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Hotels, motels and restaurants - oh my!

Marathon runners were not the only ones who found themselves heading to New York, Nov. 5-7. Approximately 58,000 hoteliers, moteliers, vendors and other attendees made their way to The Big Apple for the latest buzz in the hospitality industry at the annual AH&MA Conference and IH/M&RS. Similar to the marathon, the show promised excitement and entertainment, and only the strongest would be left standing after the three-day long event. The others? Well, let's just say the hospitality industry isn't for the weak.

There were seminars, meetings, galas and parties galore - all presented in the classic style of other hotel conferences. Couple that with a location such as the City that Never Sleeps and you're bound to have an exciting time.

So what's new in the lodging industry? While I save many of my findings for our annual State of the Hotel Industry Report (see p. 72), I will say that labor and training are clearly on the minds of many hoteliers. Recruitment and retention are factors that can make or break this industry as many potential employees are looking not only to other hotels but other industries for better pay and more challenging opportunities.

Technology is also playing a role in employee training as hotel companies are opting to boot up rather than print the old-fashioned way. Such was the case when Marriott Courtyard's brand executive Robert Nelson wanted to replace printed information and manuals with computer technology.

"The problem was, how could we create a tool that would be beneficial to managers and lessen the paperwork," says Nelson. " We had all of this 'stuff' for managers to read, but at the same time we were also telling managers to get out there and meet the guests. Our objective was to get the general manager out of the office so that they could meet guests and answer questions to associates as quickly as possible."

The result was SOURCE, an electronic information resource that could be accessed at any computer and could provide brand standards, answers to operating questions and assist sales users in routine tasks. "The true test of this product's effectiveness was whether the general manager stops calling his buddy across town for answers," says Nelson.

There were also some bittersweet moments, one being the gala celebration honoring Robert Slater, who will replace H.P. Rama as chair of the board of the AH&MA. Slater, whose knowledge, years of experience and dedication can only strengthen the association, has the challenge of filling Rama's shoes. In his always professional manner, Rama bid the association and its guests farewell that night - with his speech ending in a well-deserved standing ovation.

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