Heathman Group Picks Niche To Help ?Competition Proof? Hotel Porftolio

Portland, OR? Hotels in the Pacific Northwest, especially boutique and upscale properties, have had record occupancy rates in the last six years. But now a hotel building boom is causing a reversal in that trend. To counter the dip in occupancy rates, The Heathman Group is taking steps to ?competition proof? its properties, according to Bruce Fery, president/CEO for the hospitality and commercial real estate company based here. ?Our niche is what we call IFSUE, or ?intimate, full-service upper end properties? in central business districts. We feel by focusing on service, we can develop a close relationship with our guests to keep them loyal and encourage repeat business,? Fery said. Noting that service is the most significant barrier to competition, Fery said employees strive hard to exceed guests? expectations at the five Heathman Group hotels which are located in Portland, Vancouver, WA, and Boise, ID. ?We want to do the little things to keep our guests coming back rather than go to the competition,? Fery said. This is especially important in a market like Portland where ?there are 700 new rooms coming in this year,? he said. ?We try to wow the guest with service,? Fery said. He noted that a staffer will call a guest three days prior to check-in to inquire if they have any special needs. Then, one-half hour after the guest has arrived and checked in, the front desk will call the room to see if everything is satisfactory. Soon after the guest has gone home, the general manager will send a follow-up letter to see if they enjoyed their stay. Knowing what?s going on in a market is also important to fend off competitors, Fery added. ?We always know what they are doing? their rates, who is renovating, other things about their operations,? he said. The Heathman Group properties have become known for their uniqueness, which is another important factor in a competitive marketplace. The Group was created in the 1980s by the Stevenson family, owners of privately- held real estate and timber companies since 1945, after they purchased The Heathman Hotel, a 300-room property built in downtown Portland in 1927. The Stevensons bought the property and invested $17 million in its renovation, creating 150 rooms and the city?s first upscale boutique hotel. Fery noted that when The Heathman Hotel?s guestrooms underwent a $2.5 million renovation in October 1998, the hotel closed for eight days so guests would not be inconvenienced. ?We are very sensitive to guest service and wanted to avoid any interruptions. So we closed, took the furnishings out, painted, carpeted and worked around the clock to get the job done,? Fery said. The company?s other premier property is The Heathman Lodge, a mountain-style Pacific Northwest lodge in Vancouver. The lodge was the brainchild of the late Bruce Stevenson, one of the company?s owners who got the idea after a visit to the Wilderness Lodge at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. ?The property is unique, a lodge in an urban setting, and very homey,? said Fery. Arriving guests are greeted by a large arched timber portico and hand-peeled logs in the lobby with a basalt fireplace, cedar totem poles, leather lamp shades, Native American inspired artwork and hickory and pine furnishings. ?We have captured a good portion of the upper end business with the lodge,? said Fery, who noted there are only two full-service hotels in Vancouver, WA. The 143-room lodge, which opened in November 1997 and cost $21 million, appeals to corporate groups who use it for retreats, Fery said, ?and we also get the local people on weekends who would have to drive an hour or more for this type of setting.? Both The Heathman Hotel and The Heathman Lodge have become known for their restaurants. The Heathman Restaurant serves the hotel and Hudson?s Bar and Grill the lodge. ?Restaurants are a real focus for us,? Fery said. ?Our properties have two general managers, one for the hotel and one for the restaurant, who work as partners. So ins