She’s the director, he’s the producer—together, Jon Bortz and Andrea Dawson Sheehan pull back the curtain on the perfect client/designer relationship.
By Mary Scoviak
JON: The industry’s a little soft. Business travel started to cut back 18-24 months ago. We’re in a profits recession here and around the globe. Because of that, Pebblebrook has been risk averse in terms of acquisitions. Our last purchase was in 2015, and we’re not buying any hotels this year. We want to wait and see how things play out. We’re doing portfolio reviews to look at refresh opportunities. The W Boston had upside in terms of incremental revenue drivers and efficiencies. Reworking some space usage created three more keys, which are worth $1 million in Boston. As we discussed, we’re looking for way to incorporate more multi-functional restaurant/event destinations in our assets. Fortunately for you and other designers, some of our peers are still buying hotels.
ANDREA: It’s kind of scary out there right now. Most of the work in our pipeline is more in the cap ex category, the type we see in a recession. The large scale renovation projects like the public space gut in the Palomar in Los Angeles or the top-to-bottom renovation of Nashville’s Union Station Hotel seem to be wrapping up. Clients seem to be holding. We do have a couple of big projects on the boards, but we are now seeing more requests for guestroom renovations and public space refreshes instead.
ANDREA: Has the political climate impacted your business?
JON: I just spent a day on Capitol Hill representing AH&LA at a meeting with congressmen and senators to educate them about the ripple effect of regulations such as the travel ban—even though the Senate didn’t enact this. The travel ban affects much more than the seven countries on the list. Among international travelers, the perception is that the U.S. doesn’t want people to come here. It may be just their perception, but it matters and they’re acting on it. We need to be seen as a country that welcomes everyone. Quiet security is fine. But it’s definitely a risk that we have an administration that could set back all the progress we made since the country shut down after 9/11.
ANDREA: I have so many international staff members in Seattle and in our London offices. They’re asking a lot of questions about what’s going to happen with their visas and what happens if they try to leave or need to come and work in Seattle. Some of them feel uncomfortable because of those who see them as “foreigners” who are creating problems. Americans are supposed to be the good guys.
JON: The wave of nationalism around the world is bad for everyone. As in the 1930s and ’40s, people are looking for scapegoats. Fear is never good.
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