s a new class with a little higher expectations. They don’t just come for business, they want to do different things and have experiences.”
Walk into the hotel tonight and you’ll be greeted at the door by prompt, courteous valets—and yes, valet service is complementary, even if you’re only coming for a cocktail. The lobby is crisp and subdued with dark wood, earth tones, and plenty of natural light from windows overlooking the riverfront. If it’s busy, you might be treated to a free bourbon tasting right there. A new Starbucks beckons with the smell of coffee and pastries to your left, but to your right, a flickering fire encased in glass, cozy seating, and a rustic wooden bar are too tempting to pass up. The warm glow of backlit bourbon bottles reminds you of the hotel’s new restaurant theme and name: Bourbon Prime.
If you aren’t staying the night, you’ll want to by the time you tuck into an appetizer and drinks. We recommend their unique twist on pepperoni rolls, wood-fired pizza, or the Snakebite Chili, with chunks of prime rib, sharp cheddar cheese, and scallions served with a dollop of sour cream.
The hotel’s new look is all about comfort, convenience, and a memorable experience, one that’s both familiar and unique, from the modern rooms with high-speed internet, 55- inch flat screens that can connect to all your streaming services, floating end tables, and luxurious laminate floors, to the outlets and purse hooks under every seat in the bar area and Bluetooth-enabled exercise equipment in the fitness center, to the posh hotel salon and spa, Olexa.
General Manager Neil Buffington says the hotel’s new owners, Stonebridge Companies near Denver, decided to go with a familiar brand as a base for the hotel’s transformation. “Stonebridge Companies has a long relationship with Marriott Hotels and, when they purchased the hotel, Marriott seemed liked the perfect fit for both North Central West Virginia and the Morgantown community.” The consensus was that Marriott’s new look and feel, with great room–style lobbies, modern room designs, hyperconnectivity, and unique dining experiences fit Morgantown’s esthetic perfectly.
Although renovations of the rooms and lobby didn’t fully begin until 2016, the planning and execution of the restaurant’s evolution, what would be the heart of the hotel, began almost right away. Its new concept, bourbon-infused, would completely rewrite the look, feel, and flavor of what was once the Regatta Bar and Grille and turn the culinary experience of the restaurant into something that stands out.
“The entire menu has been a two-year process,” says Tom Hawkins, director of food and beverage. What started as a steakhouse concept quickly evolved into something more open-ended that would speak to both the business traveler and the local looking for a bite. “The original concept was going to be Bourbon Prime Steakhouse, but we worried that, with the ‘steakhouse’ title attached to the name, it would be perceived as stuffy— white tablecloths and high costs.” Now, fun appetizers, hand-crafted sandwiches, and steaks complement an extensive bourbon, scotch, and whiskey menu—all at reasonable prices.
The menu also needed to capture the millennial customer who, Hawkins says, is often concerned about not only flavor and presentation—essential when a meal can be snapped, tweeted, or posted to the world in a matter of seconds—but also where it comes from, its story and culture. To answer that need, the restaurant turned to local farms, working with small producers like J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works of Charleston, Rising Creek Bakery just over the border in Pennsylvania, and ThistleDew Farm in Proctor to supply ingredients for what Hawkins calls a menu based on “100 years of Appalachian flair.”
From blending their own bourbon in partnership with Woodford Reserve in Kentucky, the first establishment in the state to do so, to training their bartenders in the art of mixology, the new owners refused to skimp on details. That new bourbon flavor? It’s called Country Roads, of course. And the signature cocktail? Almost Heaven, a blend of Country Roads bourbon, cardamom bitters, and simple syrup, served in a smoked decanter.
Although the menu is still being refined, with a new executive chef soon to start, Hawkins says the focus on local food and seasonal items, along with bourbon infusion and the flavors of Appalachia, will remain the guiding principles. The local community, culture, and flair will remain up-front for guests to experience, too. “A key mission of each of associate, whether they are working at the front desk, Starbucks, or restaurant, is to engage the customer. We are their host. We want to ensure that their stay is memorable,” Millstone says.
