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Most of the $5 million spent on hotel improvements this year went to lobby renovations

Excerpt from Los Angeles Times

Oct 08, 2012 12:05 am

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Spending is up again as rates and occupancy levels are the highest they’ve been in years, but the focus on lobby design means hotels are most concerned with their first impressions and brand identity.

— Samantha Shankman

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All of those shiny new amenities you’ve seen at your hotel lately _ fitness equipment, flat-screen TVs and redesigned lobbies _ are part of a trend across the country.

Hotels are expected to spend $5 billion on improvements in 2012, a 33 percent increase over 2011, said Bjorn Hanson, a dean at New York University’s Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management.

Soho Hotel lobby

Hotels are expected to spend $5 million on improvements in 2012. Photo by Allan Light.

The spending still falls below the high mark of 2008, when the hotel business was booming and the industry spent $5.5 billion.

What are hotels spending all that money on? The added amenities include redesigned rooms, new bedding and beds, high-speed Internet access, flat-screen TVs, renovated restaurants and upgraded exercise rooms, Hanson said. Most of the spending has gone to renovate lobbies.

“If the lobby looks like it’s recently been renovated, it projects on the rest of the hotel,” Hanson said.

Hotel owners are spending more partly because they are enjoying higher occupancy rates and daily fares than in the last few years, he said. The managers of big-chain hotel brands are also pressing independent hotel owners to make upgrades that had been deferred because of the tough economy.

Not to mention, hotel guests have been complaining about tired-looking hotel facilities.

“Individual brands and hotels are receiving complaints in comment cards and things like that,” Hanson said.

(c)2012 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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