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Lock Safety Issue Tops 2012 Hotel Stories

There wasn’t a stop-the-presses moment in the lodging world in 2012, but there were several major deals closed, continued revenue growth and some significant changes at the tops of the biggest hotel organizations. It wasn’t a year as strong as 2006 and 2007, but it wasn’t down like in 2008 and 2009.

Occupancy continued its steady rebound and although it now may be leveling off, average daily rate looks to be the driver to another 5% to 7% revenue per available room growth in 2013. Yesterday we looked at five of the biggest stories of the year, and today we look at the five biggest:

5) Changes at the top of Carlson Rezidor: The first-non family member to lead Carlson Cos. left in August for the top spot with struggling retailer Best Buy. Hubert Joly, the CEO successor to Marilyn Carlson Nelson in 2008, had helped lead the company’s Radisson revival and Ambition 2015 strategy. Carlson veteran Trudy Rautio was quickly named president and CEO to replace him. Earlier this month, there were changes at the very top of the company, as Carlson Nelson announced plans to step down as board chair. Her daughter, Diana Nelson, the granddaughter of company founder Curt Carlson, will take over in March.

4) Marriott buys Gaylord brand: The news broke in May that Marriott was buying the Gaylord Hotels brand and management company, and the $210 million deal was finalized in October. Marriott now runs Gaylord’s five hotels (8,100 rooms, including a former Radisson in Nashville, as well as the four huge convention properties in Grapevine, TX; Kissimmee, FL; National Harbor, MD; and the original in Nashville). What was Gaylord Entertainment is now Ryman Hospitality Properties, a REIT that owns those five properties that Marriott manages.

3) Sorenson takes helm at Marriott: This story — actually the news that Bill Marriott would relinquish his CEO title — earned the top spot on this list for 2011. But the actual passing of the baton was big enough to crack this list, and near the top. Arne Sorenson became the first non-Marriott to lead lodging’s most powerful company, and in his first year at the helm, Marriott made quite a splash (see No. 4).

2) Blackstone buys Motel 6 from Accor: France-based Accor made no secret it was marketing the U.S.-focused Motel 6 brand, and Blackstone was happy to oblige. The private equity firm added to its massive lodging portfolio in May with the $1.9 billion acquisition. Blackstone has big plans for the economy brand that celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.

1) Onity locks cracked, industry on alert: A 24-year-old software programmer (and hacker) found a way to unlock hotel key locks made by manufacturer Onity and presented the fairly simple method at the Black Hat security conference. Forbes wrote about it and soon other media outlets and TV shows like Good Morning America were exposing the potential safety issue to the traveling public. A handful of break-ins followed, adding to the media buzz, and Onity and others offered patches and other solutions. Still, safety and liability concerns linger throughout the hotel industry.


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