Top five trends impacting the hospitality industry

If you've been watching this space, or even just stumbled on our blog for a quick look, you will have noticed that we're intrigued and invested in hospitality industry. As news of today's hard-hitting times continues to drape the pages of just about every publication available, we've taken note of some trends; and highlighted five that seem to be at the forefront of the airwaves and editors' minds in the wake of the current downturn:

1. Travel industry's gloomy outlook – The airline industry has reported some of the largest passenger declines since the early 1980s.

2. Hospitality cutting back – Amenities and luxuries in hotels being reevaluated by some of the industry's largest luxury hotels.

3. Hotels working to get the world traveling again – Hotels have begun offering low rate travel packages as a means to put bodies back in rooms that have been showing vacancies more often than not.

4. Government involvement – The stimulus bill looks to create jobs across all industries, and is estimated to create or maintain 346,000 jobs for the hospitality industry.

5. Hotels turn to asset management – Hoteliers have begun turning to asset management as a means to save on bottom lines while maintaining the quality of stay on their properties for travelers.

But it's not all doom and gloom: In the next week we're going to look and question some possible benefits that have come from each of these.

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Conversion is the name of the game

Last week, The US House of Representatives voted for an official extension to the analog switch off from the original date of February 17, 2009 to June 12, 2009.

Though almost all stations are already broadcasting in digital, the Washington Post reported that an estimated 14 million households across America still depend on analog broadcasts. The delayed date comes as a response from the government after many speculated whether the government was following all necessary steps to provide assistance for Americans through the transition.

Consumers who elect to keep their analog televisions will need a converter box to receive digital broadcasts.

A Neilsen research note from January of 2009 found that more than 6.5 million households were not ready for the switch and more that 3.7 million consumers are still on a waiting list to receive vouchers from the Department of Commerce that promises a discount on converter boxes.

At TRT, we are continuing in our initiatives to work with key players in the hospitality industry to ensure that they are ready for the digital transition. Hoteliers purchasing new digital flat screen TVs are faced with needing to house the new TVs in armoires that cannot accommodate the size and shape of the new TVs. By working with existing assets, we have been able to provide an economically sound solution to our customers with our armoire modification process.

The digital switch has its affect on consumers, business owners and industry players alike. How have you been affected by the switch?

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Valentine's Day, Hospitality Style

As Valentine's Day approaches, we've found ourselves curious about how this Hallmark holiday would fare against the big bad recession. In times full of doom and gloom, the hospitality industry is finding that in the battle between money woes and love, love has overcome- so far.

Valentine's Day 2009 couldn't fall on a better day. Not only are Valentine's Day lovers lucky to have a Saturday to celebrate, they also have a long weekend. Here in the States Monday, February 16th is Presidents Day, and for most- a day off.

Hospitality players have already been slashing prices in efforts to keep people traveling. Airline fares are down, and hotels are offering Valentine's Day weekend packages at discounted rates- even throwing in a bottle of champagne and rose petal baths in some establishments!

USA Today reported that consumers are expected to cut back this Valentine's Day, but a local Maryland newspaper has quoted managers from jewelry stores and restaurants that have yet to see any major cut backs in sales, nor are they expecting to see those effects.

However you or your loved ones choose to spend this coming weekend, we at The Refinishing Touch would like to extend our wishes to everyone for a Happy Valentine's Day and a relaxing long weekend.

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The deepening need for change

In a time when most everything is uncertain, people are looking for strength and stability anywhere they can find it. News of companies cutting thousands of jobs has saturated nearly every medium of communication for what is coming on about 5 months now, and American’s are joined by their fellow global citizens in wondering when it’s all going to turn around.

President Obama has tirelessly spent the last focal weeks urging members of Congress to pass his stimulus bill that has outlined what we’re sure will not be the last of his efforts to begin the climb out of this deepening recession. His bill proposes tax cuts that are estimated to put Americans back to work with the creation of between 1.2 million to 3.6 million jobs, and an estimated 346,000 of them are expected to go to the hospitality industry.

An article in USA Today recently stated that the majority of the jobs expected to come out of Obama’s bill will only replace those lost to the recession. As we continue to hear about members of Congress dividing amongst party lines over the facets of the $819 billion bill, we as Americans are left yearning for a ray of hope. As members of the hospitality industry we continue to look to any opportunity that will bring positive change to our industry. We as Americans look to our Congressional representatives and urge them to come to a compromise with one another that will both nationally and globally present a bill to begin the long journey out of hardship that lies ahead of us.

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A gloomy outlook? The US Travel Industry in 2009

Earlier in the week, we blogged about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the views of the U.S. Travel Association, in support of the suggestions put forward by Roger Dow, the association's president and CEO. For anyone in doubt, figures show that following a decline in the lodging and the airline industries in the final quarter of 2008, predictions for 2009 are bleak.

PricewaterhouseCoopers announced a revised lodging forecast earlier this month, based on current forecasts for the U.S. economy combined with historical data from Smith Travel Research. In this, PricewaterhouseCoopers forecasts an 11.2 percent decrease in room revenue per available room (RevPAR) during 2009 - after a 1.9 percent decline in 2008.