Beyond the more obvious changes, one of the biggest transformations the hotel underwent was the training of the team. “Everyone worked tirelessly before the opening participating in self-paced computer training, facilitator-led webinars, and countless hours of in-person training and trial runs for the restaurant team,” Millstone says. “It was a lot of hard work, but in the end, the undertaking has been worth it. The comments we receive from guests are wonderful and very much appreciated.”
Unlike many chain hotels, she says, the newly redesigned hotel wants to be part of the community. That includes hosting community events and meetings, developing special dinners, and partnering with the WVU College of Business and Economics to bring hospitality and tourism management students in for internships and part-time jobs. This new culture is making an impact, and the largely millennial vote already seems to be in: Out of 369 full-service Marriott hotels worldwide, the Morgantown Marriott at Waterfront Place is now ranked third for customer service. 2 Waterfront Place, 304.296.1700, marriott.com/mgwmc
written by MIKENNA PIEROTTI
Originally appeared in Hospitality Design in November, 2017
The Moxy Seattle Downtown will make its debut next month as the brand’s first West Coast property. The 146-key boutique hotel will open in the city’s South Lake Union neighborhood in close proximity to major attractions including Pike Place Market and the Space Needle.
Locally based architecture and design firm Ankrom Moisan will anchor the eight-floor hotel in a tech-centric design that includes a dynamic video wall in the 6,100-square-foot lobby. The vivacious lobby will feature a 24-hour grab-and-go counter, meeting areas, and a convivial bar. Ranging between 195 to 205 square feet, each guestroom will embrace an open storage concept, and be appointed with keyless entry and king beds elevated above motion-activated LED guide lights.
Additional amenities will include a nearly 800-square-foot, 24-hour fitness center, selfie elevators equipped with props, and onsite bike lockers.
By: Will Speros
Originally appeared in Curbed Seattle in October, 2017
Moxy Hotel opens at the corner of Boren and Republican in South Lake Union—right in the heart of Amazonland—in the next few months. The hotel is the first of Mariott’s Moxy line, a little more affordable and targeted to a younger demographic, on the West Coast.
Moxy takes a kookier look at hotels than the more dignified Marriott, with a brand busy with stuff like calling the general manager the “captain” and decor with slogans lifted right off Etsy.
Seattle’s version of the hotel will have 146 guestrooms, ranging from 195 to 205 square feet, each with a king-size bed, a 42-inch TV (with Netflix and Hulu), and a two-person rain shower.
Like many recent boutique hotels aimed at younger crowds, the interiors take a posh and peppy take on the Old Seattle lumberjack vibe. One exposed wood wall houses the TV and serves as a hanging point for shelves and art.
Opposite, an exposed grain headboard builds in shelves for nightstands, matching a platform bed. Underbed LED lights are motion-activated.
The linens and the opposite wall are more of a muted, slate tone.
A virtual tour of a Moxy space doesn’t exactly match the Seattle design, but gives an idea of the general look and feel. (A virtual tour is embedded below, but may not show up for Apple News viewers.) Click here to view Virtual Reality Tour.
The hotel will have a 24-hour fitness center and grab-and-go snack bar. Like many apartment buildings targeting similar demographics, it will also feature bike lockers. Elevators will double as selfie stations, complete with props.
The hotel is set to open in late 2017 or early 2018.
By: Sarah Anne Lloyd
Originally appeared in Condé Nast Traveler in October, 2017
Condé Nast Traveler readers rate the top hotels in the Rocky Mountain state.
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Originally appeared in Puget Sound Business Journal in October, 2017
Construction is wrapping up on an eight-story hotel in the heart of South Lake Union, and the pink accents on the dark exterior subtly suggest whimsy.
This subtleness is sucked out of the air when the hotel general manager, Jerry Stotler, starts talking about the hotel, the West Coast’s first Moxy, and the South Lake Union neighborhood he renamed “Swanktown” a couple years ago.
