Reed Travel Features
TARRYTOWN, N.Y. -- Hotels and conference facilities in
Westchester County are renovating and adding services in an effort
to attract new clients and ensure repeat business.
Hotel and tourism officials said the properties are taking
advantage of an uptick in demand for meetings space among area
businesses -- and for hotel rooms among visitors -- by pumping
profits into property enhancements. Georgia Kalayjian, president
and chief operating officer of the Westchester Convention and
Visitors Bureau, said, "After the stock market crash [in October
1987] and during the early '90s, our hotels took quite a beating
with occupancies down and companies downsizing. With all of that it
was hard to put money back into the hotels."
But, starting in 1994, she said, "Our hotels started doing major
renovations after business began picking up."
During the past few years, hotels like the Rye Town Hilton,
Tarrytown Hilton, Renaissance Westchester Hotel and Westchester
Marriott, to name a few, have spent millions of dollars each on
everything from improved lighting and workstations to new ballrooms
and business centers, Kalayjian said. The money for the renovations
came from the record $138 million in hotel room sales in 1996, she
Approximately 5 million people visited Westchester for business
or pleasure last year, she said, and hotel occupancy is expected to
rise from six to nine percentage points in 1997. "After New York
City, we're highest in the state right now [for] hotel sales taxes
generated. The rest of the state remains pretty lackluster,"
Jeff Weggeman, director of sales and marketing for the Tarrytown
House Executive Conference Center, said that 1996 was a record year
for his property, with total revenue up 15% compared with the
previous year. This year, he said, revenue at the Tarrytown House
is on pace to beat last year's figures by 10%, with "day meetings
revenue" projected to increase 25% from 1996.
"The prime reason for our success is our proximity to Manhattan
[about 30 minutes by car], from where we get about 85% of our
business," Weggeman said. "Also, our location in a bucolic setting
in southern Westchester County gives us the feel of being far
enough away from the big hustle of Manhattan."
Although Manhattan hotels are by far the most popular choice of
business travelers in New York State, Weggeman said, "they're also
at the top of the market when it comes to price, which is one
reason our region has grown more popular among business travelers."
In addition, "from a conference center standpoint, we are a
dedicated meetings facility, and there aren't many of those in
Manhattan, with the exception of the Millennium hotel," he