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Part 2: Forecasts Are Hard To Make In the Hotel Business
By Greg Zimmerman, Executive Editor
February 2012 -
Even with the many improvements — including looking at some of the longer-held hotels to see if a few more nickels can be squeezed out of the energy bill — it’s always tough to forecast just how impactful such improvements will be on the bottom line. Holesko says each hotel in HEI’s portfolio has an improvement goal, from 6 percent savings for hotels new to the portfolio to 1 percent savings for hotels that have already been the subject of much energy scrutiny. Still, the precise savings will always be dependent on hard-to-predict market forces.
“All markets have different forecasts and they’re all dependent on different factors; the election, or convention business, for example,” says Holesko. “You can’t look at the hotel business with one economic profile. There’s so much data out there, but no definitive answer.”
To illustrate his point about the unpredictability of the hotel industry, Holesko tells a story about the St. Louis Cardinals and an HEI property — the Westin St. Louis, which is directly across the street from Busch Stadium. In late summer, with the Cardinals languishing nine games out of the Wild Card, the decision was made to release the rooms at the Westin that the team had put on hold for October, in case the Cardinals made the playoffs. No one thought they’d need them. But then the Cardinals caught fire, the Braves bottomed out, and not only did the Cardinals make the playoffs, they made it all the way to the World Series. “We had some angry guests who had to be re-roomed,” says Holesko. “It’s just a really unpredictable industry.”
Even if it’s hard to tell if the economy — nationally or just in individual markets — will recover this year, Holesko says he’s still in hiring mode. “During the downturn, we cut hours and didn’t fill positions when people left. Now we’re building back the hours and refilling those positions.” The main reason, he says, is that you can go a little while without full-scale preventive maintenance, but after that little while, people start noticing, and that’s where some of the hotels are now.
The new people who come into the facilities organization will be joining a group of happy workers, says Holesko. According to the companywide associate opinion survey, the facility management group rated first in 2010 and second in 2011 in terms of the happiest employees. That’s something Holesko is extremely proud of. “That shows we have a good program and even in a down economy, when these guys are having to work weekends and overtime, they’re still the happiest in the company at their jobs.” That, above all, is a good predictor of how successful the group will be in the coming year.
Profile: Bob Holesko, HEI Hotels
Part 1: Bob Holesko Eyes Energy Savings in 2012