“I’m kind of known as the mayor,” said Stotler, the gregarious Seattle hospitality industry veteran who holds weekly “town meetings” in the bar of Republic just down the street from the 146- room Moxy.
Set to open in mid-December at 1016 Republican St., Moxy is Marriott International’s new boutique brand for budget-savvy travelers who like to mingle.
“It’s somewhat of an upscale hostel experience,” said Stotler.
Over there, he said pointing to a spot in the lobby, is where the teeter-totter will go. Stotler calls it the first hotel lobby seesaw in the world. When guests, or “fun seekers,” arrive, they’ll be served a Moxy cocktail: Bacardi Dragon Berry run with lime juice, cherry bitters and a splash of red wine served with a paper zebra straw.
These and other touches, along with “furiously fast” Wi-Fi, ooze sexy and smart, and are intended to make Moxy stand out from the slew of other hotels opening in Seattle. Visit Seattle, the region’s tourism group, anticipates 3,000 new hotel rooms over the next few years in anticipation of the $1.6 billion addition to the Washington State Convention Center.
Moxy rooms average 200 square feet. There are no closets and no dressers but hooks where guests hang their clothes and gear. King-size beds sit on a pathway of motion-activated LED lights that guide people to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
In the lobby guests will be able to flip through a vinyl music collection as Instagram feeds from around the world scroll over four 40-inch screens. There will be trivia nights and other events, and grab-and-go food and drink – local juices, Beecher’s Mac & Cheese and Re:public-made breakfast and lunch wraps.
The Seattle Moxy is a franchise developed by Colorado-based Stonebridge Cos., which also is developing a 15-story Residence Inn by Marriott in the nearby Denny Triangle neighborhood.
Stotler, who has 30 years of experience in the hotel industry, was so smitten by the light- hearted, fun character of the Moxy brand that he resigned as general manager of the upscale Hotel Bellevue to take the job. He said it’s as though Marriott “built a brand for me.”
By: Marc Stiles
Originally appeared in HOTELS Magazine in October, 2017
For its Twitter takeover strategy, Renaissance New York Midtown received a Best of the Best (BOB) nod in our 2017 Social Hotel Awards.
At first, the thought of a stranger hijacking your hotel’s social media for the day seems like the ultimate PR nightmare. But that’s because you’re not thinking with the gusto of the Renaissance New York Midtown, which did just that via a Twitter takeover courtesy of musician Confidence Killion.
It wasn’t just a fly by night effort. Guidelines for Killion, whom the hotel put up complimentary during his four-day tweeting escapade, included the number of tweets he should produce while there (six to eight photos and two to four videos using the specific hashtags, #renhotels, #nycmidtown and #itsmeConfidence) as well as a focus on sharing any food, drink, and art he experienced during his stay
The biggest challenge? According to Justin Ellison, director of guest services for Renaissance New York Midtown, it’s making sure that the influencer’s followers actually follow them to your hotel’s account for the takeover. To try to avoid that, the Renaissance had Killion tweet several times the week before the takeover event asking his followers to come along for the ride.
Social takeovers can have kinks, but, according to Justin Ellison, director of guest services for Renaissance New York Midtown, in the end, they’re worth it.
“Having an influencer do a takeover generates a huge amount of engagement, whether it’s retweets, comments, likes or follows,” Ellison says. “Takeovers can really show the style and service level of your hotel in a way you have been able to before – through the eyes of a guest who is seeing your accommodations and service for the first time.”
A four-day “Twitter Takeover” at Renaissance New York Midtown (via musician Confidence Killion, pictured) generated 10,432 in impressions and 4.7% engagement on the hotel’s account.
The plan: Partner with Confidence Killion and Black Label Records to host a Twitter Takeover on Renaissance New York Midtown’s account. Target goals set were 5K in impressions during the four days of the takeover and an engagement rate of 3%. Twitter was chosen as the channel was struggling with gaining followers and reaching peak engagement levels for the hotel.