The forecast for room occupancies also shows a decline. Robert Mandelbaum, of PKF Hospitality Research states: "This is… the lowest in 30 years."

Airlines are also declaring a marked decrease in customers. USA Today reported that Las Vegas airport has experienced its biggest passenger decline since 1981. The numbers released by the Clark County Department of Aviation include a 14.1% decline in December to about 3.2 million, and highlights how the recession has undercut Las Vegas tourism. This reflects the biggest year-over-year percentage decline since traffic fell from 10.3 million in 1980 to 9.5 million in 1981.

Despite this, Delta Air Lines which has seen the biggest losses, remains optimistic. CEO Richard Anderson admits that Delta will still be in the red in the traditionally weak first quarter, but overall he is "expecting profitability in 2009 and a growing cash position." This is due to the fact that Delta expects to save about $5 billion through lower fuel prices this year, about a $1 billion through capacity cuts and $500 million in streamlining benefits from its merger with Northwest.

With less disposable income to spare people will travel more selectively. This means that all elements of the hospitality sector: airlines, public transportation, hotels, motels, resorts, and restaurants, need to deliver a consistently strong customer experience and to promote their services to encourage visitors.

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It's all of the little things... Or is it?

At the moment in time, the major financial indicators aren't the greatest that they've been for the economy. In a day and age where the terms "cost-cutting" "recession" and "financial downturn" are all common words, we recognize that this is a tough time. Each day, news of companies and organizations once thought of as untouchable are announcing plans to scale back in any way possible.

We've talked about this before. What does the recession mean for the industries we are most near and dear to? The hospitality industry has seen its largest players adopt belt tightening practices as a means to save where possible and the travel industry as a whole continues to stagger on with offers designed to get Americans traveling once again.

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article that announced the small changes that hotels are making to save on their bottom lines. It is, after all, the little things that make an otherwise ordinary travel experience one to categorize as "extraordinary."

So how much will travelers miss the lotion that was once left in the bathroom of their Marriott hotel room? Or the fresh flowers in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton? In this day and age, we know firsthand that the larger things matter most.

As we look to a recession that is expected to hold its grip for a while, it continues to be a necessity to look at the value of existing assets and plan budgets and bottom lines around economically sound decisions.

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What's Old is New

The Liberty Hotel Lobby

The concept of what's old is new again isn't the only concept seen in the fashion industry it relates to many businesses as well. We witness this concept as it relates to furniture, architecture, literature, etc. The idea of revitalizing, recycling or repurposing what already exists and reinventing it into something new and fresh is wise on many levels. It's important to see beyond what already exists and think of creative ways to breathe new life into something old.

In a recent Hotel Interactive article, unique hotel conversions are the focus. Recently, the hospitality industry has seen more property conversions such as the Liberty Hotel in Boston, Mass. which came with specific challenges due the location and historic nature of the location. Looking beyond what exists and repackaging is essential. However, with the idea of reinventing existing buildings restoration budgets can run high.

Hotel owners and commercial property builders will face challenges in the conversions but there is reward in the risk. We, at The Refinishing Touch, truly believe in the concept of what old is new again. While converting an existing building into a hotel can be costly and provide challenges, existing hotel properties can make what is old new again when it comes to their furniture assets. Asset managers can take stock of existing furniture on property and determine if they can salvage pieces through refinishing and/or reupholstering. The cost of refinishing versus buying new is cost effective and environmentally friendly.

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Financial Crunch Puts a Global Grip on Tourism this Holiday Season

The typical hustle and bustle of the holiday season around the world is missing this year due to the current economic climate. Since the US economic plunge hit, many travelers (business and leisure) throughout the world have scaled back. The global financial crisis has put a halt on the majority of travel around the world. The problem isn't the capacity for travel, the problem is creating the demand and need for it again despite current economic conditions.

Rome is one of the many cities around the globe seeing a dramatic decline in hotel occupancy.
Rome felt a 17.5 percent decline in October compared with the same month last year. In addition to hotel occupancy, global air travel has also fallen as the economic crisis takes a toll on the world economy.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said that international passenger traffic had decreased 1.3 percent in October compared with the previous year. As we all know, business travel helps drive both airline traffic and hotel occupancy rates. Whether for conferences held on site at hotels and resorts or at facilities elsewhere, airline traffic and hotel occupancy go hand in hand for business travel.

Premium air travel hit low in north Atlantic markets, between the US and Asia across the Pacific, and within the Middle East. Luxury brand five-star hotels, such as The Grand Hotel Plaza in Rome are also feeling the pinch. Other global cities are feeling this same pinch when it comes to hotel occupancy. Guests are looking for more affordable accommodations while they are traveling and are overlooking some of the high end properties that were once sought after.

When major global cities such as Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Madrid, New York, Paris, Toronto and Sydney start to feel the pinch - we know we are in the midst of tough times.

What's to come in 2009 is unknown at this time, however, we can only be optimistic that there will be change coming. In the meantime, we can continue to work with hotel executives to ensure budgets are in tact, existing furniture on property is maintained and guest relations continues to be a priority for those that are embarking on travel this holiday season.

