Sunday, November 11, 2007

Gaylord National Hotel Goes All Out to Charm Prospective Customers

By Anita Huslin
Washington Post Staff Writer

It's a balmy, picture-perfect autumn morning when the limousines begin arriving, and the reception at the historic mansion overlooking the Potomac River has been laid out by hospitality company Gaylord National to impress.

The guests -- potential corporate clients, mostly planners who book meetings and conferences in the mid-Atlantic region -- lap up the mimosas and bloody marys, nibble on hors d'oeuvres, and bask on the sun-kissed portico of the Oxon Hill Manor, a property once owned by a nephew of George Washington.

Though the guests are appreciative of the effort, it remains to be seen whether the endeavor will translate into business for the newest property in Gaylord Entertainment's hotel chain.

They have lots of questions about the place. How would guests get to Washington, to sightsee or dine in the nation's capital? What other restaurants and retail will be at the Gaylord complex and neighboring National Harbor? What kind of hotel overflow capacity does it have? Could they hang a trapeze from the ceiling of the convention hall if they wanted to?

This is only the beginning of a sales push for the Nashville-based company that wants to establish its complex in the Washington area as a premier meeting and convention space.

Over the next several months, the Gaylord National executive sales team will be pressing to fill its reservation book. It has already sold more than 1 million room nights (over the next decade and beyond), filling the 2,000-room hotel to 60 percent capacity next year when it opens, 55 percent in 2009 and 35 percent in 2010. Now, Gaylord officials said, their focus is booking short-term corporate and leisure clients -- in hospitality industry parlance, transients.

This will be a smaller share of Gaylord National's business, of which large association meetings and conventions account for 70 percent. But that 30 percent, Gaylord executives believe, represents future clients of other properties in the hotel chain.

Which is why the elaborate, invitation-only reception last week was so focused on details. Gaylord flew in executives and chefs from Nashville, Orlando and Dallas for the day. They sent limousines to pick up each guest individually, and then they wined, dined and walked their guests to the top of the hotel, showing them the vistas and the amenities.

Read the entire story in the WashingtonPost.

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