The practice: The hotel asked Killion to state to his followers that he would be taking over our Twitter account for four days in the week before he did. The culmination of the takeover was a live performance in the hotel’s lobby bar, parts of which were also featured on Twitter.
The payoff: Before the campaign, the property had roughly 2,500 impressions a week on its Twitter account, with 1.4% engagement. The four-day campaign generated 10,432 in impressions and 4.7% engagement on the account.
By: Chloe Riley
Originally appeared in WVU Today in September, 2017
When students in West Virginia University’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program landed internships and employment at a local Morgantown hotel that was ramping up to become a Marriott, they knew it would be a great deal of work. They knew it would be a great deal of commitment. And they knew it would require them to focus entirely on the Marriott brand that had become an international standard.
What they didn’t know is how much it would benefit them as they work toward entering the industry where they plan to make their marks, an industry that sees $2.7 billion in direct spending by resident and international travelers in this country every day, according to the U.S. Travel Association. As students at the WVU College of Business and Economics, they can take advantage of the business school’s relationships ranging from the world-renowned Greenbrier to Hilton, from Disney to Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, and from Snowshoe Mountain Resort to IHG — as well as a number of other resorts, hotels, outdoor recreational companies and restaurants.
As luck would have it, the Waterfront Place Hotel right in the students’ back yard in Morgantown was undergoing a two year-long process to become a Marriott hotel, the Morgantown Marriott at Waterfront Place. The property, owned by Stonebridge Companies, had served as a “learning lab” since the inception of the WVU program in the fall of 2014 in response to the hospitality and tourism industry’s prominent place in West Virginia’s economy. In the latter part of 2016, students were propelled into an international brand and, perhaps, the opportunity of a lifetime.
“We work with several international brands, and there is no question Marriott is one of the most recognized brands in the world,” said Frank DeMarco, teaching associate professor in the Hospitality and Tourism Management program. “Marriott International has more than 6,000 properties and is a $17 billion company. We knew this represented a great opportunity for students.”
Nobody knows that more than 21-year-old B&E student Matthew Smith, a senior from Damascus, Maryland, and a Stonebridge scholarship recipient. Smith has excelled so quickly at the property that, as an intern and employee, he was promoted to front desk supervisor this past summer.
“I am responsible for ensuring that our guests enjoy their stay in Morgantown while holding up the Marriott standards. Throughout April of this year, our team spent about 40 hours per week working directly with Marriott trainers that helped us through the opening process,” Smith said. “These days consisted of classroom-style lectures followed by role play examples that allowed us to directly apply what we learned.”
And Smith is a classic example of someone who has benefitted from the program’s experiential learning. He has participated in a market research study team and has analyzed reports that tell him how a hotel is performing in a specific market. He looks at data that include occupancy, average daily rates and revenues.
Recent graduate Brianna Austin, who grew up in the shadow of The Greenbrier, is currently working at Stonebridge’s corporate offices in Englewood, Colorado, in the real estate and property development sector. A double-major undergraduate in hospitality and tourism management and accounting and an August MBA graduate, she has made the most of her time in transition to the Marriott and in working for the ownership group.
“I started out at the Waterfront Place Hotel in September 2015 as a sales and marketing intern, then moved to a rooms division intern the following January of 2016. The new internship allowed me to start out in housekeeping, then to valet, and finally to the front desk,” the 23-year-old Austin said. “This gave me a better sense of how each department works together and communicates with one another. After that I started working at the front desk part time, then eventually full time. I also made it a point to work in the restaurant as well as in the banquets department whenever they needed extra help.”
Chris Manley, Stonebridge’s chief operating officer, is a firm believer that the hotel is an instrumental classroom, and its transition into Marriott is an invaluable learning opportunity. “The future of the hospitality industry resides in the students within our education institutions,” said Manley, who serves on B&E’s Hospitality and Tourism Management Advisory Council. “Our investment in the Morgantown community provides a great vehicle for a mutually beneficial partnership with WVU. As hospitality professionals progress through their careers, they rarely have an opportunity to participate in the transformation of one community institution into a new and improved product. The experience has been very uplifting, and the scholars’ influence and excitement in the process has been noticeable,” he said.