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Hotel Gurus Come together to Create New Hotel Investment Fund

It's no secret that the current economic climate is in rough shape. However, as the economy downturns, there becomes an opportunity for investors to look at new ventures as a result of the credit crisis and the global economic slump. It's the time to invest when property prices are coming down and this is also the case for commercial property such as hotels.

The future of three major hotel brands, Marriott, Starwood and Hilton, were strengthened this week, despite the current state of the hospitality industry, when the announcement of Fairwood Capital LLC, a hotel investment fund was announced. Three hotel industry gurus, Ed Ansbro, Robert Solmson and Richard Reiss will serve as the hotel investment fund's principals. The news definitely breathed new life into the future of each of these hotel brands since they will be the initial focus.

It was reported that Fairwood's partners and two institutional investors contributed $150 million in equity of Fairwood Hospitality Investors LLC. They will maintain offices in Memphis and New York City.

The company's investors project the company having a possible $300 million in equity over the next few years. Plans also include even further economic contribution with outside hiring for property management. It will be interesting to see what time of changes are made with Fairwood's investment. Could that mean more renovation projects? Opportunities for contractors as well as hospitality management?

Given the hospitality industry's role as a key player in the health of the economy, Fairwood's announcement comes as news of a much anticipated movement toward positive, profitable change.

Undoubtedly, Fairwood's establishment will mark the beginning of a trend that will keep development and prosperity on the horizon for the hotel industry. We here at The Refinishing Touch are looking forward to the stimulus that Fairwood strives to achieve.

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TRT team members go onsite to Atlanta

Hilton Atlanta Northeast

Last week, a few key members of the TRT team traveled to the Hilton Atlanta Northeast to observe one of our armoire projects in progress. Amy Parson, our Sales Coordinator, and Ryan Riopko, our Marketing Coordinator, went to the property and met with Scott Deutsch, Director of Production to watch what is done on site during an armoire conversion project.

We are currently completing armoire modification within each of the 272 elegantly appointed guest rooms and suites, and enjoying a real onsite production atmosphere.

As part of the TRT family, we are proud to present an impeccably organized, clean and swift operation from start to finish.

TRT has a long-standing relationship with the Hilton Atlanta Northeast. We have completed several jobs for them over the past few years, including the refinishing and upholstery of both guest rooms and public spaces. We look forward to bringing the same distinguished service for many years to come.

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The place to be seen and be green: The Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show (IH/M&RS), NYC

International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show
The Refinishing Touch team is at the International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show (IH/M&RS) in New York City. The show officially started on Sunday, November 9 and runs through November 11, at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. A staggering 35,000 people were expected to attend over the course of the show.

A focus for this year's show is environmental trends and related issues facing the hotel and motel industry, with Former U.S. Green Building Council President and CEO, Christine Ervin, outlining her thoughts in a keynote speech. Additionally, multiple breakout sessions are being chaired by some of the leading green thinkers in the hospitality industry.

This is definitely the show to attend if you are a hotel or motel industry executive that is looking for ways to increase profitability and enhance your company's image by going green.

If you are at the show please stop by and visit us at booth #3626.

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TRT visits China: A personal perspective

This month I had the pleasure and experience of visiting the People's Republic of China. It was a combination of business - visiting our stone manufacturing facilities- and pleasure, visiting friends.

On October 2nd after traveling more than 8,400 miles, I stepped off a Boeing 747 onto Hong Kong International Airport to change planes. I've been lucky to travel extensively throughout my life and career, but a 20 hour flight and a 12-hour time difference resulted in one of the most grueling travel experiences.

Security, something that Americans are now getting more used to since the awful events of 2001, was incredibly tight, with various levels of security checks including a point where you have to stand still for three seconds and stare into an infra-red camera.

Finally, after I'd been up for 36 hours straight, I landed in Xiamen. Xiamen is an island city situated on the south east tip. With a population of slightly over two million, it is regarded as "the most agreeable city in China." The port ranks among the country's top ten and it boasts a modern airport that has become a major aviation hub. It has a bustling economy, thanks to its designation as one of several Special Economic Zones in China and the large amount of foreign investment that the hub is known for.

After the grueling journey, I was exhausted but glad to see my friends waiting to pick me up at Xiamen airport. They drove me to the luxury that is the Sofitel Hotel in Xiamen. By then, I urgently needed a rest, and I wasn't disappointed. The hotel's standards were incredibly high with impeccably crisp and clean rooms that would be inviting to any traveler, but especially so to such a weary one!

My whole experience was a mixture of the unusual and the out-of-context, including an Italian meal in Xiamen. As an Italian-American, I have a deep love and appreciation of Italian food - though the meal itself seemed to be lacking in the 'Italian' aspect, aside from the Chianti Classico, which was authentic.

Meanwhile, my temporary 'base' of the Sofitel with its slick service and presentation, reflects my overall impression of the People's Republic of China. As a visitor, I found every part of the country that I visited to be immaculately organized and business-like. Any service was like clockwork, and while smiling and welcoming, there was a work ethic that seems to pervade every person. There was a constant sense of control and management, which, as a business person, I can fully appreciate.

