THE LODGING HOSPITALITY BLOG

Last month, Lodging Hospitality launched a weblog, or blog, on its website. The Front Desk is a regular look at issues, trends and news in the industry, along with comments by Lodging Hospitality's editors.

Check it out at www.LHonline.com /blog. Here are some excerpts from recent blog entries:

Huckestein rides off

December 22, Ed Watkins

The lodging industry — at least Hilton Hotels — is losing the services of one of its most dynamic leaders. Dieter Huckestein, a key cog in Hilton's success for the past 35 years, says he'll retire from the company early next year.

While Dieter deserves to move on to the next phases of his professional and personal lives, it seems an odd time for him to leave the company. Most recently, Huckestein has been both chairman and CEO of the company's Conrad Hotels brand and president of the Hilton Global Alliance, the liaison group between Hilton in the U.S. and London-based Hilton International.

Both Conrad and the Hilton-Hilton International relationship are at important crossroads. Conrad is a chain that's finally poised to move to the top of the luxury hotel segment after many years languishing as an afterthought in the world of Hilton. More critically, a long-anticipated merger between Hilton Hotels and Hilton International seems to finally be in the offing. Some speculate an announcement will be made soon after the first of the year.

Choice keeps Ledsinger in the fold

December 21, Ed Watkins

The Choice Hotels board of directors made a smart move this week by signing President and CEO Charles Ledsinger to a contract extension that keeps him at the helm of the hotel franchising giant through 2009. In his seven years as leader of the company, Ledsinger has done a remarkable job in keeping Choice on a strong growth track while pleasing franchisees in the ways that matter most to them — by putting heads in their beds and profits on their bottom lines.

Our dirty little secret

December 13, Ed Watkins

It's a drop in the bucket for the adult entertainment industry, but adult movies on demand are big business for hotels. A new industry study from Adult Video News reveals that in-room video-on-demand purchases of adult titles accounts for $500 million in annual sales, or four percent of the $12.6-billion adult industry.

Westin does the right thing

December 6, Carlo Wolff

I applaud Westin Hotels & Resorts for banning smoking. It's about time a hotel chain takes a stand for health. Westin announced Dec. 5 that starting in January, it will ban smoking indoors and poolside at all of its 77 properties in North America and the Caribbean. It's probably easier for an upscale chain like Westin to announce such a ban than for a midscale or budget brand; Westin clientele is likely more health-conscious to begin with. But I'd rather not stereotype. All I want to do is cheer. That Westin will fine violators by tacking on $200 to their bill puts teeth into the prohibition.

Unions flex their muscles

December 1, Ed Watkins

In the old days — but not that long ago — labor unions used baseball bat-toting thugs to get recalcitrant employers to come to terms. Today's union honchos — particularly those at hotel union UNITE HERE — are much more likely to think Madison Avenue than Louisville Slugger when it comes to fighting for its members. Ironically, perhaps, the results can be more damaging to hotel owners who don't play ball.

Union strategists employ sophisticated media and marketing campaigns to sway their opponents and the public perception of their mission. Case in point involves the 30-month-old strike orchestrated by UNITE HERE against the Congress Hotel in Chicago. The 15,000-member local union recently placed large wall ads at O'Hare Airport to let travelers know that the Congress is under siege by the union. The ads, titled “Visiting Chicago? Don't Be Left in the Dark,” quote a guest at the hotel who didn't know about the strike and found the conditions at the property to be less-than-outstanding. She says in the ad that she wouldn't have booked a room at the Congress if she had been aware of the strike.

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