For students, Marriott has been a family-led brand for nearly 90 years that has properties in 122 countries and territories. That, Manley said, opens up a world of opportunity for them.
“While the fundamentals of operating a boutique and brand hotel are similar, there is a reason that Marriott has grown to be the largest hospitality company in the world,” he said. “They have the systems, processes and resources available to maximize the guest experience and deliver the ‘Distinguished Hospitality’ for which Stonebridge is known. A scholar graduating with the additional hands-on experience of a Marriott project can add insight and value to any future hotel immediately, whether it be in Morgantown or Manhattan.”
WVU business school student Amanda Baer, 20, of Charles Town, West Virginia, has taken the approach of getting a food and beverage job at the hotel to help prepare her for what is ahead. A double-major in hospitality and tourism management and marketing, she hopes to secure an internship for the upcoming spring semester.
“Working at the hotel during the transition was very rewarding,” said Baer. “I learned how to work through the big changes. I got to meet many new people who told me about their experience working for Marriott and how they got to where they are today. It was a very influential experience.”
Morgantown Marriott General Manager Neil Buffington said the hospitality transition experience sticks with a person, and that he is living proof of that. “Anytime someone in the industry or a student studying the industry gets a chance to transition a property from an independent to a brand, they should cherish the experience. If these students stay in hospitality, it won’t be the last time they renovate and transition a hotel or restaurant. Having this experience will help with the next transition where they will be better prepared and can share their knowledge with those with less experience. The Morgantown Marriott project was my second hotel renovation and it went much smoother with the experience I gained on the first.”
Experience is key, plain and simple. DeMarco said students in the program are required to complete two internships, so that they will be competitive in the industry after graduation and be able to compete for a leadership role. Each internship is comprised of 150 hours of on-site work.
“The internship experience enables students to apply the principles they learn in the classroom in a business environment,” he said. “To be a successful leader in the industry, you need to put into practice what you’re learning.”
And these future business leaders believe the experience with an international brand has served them the world on a silver platter.
“Marriott International is a brand that has endless opportunities,” Smith said. “With hotels across the world, there is no limit to the number of jobs that are available. For a motivated student and associate like myself, Marriott has everything that I could ever want. The company’s training and voyager programs offer great opportunities for recent college graduates within the hospitality industry.”
Austin said, “I plan to continue learning as much as possible to figure out what my strengths are in the hospitality industry. The position that I am currently in allows me to learn about the other side of hotels and gives me an appreciation for the work I do every day. I have found that I really enjoy the operations aspect of hotels and hope to one day manage a property that provides a high level of service.”
“I have learned so much about the hotel industry and use a lot of my knowledge from class to help me excel at work as well. What I learn in class closely correlates to what I do at work, and absolutely puts me a step ahead of everyone else,” said Baer.
Buffington said that WVU’s program is rich with outstanding students, and that their experiences at the Marriott are helping to launch their careers. “There are some incredible students graduating from the program,” he said. “Many students stay on at the hotel after their internships, and relationships grow. And many will have opportunities to start their careers after graduation at Morgantown Marriott or another Stonebridge property.”
In the end, DeMarco said, it’s all about the educational experiences students now have and what that means for life after college. “At WVU’s business school, we are encouraging students to study abroad to experience different cultures. Our association with Marriott gives our students an additional dimension of opportunities for international travel, and to interact with international guests and learn about their cultures,” he said. “This hotel becoming a Marriott also allows our students to access the Marriott Global Source resource, which has by far the best training and development resources in the industry.”
Buffington said, “These students are getting experience and training the Marriott way, a way that has developed since the first Marriott hotel opened in 1957. They also get to put Marriott on their resume, which gives them a huge advantage over college graduates who may have gone to schools without the relationships WVU has.”
