We lost another amazing talent this week with the passing of Percy Sledge, the voice (and possibly the lyric) behind the classic "When a Man Loves a Woman." You've likely heard or seen his rendition as media eulogized him over the past few days.
But, for the first time, we were actually chastised by readers and followers for not leading with the State Hotel Tax debacle in Georgia. With all due respect...we considered it, but felt the negative media's influence on destination and community development was more widespread.
That said, what recently transpired in Georgia is a case study in just how clueless those we elect to serve us can be...and how we must be far more politically connected and vigilant than we have been.
As news sources would have us believe, the Georgia Legislature surprised everybody by a last minute move to tack a $5/night charge on hotels to pay for a major highway bill. Yeah...$5/night.
If this concept was that much of a surprise, the Georgia Legislature should all be pressed into service in the CIA. I mean, really...nobody knew this was a possibility? They were that good at keeping this secret when they can't hide their personal indiscretions?
But, that's not really the point.
Here's where it gets ugly. Governor Nathan Deal responded to angry hoteliers by saying, “People wouldn’t come to their places of businesses if they didn’t have a good way to get there.” True dat. But that the hotel industry bears the burden of this initiative? What about the manufacturers whose overloaded semis created the crisis of crumbling roads far more than the SUVs of visiting families? What about the out-of-state carriers that pound the shit out of your roads?
Tagging visitors staying in your hotels for infrastructure needs exhibits a sensationally shallow understanding of economic development. But, by tossing off incendiary comments such as, “It would be a great tragedy if we had an accident with a school bus on a deteriorating bridge," Deal courts his base.
While ignoring the industry that supports increased investment in his State.
It's always fascinating to watch government make budgeting decisions regarding destination marketing. The unsophisticated ones never seem to be able to find the money to mount a credible campaign to attract visitors (and, thus, potential future residents and investors).
But, when they screw up the destination's image, it's so much easier to find the funds to repair the mess. Like Indiana, where the Senate's proposed budget allocates an extra million dollars in each of the next two years to the State Tourism Department to help improve Indiana's tarnished image in the aftermath of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act debacle.
Nice start, guys. But, I'm pretty sure it's going to take a lot more than $2 million.
It's been like reconnecting with an old friend. I had let my subscription lapse a number of years ago as I made four moves in five years. And, there really wasn't a robust online version at the time. C'est la vie.
Now that I'm back in the fold, I discover the online version is all an online person needs. It seriously rocks. So, I call Customer Service and ask if I can extend my online subscription by dropping the (one would expect expensive to print and deliver) print edition.
An unfortunate response...but I get it. The WSJ needs to tell its advertisers that I receive the print edition in which all their ads for all the things I don't want reside.
The WSJ should probably tell their advertisers that the print edition goes from my driveway to the recycle bin without a single ad viewed.
The only value-add from the print edition? We save the plastic wraps to pick up dog poop when we house sit for Terri's daughter's Sweetie.
What did they use to say about newspapers and parakeets?
Last Spring, we were doing some work in Aurora IL, a community that some might call a western suburb of Chicago, despite it being the second largest city in the State. We went in the night before our presentation, noted that the stunning Paramount Theatre was featuring the classic musical Rent and were lucky enough to score a couple tickets for closing night.
We've both seen Rent a number of times. During the performance, we kept looking at each other, stunned at the calibre of the performance. This cast was so above what we had seen in other iterations that we were shaking our heads in awe.
As the cast came out for their curtain call, several had tears on their cheeks. I remember thinking, "what the hell...they're just going to jump on the bus and take the show to Des Moines. Why the tears?"
Except...this wasn't a traveling company. These performers had been assembled specifically for this show, for this theatre. Closing night was the end of a magnificent coming together of an amazingly creative set of talent.
When Tim Rater took the reigns of The Paramount a few years ago, he could have gone the route of booking traveling shows for his Broadway Series. That would have been easy and expected. Instead, he challenged convention by doing his own shows with the best talent from Chicago...and around the country.
