Meeting News - June 22, 2009 - (Page 4)

Newsmakers Dolce Continues Evolution With More Hotel Veteran Hires Dolce Hotels and Resorts last month continued its evolution from a pure conference center chain with the hiring of former Wyndham Hotels executive Peter Strebel as chief revenue officer, responsible for sales, marketing and North American development, and former Omni Hotels executive Richard Maxfield as chief operating officer. MeetingNews executive managing editor Chris Davis this month sat down with Strebel and Maxfield at an event celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Dolce Basking Ridge’s $8 million renovation. MeetingNews: What’s your assessment of the meetings market? eration—not to say we weren’t focused on that, but to be even more focused on that. Richard Maxfield: We’re very committed to operations and standards, and we feel we have a nice MN: How challenging is it to be a traditional conference center chain and branch out into a hotel operation, given issues like the CMP? Maxfield: It’s about customization. There are many customers not even familiar with the CMP, so being able to offer that, and then customize from that, is a competitive advantage for us. From a standards or human-interaction point of view, it doesn’t change from a hotel to a resort to a conference center, but one-size-fitsall doesn’t work in any business today. MN: How much of a problem are perception issues? Peter Strebel: Obviously, the market is Strebel: We actually benefit from them. down. Our whole portfolio is down Dolce has always been an upscale brand, Dolce Duo: New execs Peter Strebel (left) and Richard Maxfield about 10 or 11 percent in total revenue, not a luxury brand. I think our pricing which is not good, but compared to the packages are very affordable, so we are industry, which is reporting 18 to 21 percent, little niche. We have the ownership backing that finding people looking at us who have traditionwe’re doing a little bit better. We’re doing a lot of can withstand the ups and downs of the economy. ally gone to luxury properties. Fortunately and small and midsize meetings, training and execuunfortunately, I think that is going to be the new tive MBA programs that have not been hurt as Strebel: We’re not a public company. We’re not future. People today are looking for value in every much by the economy as some of the large incen- held accountable to shareholders, and we can purchase that they make. tive meetings. Our core business meeting is off, look at the business on a long-term perspective. but not off as much. We haven’t seen an uptick MN: How aggressive are you being in contracts yet, but in talking to our customers, there is a MN: Are you seeing more success in attracting and terms? sense that things are beginning to shift. Once the new customers? stock market starts performing a bit better and Strebel: Each hotel is different. We have some companies report better results, things will let go. Strebel: We’ve done focus group research, and that are doing very well. Europe is more robust The corporate market is holding back, but the there’s a mystique about conference centers. People than North America, for example. We’ve been association market is taking advantage of the see them as cold and sterile, so we really want to very flexible on terms because we want to book economy and working with hotels on better rates introduce the hotels to people, and that might the business that is the right business for us. and better terms. I’m hoping the worst is over. include using our competition and giving them something new to try. The beauty of the confer- MN: What are your initiatives for the remainder MN: Dolce’s new CEO, Steven Rudnitsky, is a ence center is that you know up front what you’re of the year? former hotel executive, as are the two of you. spending. We price per person and it includes How has that affected Dolce’s strategy? everything. There are no extra A/V charges and no Strebel: Growth, for one. We have a few deals surprises. Planners like that now, because they can we’re working on in markets that need an alternative for the group customer. Rich is working on Strebel: Our goal is to increase our number of put it in a budget and feel comfortable. increasing and standardizing service levels. Right properties, and the best way to do that is to have phenomenal operating results. We want to MN: How wedded are you to the Complete now, international is a little bit stronger, but there are good opportunities domestically. It’s very big increase occupancy and revenue, and we’ll do Meeting Package concept? in Europe now, and we’re pretty ingrained there. that by honoring and protecting the business they’ve had while seeking new business opportu- Strebel: We prefer to sell that concept, but if a We have not been in the Asia/Pac market, and no nities, and try to change the focus of the compa- company wants something different, we will devel- conference center chains really are. We have no plans to go there now. r ny. We want to bring in a culture of revenue gen- op a package or program that suits their needs. 4 MeetingNews June 22, 2009

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Meeting News - June 22, 2009

Meeting News - June 22, 2009
Collier County Insert
Meetings Spotlight
MeetingNews Research
Association Watch
Construction Cites
Meeting People
Event Profile
Travel Dashboard
Dateline: Bermuda
Dateline: New York
South Regional
Las Vegas Insert

Meeting News - June 22, 2009