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Saturday, Jan 28, 2023
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Valley Hotel Playing Catch-up in a Tough Economy

The recent $2.5 million in renovations at The Beverly Garland Holiday Inn are only the beginning of a major transformation to bring the hotel up to speed and leave it better positioned once the economy recovers, its executives say. The new courtyard, new pool (complete with pool-side fireplace), the lobby expansion, the new business center, new gift shop and upgrades to the hotel bars, restaurant and meeting rooms are all part of a growth strategy that more aggressively pursues business travelers while maintaining a balance with the family friendly feel of the hotel. “We’ll be ahead of the game when things begin to turn,” said James Crank, Asset Manager of The Beverly Garland Holiday Inn and General Partner of the Rio Vista Development Company which owns the North Hollywood hotel. “We haven’t been caught-up in a long time. We’ve been catching up and now we have the opportunity and the financial resources to do some of these improvements in this period of struggle,” he said. Crank, who worked alongside his mother Beverly Garland until her passing in 2008, said the family’s conservative practices allowed the business to acquire savings and little debt since the hotel’s founding in 1972. In a period of financial turbulence, when hotels have been struggling with poor business and room rates have dropped by 15-20 percent in the last year, these savings are now making growth and renovation possible at the hotel, while some competitors are retrenching, he said. More so, The Beverly Garland’s growth plans have found synchronicity with the new direction of the Holiday Inn chain, he added. Despite the tough economy, Holiday Inn is in the midst of the biggest relaunch in hospitality history updating its 3,200 hotels around the world in an attempt to create a more contemporary brand image. The “relaunch” which aims to improve quality and drive consistency, requires hotels to add modern design touches to their lobby and use a scent machine that infuses all hotels with the same familiar smell. It also calls for new bed linens, pillows, curtains, shower heads, shower rods and bath soaps, among other improvements that can represent a total investment of $150,000 to $250,000 per property, most of which must be paid by the owners. Up to standards “We’ve always exceeded the Holiday Inn standards and now we’re finding that the standards that they’re bringing on are standards we already wanted to implement so their trend is going along the lines of ours,” said General Manager Bert Seneca. The direction the Holiday Inn brand continues to follow in the future will be critical in determining whether the Beverly Garland continues to be part of the chain. “We have a contract with Holiday Inn until 2013 and there will be a point in the next couple of years when we’ll need to sit down and determine whether we extend the contract or do we break away?,” said Seneca. “They’re turning 90 degree turns every week it seems so the question is, in four years what are they going to look like and are we appropriate for the chain or not,” Crank added. For now, The Beverly Garland will continue to enhance and upgrade its facilities and services to capture more business, capitalizing on its location near Universal Studios, said Seneca. Since 2007 the hotel has seen a 300 percent improvement in its guest satisfaction scores, he said, and the renovations have allowed the hotel to capture market share among corporate clients looking to cut costs in the difficult economy but who still demand quality. As proof that the strategy is working the hotel recently secured an account from a corporate client that guarantees 2,000 room nights annually, he said. “It’s a substantial account which we secured because of the investments that have taken place; it’s positioned the hotel in a way that I can have the confidence to go after those businesses and deliver what’s expected,” Seneca said. Still family And while the hotel is determined to enhance services that cater to business travelers such as faster wireless Internet and a business center, the property also lends itself to simultaneously cater to family vacationers by offering such amenities as kid’s suites, tennis courts and a new pool where in the summer the hotel plans to start offering dive-in movies. The hotel, which sits on seven acres that Garland’s husband purchased from Hollywood icon Gene Autry, is looking to enhance a boutique resort feel said Crank, who plans to invest another $1 million in renovations in 2010. “A huge amount [of the property] is underutilized so we have a lot of opportunity to grow,” he said. “We could build another tower with another hundred rooms, or we could build a spa, we’re very much looking into offering a really neat day spa concept. We’re also looking at creating a wedding concept here, and building out of the lobby to be even more usable to our banquets and weddings. There’s a lot of exciting things we can do.” Currently the hotel is testing out new rooms with modern designs that include hard surface flooring and walk-in showers, before possibly launching a full-fledged modernization. Three meeting rooms at the hotel will receive a complete makeover beginning in March, allowing the hotel to attract a new level of small business meetings with 200-300 attendees. The future plans of the hotel also include ‘going green’ according to Crank who is currently studying several proposals for solar panel installations on the hotel roofs, and also include changing the vegetation of the premises to require less water.

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