He and his incredible crew had us the moment we saw the sensationally unique gyrating post-industrial yet oddly 19th Century set (click image to enlarge)...and then thrilled us with actors that could sing instead of singers that tried to act. The Paramount's production of Les Miz is by far our new favorite...and we've collectively seen the show at least 8 times (the movie doesn't count).
The two hour drive from Madison? We'll do it several times for next season as well. If it were a 4 hour trip, we'd think nothing of it. We'd be there.
If you're anywhere near...treat yourself to the most original version of this classic we've ever seen. And, marvel at the artistic risk takers at the simply gorgeous Paramount.
Yesterday, I featured a simply sensational property with an even more sensational management team and program. Called "Enjoy One...Share One," the Century House just outside of Albany NY provides funding for a meal through the Food Bank of Northeastern New York for every meal and room that is consumed at their Hotel and Restaurant.
Since 2009...that equates to over a half million meals. Which is another reason why I love the hospitality industry. It gives back like no other.
After the Century House received the highest award given by the Albany County CVB last Thursday, I had the honor to take the stage and share my thoughts on Destination Marketing in America and Albany's future as they begin construction on a downtown Convention Center.
And, as I was clicking through my prepared remarks...I was overtaken by a random thought. Which, of course, I blurted out.
I wondered how many other business people in the room gave back to their community like the Century House. Maybe not on the same scale...but, I bet there were a lot of people in the room that did. Because...that's just what hospitality pros do. We give back. It's who we are. But, unlike the Century House...most of us are never recognized.
I encouraged everyone in the room to catalogue their generosity and share that number with the CVB. If everyone does...that would be a number that would shock the community.
As I flew back to Madison, my thoughts drifted to a beloved tourism icon in my town that provided free hotel rooms each December for parents of kids being treated at the Ronald McDonald House. Sure, he had rooms to give at that time of the year. But, that he did set him apart from so many businesses in town.
Every one of our communities is blessed with hospitality businesses that give back. If you are a Destination Marketing pro, reach out and try to quantify what that impact is on our collective Quality of Life.
To the sophisticated traveler, it’s the little things that signal you’ve stepped into a superbly managed hotel or restaurant.
From something as little as the iron having water in the steam capsule to a shower head pointed toward the wall (and not your face), I can spot a sensational Head of Housekeeping in a heartbeat.
When your meeting room is set with table water, it's always a nice touch if there is a bowl of lemon and lime slices. It’s something completely different when those slices are presented as a tropical palm (click image to enlarge).
Of course, a lot of that comes from the caring culture of an ownership and management team that “gets it.” When you treat your people with empathy and respect, amazing things can happen. And, they do at the Century House Hotel & Restaurant, just outside of Albany NY.
Since its debut in the heart of the last recession, their restaurant’s “Enjoy One, Share One” campaign has been nothing short of amazing. For every meal served onsite and every overnight stay, a meal is provided to those less fortunate through the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York.
Since 2009, that would be over a half million meals. A half million.
And, it doesn’t stop there, as staff is encouraged to serve those meals from time to time at missions and shelters. And, they look forward to it.
To Colin Demers and his sensational team at the Century House: Your hospitality and customer service at every corner was simply superb during my stay last week. Merci.
But, it is your humanity and generosity that I will never forget.
Just one of the many reasons Colin and the Century House won the Albany County CVB’s Hospitality Excellence award last Thursday evening. And, again, congratulations.
Ben traces the decline of American newspaper journalism to Craigslist. When Craigslist became a cheaper and more effective means of classified advertising, it removed a huge revenue stream upon which newspapers relied to pay experienced reporters and editors. Take away the revenue, staff is sloughed. No staff...no content.
He frets that the decline of junk mail (a good thing, right?) will have the same effect on the US Postal Service, which relies on this revenue source to pay for delivering all the good stuff we've come to expect from the USPS.