By: Patrick Gregg
Originally appeared in Lodging Magazine in August, 2017
Navin C. Dimond, who founded Stonebridge Companies 25 years ago, serves as its president and CEO, overseeing the company’s development and investment functions from its Denver, Colo., headquarters. He says the positive growth of the company, which now employs nearly 3,000 associates and owns and/or operates over 50 hotels nationwide, is to a great extent due to its staff-supported hospitality culture and a commitment to service. “Our hotels remain true to our culture of delivering ‘Distinguished Hospitality.’ We have a team of enthusiastic people who create a respectful and enjoyable work atmosphere, and come in every day focused and ready to provide unparalleled service to our guests.”
How did you get your start in the hotel industry?
I consider myself an “accidental hotelier.” It was not by design. I initially founded Stonebridge Companies to own and operate a shopping center in Arvada, Colo. At the time, I was less interested in the hotel industry and more interested in other types of real estate, like office, retail, and warehouse. But when an opportunity came in 1991 to purchase the Bronco Inn motel, I was intrigued by the property’s potential. Charting unknown territory came with its set of adversities and risk, but I was dedicated and driven. In the beginning, my wife and I did much of the work ourselves, which gave me a better appreciation for the industry and associates. From that point forward, the company grew in both properties and staff.
What are the benefits of modular building, and how might it meet the needs of the hospitality industry?
Labor shortages and pricing are driving alternative forms of delivery, which is where modular building can be a potential solution, especially in urban locations. While the current pricing is not necessarily less expensive than traditional construction, there are significant benefits in both a shortened construction time and increased construction quality. We ourselves recently used modular building methods for a Courtyard Marriott located on the campus of Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman, Wash. In addition, as part of a research and development project for Stonebridge, we engaged construction management and hospitality and business management students from WSU to test the hypothesis that modular construction is a viable technique for future hotel construction. We challenged these students and faculty to come to their own conclusions on the cost-benefit analysis of the long-term viability of modular construction in the hospitality industry, and I was very proud to have students from my alma mater participate in the project.
What are some challenges you’ve encountered when growing staff and how are they best managed?
Stonebridge is always looking for associates who have a genuine passion for both hospitality and creating memorable experiences for our guests. In companies with a growth trajectory like Stonebridge, managing an expanding team is a top priority. Growth within our company presents unique opportunities for existing associates to take the next leap in their career development.
Is your leadership team mostly home grown?
One of the four tenets of our mission statement is “careers,” with a focus on team member development. Stonebridge’s best leaders are constantly spending time mentoring fellow associates to help them achieve the next phase of their career. Our human resource initiatives are focused on personal and professional growth. They include continuous training, competitive benefits and compensation, rewards for performance, and celebrating successes at every level.
What do you like best about working in the hotel industry?
We are an industry that achieves success from the positive energy generated through people serving people. Whether it’s our leadership team or our associates, there has been a dedication in Stonebridge Companies to provide our unique “Distinguished
Hospitality” to our guests for 25 years.
By: Ellen Meyer
Originally appeared in New England Real Estate Journal in August, 2017
The Boston economy continues to prosper with low unemployment and continued job growth. This has fueled positive hotel performance with a record occupancy of 76.5% achieved in 2015. The Great Recession of 2008/2009 seems like a distant memory as we are more than halfway through our 8th year of the economic recovery. According to Smith Travel Research, the Boston MSA ranks 5th in top 25 hotel markets in the United States in Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR) behind New York, San Francisco, Oahu and Miami and the market commands the fourth highest Average Daily Rate (ADR) in the country. While these statistics are impressive and it has been a very strong run for the city, 2016 was the first “hiccup” year with RevPAR down year over year 0.6%. 2017 has been stronger with positive RevPAR growth of 2.4% through June YTD, but for the first time in many years room supply growth (3.1%) is outpacing room demand growth (2.8%). One of the factors that has elongated the run in Boston is extremely high barriers for new construction driven by high construction and land costs, a tight labor market, and a challenging permitting environment. Despite all of this, the 2017 numbers reflect a trend of supply growth catching up with demand growth and this means there will be winners and losers in the fight for room nights. Many submarkets have not had supply additions for ten or more years and, in cases where demand growth is limited, new product usually steals market share.
