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Hilton Universal Under First Major Renovation in 10 years

The Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City is nearing completion of an $8 million renovation of the entire hotel, to be completed in the beginning of June. The 24-story facility has gone 10 years without a major renovation, and its current modifications are aimed at attracting more business travelers and corporate meetings. The renovations will include a remodeling of all 482 guest rooms to include new beds, linens, furniture and other improvements. The rooms’ new office furniture will include ergonomically designed, designer chairs. Each room comes equipped with a high-speed Internet connection for business travelers as well. “Being a very frequent traveler myself, I look for these things when I travel,” said Barrie Perks, the hotel’s director of marketing and sales. “Things have changed from the days of very thin mattresses and cheap desks.” “Bedding has become very important, we’re putting in thick mattresses and Hilton Serenity beds. We’re addressing the lighting situation in the guest rooms, ensuring it’s bright enough for work and for putting makeup on in the morning,” said Perks Changes to the hotel’s meeting space include new carpeting , acoustical airwalls and improved lighting in the hotel’s smaller meeting rooms. “In those smaller meeting rooms, we’ve designed them in such a way that they’re brighter now, we have better wall coverings,” said Perks. “Even though you’re in a smaller room you feel like you could be in the ballroom.” The Hilton Corporation has launched a national advertising campaign, which will help increase the hotel’s brand presence as it increases its sales efforts, Perks said. “More or less what we cater to now are people in the entertainment industry, or banking and corporate types,” said Perks. “We’re better suited for the mid-sized meetings, although our ballroom is one of the largest ballrooms in Los Angeles, and our smaller breakout rooms are very conducive to meetings of 50 people or fewer.” Los Angeles’ hospitality industry, Perks said, has improved over the last two years. Perks first worked in the city in the 1980s, leaving in 1993. “When I returned in 2004 it was like nothing much had really changed,” Perks said. “The buildings were a little taller downtown, but the occupancy was about the same. What I’ve seen in the last two years has been a tremendous resurgence in downtown and throughout Los Angeles in general. LA Inc. (the tourism agency) has done a great job promoting the city, they’ve been getting celebrity endorsements, and people like that stuff.” Bruce Baltin, a senior vice president with PKF Consulting in Los Angeles, said that hotel renovations are becoming more common as business has improved. “The market is very strong, and as a consequence anybody who can renovate is,” Baltin said. After 2003, he said, the hospitality business started to improve considerably. Last year, Los Angeles County reported a 12 percent increase in revenue per available room. He said 2006 may not be as strong a year, there’s no reason to think the growth pattern won’t continue in Southern California, especially because there are no new hotels opening in the region to compete with existing properties.

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