My meetings were fruitful - details of those to follow in my next post - and the time I spent with my friends was unforgettable.

The worst bit? The jet lag, both on the journey out and returning home, took its toll, with my body taking days to catch up. Visiting China made me feel like I'd really traveled!

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The Refinishing Touch attends BITAC

The Broadmoor: Colorado Springs, CO

We've just returned from this week's Buyer Interactive Trade Alliance and Conference: Purchasing and Design West (BITAC) sponsored by Hotel Interactive, and had a chance to meet with both current and potential clients amongst 75 different groups. Amidst strengthening old friendships and forging new ones, we heard a lot of the talk at this year's event about the current conditions of the marketplace and where the hospitality industry stands. Based on the buzz at the event, it continues to ring true that the financial state of our nation has had its effect on the hospitality industry.

In the panic of the financial situation many capital budgets have been frozen and hotel owners and developers are realizing the need to be proactive whenever possible. We learned from our industry friends that the feeling is that renovations are more important than ever. Since a good number of the new builds in the pipeline may be shelved, industry players are coming to realize that keeping existing properties in a competitive stance is extremely important.

Another hot topic at the event was the greening of the industry. A panel discussion at the event discussed the definition of "green" in the hospitality industry and the need for universal standards throughout. The industry brings in a whole new set of issues and obstacles when it comes to implementing green standards and proves to be a challenge that everyone agreed is well worth the effort.

The hospitality business is one built on relationships. BITAC and Hotel Interactive understand this and cultivate it within their events. With a format lending itself to free thinking and relationship building without any constraints, BITAC is always an event that The Refinishing Touch looks forward to and is delighted to participate in.

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The Hospitality Industry Continues on its Green Mission

A decade ago, 'green hotels' were barely on the radar. Today, they are a hot topic for the lodging industry as well as consumers, with travelers keen to use eco-friendly properties for business and leisure. Like all other industries, the hospitality industry is under pressure to take its corporate and social responsibilities seriously. And with the current economic climate, operating greener also helps to save on the bottom line. Hoteliers not only save money but also help the environment by reducing their carbon footprint.

Early this Fall, The Green Meeting Industry Council announced the 2009 dates for the "Greening the Hospitality Industry" conference, to be held at the LEED gold-certified David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, PA. The conference will allow hotel industry executives, and meeting and event planners to better understand how to successfully execute green meeting practices and to implement green initiatives.

When a business is able to balance economic, environmental, and strategic business objectives as they relate to business partners, customers and stakeholders they are in a position to thrive. Senior level and C-level executives have to adopt a new way of thinking when it comes to their hotel brand and property.

As a supplier to the hospitality industry, The Refinishing Touch understands that suppliers share a collective responsibility to encourage hospitality chains, as well as government institutions, and universities nationally, to help and advise them to look at existing furnishing, furniture and fixtures as assets not as disposable goods to toss in landfills.

Many hotels today may be a shade paler than green than others but progress is being made. With chains and independents already considering more sustainable ways of running their business, events and opportunities for sharing best practices such as the Greening the Hospitality Industry are a welcome: we know that we’ll be there and taking a very active part in the discussion.

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The ripple effect: Airline slumps translate to hard hits for the travel industry

The travel and hospitality industries have been driving forces in economic prosperity and growth in America. In today's economic climate, the United States is one of many countries being affected by what is now qualified as a global crisis. Daily we hear mentions of national bailouts and continue to see the effects governmental rescue efforts have on an abysmal time in the stock markets.

Banks and industry players are scrambling to gain much needed support from backers and investment firms as officials continue crafting plans to make strides toward a realistic picture of stability. Through all of this financial turmoil, we are beginning to see former stronghold industries being largely affected by the economic downturn.

The travel industry has recently shown that as in the past, it is not immune to the economic woes of the world. It is an industry that relies heavily on the stability of the economy and the people that drive business. As the global crisis continues to grip the attention of leisure and business travelers many consumers and businesses are having to rethink travel plans. While just a few months ago, the hospitality and travel industries alike could reasonably rely on international travel from abroad, these industries are realizing that this may now not be the case for the future.

With airlines reporting steep declines, travelers are forced to cope with either increased fares or hold off on travel plans in order to save money. The reality is a majority of consumers are cutting back on travel, due to the serious financial problem at large. Though they have since managed to remain unscathed, the hospitality industry is now seeing four and five star hotels being affected by the financial crisis and the hardships of the travel industry.

We here at The Refinishing Touch, like so many of our industry friends, are striving to make a difference in the hospitality industry during this tough economic climate. Now is the time when it makes more sense than ever to look at internal resources, manage assets, budgets and bottomlines. It's during the down turns that companies can become stronger in the long run when they focus on existing assets and resources.

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How the Financial Crisis is Affecting the Hospitality Industry

With all the recent activity on Wall Street, we have been focusing our attention on the world's financial crisis and how it relates to the state of the hospitality industry. Recently, Mario Insenga, our CEO was interviewed by about the current financial crisis and the state of the hospitality industry.