In suburban Boston, the Residence Inn in Needham is a perfect example of a new product (opened in August of 2013) that is undoubtedly stealing market share and occupancy from older, dated competition in Dedham and Waltham. Several other new hotels are under construction in Needham and Waltham and they are all Hilton or Marriott select service brands (Hampton Inn, Residence Inn, Fairfield Inn and Homewood Suites) that have a very competitive operating model – limited food and beverage outlets and meeting space but offer free breakfast and new, very high quality room product. In the case of the Residence Inn Needham, most of the competition is thirty plus years old and it is an easy decision for the customer to choose “new” vs “tired and dated.” Even older properties that have been renovated to stay competitive underperform versus new product. Functional design challenges such as low ceiling heights, small bathrooms and inadequate HVAC systems cannot be changed. The hotel brand companies, particularly Hilton and Marriott, continue to push up the quality level of all of their select service brands that they franchise to developers. The late 80’s/early 90’s Hampton Inn or Courtyard by Marriott bears no resemblance to the current prototype for these brands. This new room product is competitive with any older full service Hilton, Marriott or Hyatt, and today’s customer has less need for a hotel restaurant and other amenities, particularly in an urban setting. In fact, a high quality fitness area is more important. The majority of millennials and Gen Y travelers are looking to explore the neighborhood they are visiting and dining at a hotel is usually not a preferred option. The shifting of market share from old to new is all part of the cyclical progression in the hotel business. In an up market, supply can be easily absorbed, however, in a flattening or down market, the new, “fittest” properties will greatly outperform and the oldest competitors will lose substantial market share. The Route 128 corridor is not the only sub-market that is experiencing supply growth and shifting of market share. Brookline, Cambridge, Watertown, Medford and Chelsea have all had recent hotel openings, most of which have been very successful.
Another subset of new supply that the hotel companies are pushing is “lifestyle” product that targets specific demographics and promotes creating unique experiences for the customer. Marriott has spear-headed the launch of the Spanish brand AC Hotel in the US positioning the design as European modernism and promoting a unique “lifestyle” experience. There are now two AC Hotels open in Cambridge and Medford and two more under construction in Boston and Brookline. The look and feel of the product is very upscale with a sleek, urban design and customer feedback has been very positive. More of this type of lifestyle product is coming and will steal market share from older, tired properties.
The last category of new supply entering the Boston market is micro hotels. Citzen M, Pod, Yotel and Moxy (backed by Marriott) are all relatively new micro hotel brands. A Yotel is under construction in Boston in the Seaport District and a Moxy is in planning for downtown. The prototype room in a Moxy Hotel is only 180 square feet, compared to 280 to 300 square feet for a typical Marriott or Hilton select service product. This allows a developer to fit up to 40% more room inventory in the same allowable square footage. The micro hotel rooms are very small with the emphasis on the bed and bathroom with very limited work space or furniture. The brands are primarily targeting millennials promoting style, design and an active bar scene. Each arriving guest is offered a free signature cocktail when you check into a Moxy. The jury is out on how successful the micro hotel brands will be but they are already very successful and competitive in New York City.
Whether traditional, lifestyle or micro, new supply in Boston is very real and, as market growth abates, the “fittest” will outperform.
Jim Luchars is chief investment officer for Stonebridge Companies, a hotel development and operating company. Prior to joining Stonebridge, Luchars was a principal at AEW Capital Management overseeing all hotel investments. Luchars has over 25 years of experience in the hotel business and commercial real estate.
Founded in 1991 by Navin Dimond, Stonebridge is a privately owned, innovative hotel development and hospitality management company. They manage a portfolio of 45 hotels across the United States, and provide investor opportunities, hotel development services, hotel management services, and hospitality career opportunities to our partners and associates. Currently, their hotel portfolio is comprised of 7,000 guest rooms across multiple select-service, extended stay, mid-scale, and full-service hotel brands located in primary and secondary markets.