Local Hotels Make National List

OCEAN CITY — Though 2009 was reportedly a rough one for the hotel industry, two local hotels received national recognition as top performers from a reputable industry magazine.

The Paradise Plaza Hotel and the Stowaway Grand Hotel were recently named to Lodging Hospitality Magazine’s Top 100 performers for 2009, ranking number 67 and 73, respectively, perhaps adding validity to the claim that the resort fared better than most during what national hotel insiders are calling the worst year for the industry in decades.

Only one hotel from Virginia Beach (Hampton Inn Ocean Front South at #75) and Myrtle Beach (Hampton Suites Ocean Front at #58) made the top 100 list, that boasted four hotels from Florida.

The list, compiled by the magazine, considered a leader in the industry, based the list on a number of statistics, including sales per room, so that all hotels, regardless of size could be measured fairly.

The calculations were based on total property sales (excluding casino revenues, where applicable) divided by number of guest units to produce sales per room, according to the magazine’s website.

Patrick Staib, general manager for the Stowaway Grand, said the nod of recognition from the publication was due to a mixture of a little luck and some due diligence.

“We were lucky in that the Grand and the Ocean City market as a whole, fared far better than similar resorts both north and south of our location,” said Staib. “While Atlantic City, Virginia Beach and Myrtle Beach were all down by double digits in occupancy and revenue, the Grand and other OC hotels did much better.”

Both hotels, however, reported a decrease from the previous year, perhaps indicating that even the top performing hotels in 2009 were still below the bar set the previous year due to the tumultuous economic conditions that the industry faced last year.

Mark Jones, general manager of the Paradise Plaza, said strategic rates that catered to value-seeking visitors, was the key this summer.

“Once we found the medium rate to set that was drawing in people and making them jump toward booking their rooms, we were lucky enough to have almost 90-percent occupancy for the entire summer,” said Jones. “When I started here in July, our occupancy was down to 40 percent.”

In order to contrast the so-called “medium rate” that Jones and other local hotels tried to balance in 2009, he noted success in reducing the Annual Daily Rate (ADR) for the rooms from $232 to $209.

“We really got out there and increased our online presence and tried very hard to market our lower rates, and it worked for us,” said Jones. “The biggest thing we are noticing is the change in trends, whereas people aren’t staying the full week anymore.  Instead, they are only booking rooms for two and three days at a time.”

Staib noted that his hotel was equally as aggressive with online marketing and noted that some improvements were made inside the hotel concerning amenities that seemed to make a difference as well.

As the list seemed to rank hotels by per room revenue, the two local hotels scored better than some hotels in metropolitan areas, but in some cases, didn’t post as high of per room revenue as some small towns. 

In addition, the magazine said that the list was chosen from its rather extensive list of subscribers in a sort of disclaimer that there was a bit of a smaller drawing pool for the final list, as parallel to may “top or best of lists” by major and minor publications.

Still, the recognition was well received from both of the local hotels.

“It’s a great honor, but to be perfectly honest, this is the first that I’ve actually heard about it,” said Jones.

Coincidentally, Marshall Management in Salisbury, which was also named as one of the nation’s top management companies in 2009, manages both hotels.