During the AskMando interview, Mario sheds light and understanding of the marketplace to operations and management executives in the hospitality industry to raise awareness of alternative solutions to sustain during an economic slow down. He also addresses the instability of the current marketplace and insight into the future of this business sector with the current credit crunch.

This brief interview is a glimpse at what Mario will also be writing about in an in-depth article that will run in the January/February issue of this publication. In the article he will highlight major trends affecting the industry from economic conditions, cultural changes, and changes in traveler attitudes. He concludes with some personal predictions and insight for how the industry will adapt to evolve to ensure its continued success and profitability.

We encourage you to view the link of the interview and post any comments, we'd like hear your thoughts and feedback.

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Economic Hard Times Call for a Shift in Focus within the Hospitality Industry

Some say that the recent economic downturn has been a long time coming. This week we've seen international governments follow suit in our nation's recent "bailout" with the lending of government funds to the global banking circuit. With the global economy showing the gripping effects of fear, we are watching history in the making. As the news unravels, we are seeing this situation is much more than just a "credit crisis."

At a time when economists and investors are shocked with minute-by-minute news on the state of Wall Street and global economy forecasts, we become subject to take a long hard look at the way enterprises conduct business.

Hospitality, as we've voiced before, is an industry that will continue to be an indispensable part of our economy. The need for business travel will remain necessary as part of the pursuit for new business and economic expansion, however, there will be a shift in the types of companies that are conducting business travel.

Current conditions are having a crippling effect on expansion plans across all industries and the hospitality industry is no exception. Industry statistics show that while travel may be down, an increased focus on the customer experience has paid off. Hospitality Net released figures, just a few months back, indicating an increase in customer satisfaction within the hospitality industry within the first half of 2008.

As a self-financed company, The Refinishing Touch recognizes the value of keeping our customers happy and consistently striving for an unparalleled customer experience. In a time when expansion projects are being put on hold, hospitality industry players are using this opportunity to turn their focus to the quality of service to existing and new customers while also reviewing existing resources.

With the current financial climate, the last few weeks have prompted businesses across the globe to look at their assets and realize the now urgent need for steadfast, wise management. As an industry leader in providing a means for sustainable asset management, it is an important practice to consistently look to existing assets to keep costs down and look at how the bottom line is effected - whether in an economic down or a steady economy

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Latest Marriott results: The hospitality industry will weather the storm

I live and breathe the hospitality industry. When I'm a guest, I can't stop myself from taking in my surroundings with a critical eye. I guess you could call me a connoisseur.

One of the hotel chains I like and support is Marriott. It has a focus on customer service, it supports and drives green initiatives and provides reassuring consistency of standards for its guests around the globe.

So on Marriott's announcement of a 28 percent drop in net income this fiscal quarter, I naturally feel concerned, not only about the industry, but for the chain itself. Though, like any bad news, you need to first accept it, and then review and understand it.

This announcement is no surprise. I won't go into the state of the economy, we all know that and I shared my thoughts last week. Hotel stocks are, like many others, under siege: Marriott's shares are down 29 percent year-to-date and Starwood's stock has fallen more than 40 percent.

The key concept to remember on taking stock of this news is that the hospitality industry has been around since time immemorial and has weathered many similar, and arguably worse, situations. Service industries need to be ready to meet the needs of the public at all times, even during economic turbulence.

Marriott was founded in 1927, and the Hilton Group was founded in 1919. They made it through the Great Depression, World War II and the economic malaise of the '80s.

Here at The Refinishing Touch, our aim is to help the industry change with the times. Our solution keeps costs down: it's hard fact that re-use and recycling of assets saves money straight at the bottom line. No matter what happens with the economy, people will always have a need to travel, whether it is to do business, to visit loved ones, or for personal pleasure. Hotels will always be there to meet those needs, and we'll be here to help them weather changing times.

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Holiday Inn Family Mass Renovation Project: The Buzz at the InterContinental Hotel Group's 2008 America's Investors & Leadership Conference

IHG 2008 America's Investors & Leadership Conference
September has proven to be a very busy and productive month for The Refinishing Touch due to recent trade shows and conferences. Just last week we returned from the HD Boutique exposition and this week, we're just getting back from Los Angeles where we were exhibiting at the InterContinental Hotels Group's (IHG) 2008 Americas Investors & Leadership Conference.

Despite being announced at the show last year, the IHG event was filled with the buzz of the Holiday Inn Family's mass renovation and relaunch that is slated to be complete by 2010. Leading the rebranding efforts, franchisers and owners are left with one simple question: buy new or go eco friendly and refurbish?

We found our booth to be a very popular stop during the tradeshow, industry moguls and investors were eager to look at new ways to save money on the bottom line while also knowing they would be receiving quality work for any given hotel chain under the IHG brand. As news of the rebranding continues to permeate the industry, The Refinishing Touch continues to be pushed further into the limelight. As a preferred IHG vendor, it is great to see this organization look to revamp its brand through asset management and renovation of existing pieces.

We had quite a presence at one of the industry's largest Tradeshows and are proud to say that we were a significant part of such a fabulous event.

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Green grows green: News from this year's HD Boutique

HD Boutique
Last week The Refinishing Touch team attended the Hospitality Design Boutique exposition and conference in Miami.

With over 4,000 people from across our industry this was an ideal opportunity to talk to peers, buyers, and prospects about the hospitality industry and some of the issues we collectively face.

We met a cross section of industry personnel, including designers, architects, owners, operators and buyers. From hotels, restaurants, cruise ships, condominiums, senior living facilities, nightclubs and golf and country clubs they each had concerns over the potential squeeze from the current financial downturn. Cash flow is a priority for the board across the board.

So how does "green," an issue that was represented very strongly at the event, fit into all this?

I spent time catching up and speaking with other industry players and there was a consensus: everyone wants to accommodate the environment as much as possible. "Green" resonates throughout the industry and with consumers. Yet the key concern is the bottom line. It's no good a business being environmentally-conscious and going bust. Our current economy needs strong businesses.

That's why it's worth remembering that "green" can have a marked financial advantage. Energy and water saving devices cut costs in the long run. Our industry hemorrhages electricity at a phenomenal rate so "green" measures which reduce bills are a no-brainer. And here at The Refinishing Touch, we're proud to have pioneered a way to save money which also happens to be "green."

Our commitment to refurbishing old furniture saves large corporations, global hotel chains and government organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars. Our solution allows hotels to recycle outdated armoires that no longer fit modern televisions, to save the planet and the bottom line.

Green doesn't have to mean a choice of the planet or the balance sheet: it can mean both. Simply put: Green grows green.

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Ike: A painful reminder of nature's power

Last week the state of Texas took responsibility for the actions of Hurricane Ike. Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, announced a special measure to suspend the collection of state, local hotel and motel taxes for victims of the hurricane. This move is the result of the enforced evacuation of nearly 1 million people along the Texas coast. The suspension will be backdated to as far as September 8.

We all saw the devastation of New Orleans after hurricane Katrina rampaged through the streets. The desolation was inconceivable. Now states are finally taking some liability for the lodgings industry which supplies their cities. Last week extreme precautions occurred in New Orleans and in Houston, mayor, Bill White ordered an evacuation of 250,000 of the city's four million people.

But this annual environmental hazard could have more long-term positive benefits than just facilitating state intervention. Natural gas is a cheaper, more environmentally sound home-grown alternative to gasoline. It also has one other huge advantage: it is less vulnerable to the hurricanes that batter the Gulf Coast.

According to consultant and gas market tracker Bentek Energy LLC, the boom in shale gas is creating substantial new flows of natural gas - from ground to consumer. These neatly avoid the storm-prone coast and Gulf of Mexico.

We at The Refinishing Touch are focused on seeing the best possible balance between people and their environment. Ike is a reminder that we all live in a delicately balanced co-existence with our natural world.

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Starwood Restructures to Work through Economic Change

Starwood Hotels and Resorts
It isn't often we hear about changes at the C-level within major hotel brands. However when announcements at this level of change and restructuring are made, we are often left wondering what the new structure of the organization will look like and what impacts, if any, the changes will have on the brand itself. Change can breathe new life into an organization. We saw this last week when Starwood Hotels and Resorts took its solid existing reputation for innovation internally and made itself an example of positive change.

Starwood announced a restructuring of its senior leadership with the appointment of Matthew E. Avril as the new president of Starwood's Hotel Group last week. And as stated by the company 'to better position for long term growth,' the new appointment came along with naming Avril's former co- president, Sergio Rivera as sole head of Starwood's Vacation Ownership unit bearing a new title as the CEO of SVO. Each will continue to work under Frits van Paasschen, president and CEO of Starwood Hotels and Resorts.

In statements made last week by Starwood, the changes are a response to 'current economic conditions.' From our perspective it is also a gesture towards an organizational change in a positive, proactive direction. In an industry where economic instability has begun to make its presence known, Starwood's efforts are being put forth to "continue to grow its global footprint" working toward efficiency initiatives across all of its brands. Paasschen was quoted saying that they are "working to streamline the organization, reduce costs, improve efficiency and ensure properly structuring for long term growth."

The restructuring isn't the only recent news about Starwood. As green initiatives continue to make their presence known, Starwood remains a leader in the industry's movement toward efficiency change and improvements. They have recently become America's first LEED-certified hotel brand with the development of their newest brand, Element by Starwood.

We here at The Refinishing Touch are proud to hear of the positive change that is rapidly spreading throughout our industry and are anxious to see what the efforts of Starwood's newest leaders will bring. We wish them every success in their new positions and their new strategy.

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The Hospitality Industry's Commitment to Green

Cheyenne Mountain Resort
It is crystal clear our world today is focused on one common movement- the need to think and be green. From CEOs, business managers, to chief sustainability officers, everyone has green in their sight.

However, being green is not just about recycling. It's a collection of best practices to run sustainable businesses and create eco-friendly practices that also drive and support the business.

Environmental consciousness is, now more than ever, at the forefront of better business practices within the hospitality industry. For example, a recent story in Hotel Interactive recognizes the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs and its move to greener practices to serve its guests with an eco-friendly way to conduct business.

Whether you are an independent resort or an international brand, green initiatives such as these are paramount. This includes steps such as using energy efficient lighting, using 100% recycled paper products, and encouraging guests to save energy whether it's lights, electricity or laundry. These all contribute to the green goal and reduced carbon footprints.

The Cheyenne Mountain Resort recently became a member of the "Green" Hotels Association, an organization committed to promoting eco-consciousness throughout the hospitality industry. It's great to see momentum within the hospitality industry to the green movement. The commitment to change former best practices to green best practices will help the bottom line of the property and benefit the environment.

At The Refinishing Touch we not only support this movement, but have based our business practices on green since Day One. We are proud to have been innovators to a green and business-friendly solution for over 30 years, and look forward to what the next 30 years bring.

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The Politics of Hospitality: The Hospitality of Politics

The Willard HotelThe 2008 Presidential Election is at the forefront of every American citizen's mind, whatever their livelihood or industry. The hospitality sector is no exception.

The August 1 issue of Hotel & Motel Management gives an interesting insight into the election from an hotelier's perspective. The hospitality industry has always held a strong connection with politics: Washington D.C.'s landmark Willard Hotel is fabled to be the place where Ulysses S. Grant coined the term "lobbyist."

This connection continues with the impact of the election, which will determine US economic conditions that impact the hospitality industry including taxes, sustainability, and travel and tourism.

My thoughts on some of these aspects:

Taxes: Permanent tax cuts. If these take place, they will increase business meal deductions and spouse travel deductions. Meanwhile, tax benefits for small businesses and families will increase travel and tourism.

Sustainability: Large-scale and collective movements, whether on a national or global level, will bring the shift in attitudes needed around sustainability more than smaller-scale or isolated state or regional regulations. This is about fundamental global attitudes and the role of politicians in driving change.

Travel and Tourism: Research and development is required on a national and international level to promote tourism in the United States. Especially as stricter security requirements since 9/11 may have changed international attitudes about the United States as a destination. The US Government's support and actions, such as sponsored ads illustrating the myriad of attractions and vacations available within the United States, would help drive tourism.

Sometimes, despite high-level reviews and discussions about the future government, it can be too easy to forget the underlying initiatives, regulations and potential restrictions that impact our industry.

At this point, I hope that future politicians are hospitable to our industry - and the myriad of businesses and individuals that depend on it.

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The Trends We Follow

While enjoying the latest issue of Hospitality Design Magazine, I noticed a few trends.

It seems that plush fabrics, loud colors, and smooth lines are all in vogue. Granite in hotel rooms is becoming more common than in previous years, particularly lighter colored granite. Clean profiles were also consistent among guest suites, with bold pieces of art being the main focal point. Bright colors, such as bold reds and rich browns were common across all interior design content within the publication, but the most important color in interior design is green - people are concerned about the environment, and they are concerned about expense.

Here at The Refinishing Touch, we have some ideas of our own. The thing is, you don't need to run out and buy new furniture when redesigning a room - you can use what you've already got. Whether its hotel furniture, motel furniture, university dorm furniture, or casino furniture, it can be re-imagined to fit in with your design aesthetic. It's not a matter of simply touching up the furniture - a splash of paint here, a dab there isn't enough - we totally re-engineer the piece, and our techniques are specific to each individual project. The result is furniture that's not just as good as new. It pretty much is new.

Quality furniture, environmentally friendly furniture, cheaper furniture, furniture that adds value to its home - those are the trends we continue to follow.

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Las Vegas Rolls the Dice on Going Green

Bright lights, big city - that's Las Vegas, the city that never sleeps. However, sustainable, environmentally friendly and green are some of the last words that come to mind to describe Vegas. Until recently, that is, because that perception is now about to change.

Sign: Welcome to Las Vegas

In a recent article in USA Today, it was revealed that plans are underway to build more than 100 square feet of new construction to the standards of the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED program).

This past May, the Palazzo Resort and Hotel Casino was designated the nation's largest LEED certified building and that is not even accounted for in this recent project. Casino-resort projects around the strip are now part of this environmental program to save energy and help the environment. And it's the hope that the 40 million tourists that travel through Las Vegas will learn from these buildings.

The casino/resort/hotel industry has an opportunity to impact not only their bottom line when they begin to become eco-friendly but they can affect each guest that stays on the property by making them aware of environmental best practices. Education and changing people's perception of what it means to be green is rapidly evolving. And it begins with one step - the LEED program is making major strides to change the perception of a city that does not have the reputation of being conscious to the environment and environment responsibility. Each green initiative the hospitality industry makes - whether visible to guests or a behind the scenes decision to help impact both the bottom line and environment - has the same powerful impact in the end - a smaller carbon footprint and a cleaner environment.

Although it may seem ironic that the least likely green city will lead the pack, with a group of existing and new properties, in taking a major step to help energy efficiency, it is truly apropos. The hospitality industry in Las Vegas is in a concentrated area and is designed as a destination for both leisure and business travel. Businesses want to host conferences and events at destinations that are concerned with the environment because when they stay within properties that are environmentally friendly they feel they are also being responsible for the environment.

Some of the current energy initiatives through the LEED program in Las Vegas include:
  • Energy generators to supply power back into the hotel property as well as heat water to be used for the 7,400 hotel rooms and condo units as well as the dozens of shops, restaurants and other amenities planned

  • Solar panels to heat pools and water in guest rooms

  • "First paperless hotel room" by providing an iMac computer in each suite loaded with information normally found in in-room brochures

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Hard Times for Hospitality

Gas prices and airline tickets are increasing, making Americans reluctant to travel. Hospitality Trends reports that hotel occupancy in the US is down 4.8% from last year and the revenue available per room is down 2.4% as well. Family vacations this summer have been shortened and skipped, due to the state of the economy.

There are over 300,000 hotels in the United States, the hospitality industry employs millions of Americans, whose jobs and futures could be in jeopardy, depending on the future of tourism. The hospitality industry has been one of The Refinishing Touch's main markets for over 30 years; we have many friends in the industry so we are understandably concerned for the future state of tourism.

Just last week Bill Marriott blogged some important thoughts and opinions about rising gas prices and the economy and how it relates to the tourism industry. He has a great call to action for our government; hopefully this inspires some of the change we need.

Has the slowed economy changed your summer travel plans?


The Refinishing Touch at BITAC

Last week The Refinishing Touch attended the 2008 East Coast Buyer Interactive Trade Alliance and Conference (BITAC), hosted by Hotel Interactive at the Grand Floridian Resort in Orlando, Florida.

BITAC logo

BITAC was a eventful conference this year, with 71 suppliers and 75 Lodging Executives. We were very impressed, as always, by the convention because it seemed everyone there was very open and like minded working towards maintaining and establishing strong professional relationships. The "speed dating" meeting setting is a perfect atmosphere to establish and strengthen our hospitality relationships. With the wide range of activities, and integration of buyers and suppliers, BITAC is always a successful event.

BITAC Conference
During the conference we attended of a number of enlightening speeches and were part of some roundtable discussions, including "What are some of the toughest issues facing the lodging business going forward" and "Outshining Guest Expectations Through Design".

Overall it was a great event for The Refinishing Touch as we learned a lot and met great people. We also got to see our old industry friends, which is always good for business. This year we will also be participating in BITAC Purchasing & Design 2008 West from October 19-21st in Colorado. For more details on this and other upcoming events check out the Hotel Interactive BITAC page.


Sustainability in the Hilton Brand

The Hilton Hotels Corporation has notorious brands that are represented throughout the US and across the world. The Refinishing Touch has revamped rooms within Hilton brands since 1977. Some of the 2008 jobs operating within Hilton consist of the Hilton El Conquistador in Tucson, AZ and the Hilton Harrisburg in PA.

Hilton just announced their corporation's sustainability goals in June, which TRT is happy to help them achieve. As noted in Hotel Resource News, by 2014, the Hilton family of hotels is to reduce energy consumption from direct operations by 20%, reduce CO2 emissions by 20%, reduce output of waste by 20%, and reduce water consumption by 10%.

Refurnishing armoires, refinishing, and reupholstering can help Hilton reach their sustainability goals while saving money and trees. The Refinishing Touch is happy to be a part of this short-term sustainability mission.


Tornados in Atlanta

The weather in Atlanta is hard to predict. This spring and summer, tornados have ripped through Georgia, leaving a path of destruction. On March 14, 2008 a tornado made its way into downtown Atlanta, damaging buildings that make the city what it is. The CNN Center, Phillips Arena, and even Centennial Olympic Park were affected by up to 60 mph winds tearing through the city. Not only did the tornado damage buildings, but also it took a toll on business, closing roads, offices, and colleges.

The Westin Hotel at Peachtree Plaza, a Starwood property, is a staple on the Atlanta skyline. It is the second-tallest all-hotel skyscraper in the western hemisphere. It is one of Atlanta's favorite hotels, as it is convenient to most all events downtown. The Westin was damaged in the tornado on March 14th along with other hotels in the downtown area.

The Refinishing Touch is in progress to help the Westin restore and beautify the hotel. We take great pride in our work and we are looking forward to seeing the results and helping our local properties rebuild after a distressing storm.

The photo above was taken by John Krivec. To view more pictures from this collection visit


The Legend of the Pineapple

If you're in the hospitality trade then you likely already know about the pineapple, but as The Refinishing Touch has learned over its years working with the hospitality industry, the pineapple is an important symbol. For those outside the industry, we thought it would be fun to share a little background on the pineapple's involvement with hospitality.

It started back in the days of the early American colonies; sea captains were notorious for leaving for extended periods, venturing off to exotic islands in search of something grand. They left their homes and families to visit the Caribbean and gather foreign rum, spices, and of course, pineapple, along with other fruits.

As the legend goes, when upon returning home from their various sea journeys, they would lance a pineapple to their fence post, inviting the town into the Captain's home. The villagers would arrive with hopes of good stories, good rum, and exotic gifts. Consequently, the pineapple became a representation of the Captain's hospitality.

Tradition became practice and the symbol of the pineapple still exists in today's hospitality industry. The pineapple remains a welcoming symbol, one you might even see at your next hotel visit.