AH&LA Honors Hotels With Event Awards

Hotels in Atlanta, Milwaukee and Los Angeles are among those honored this year for outstanding special events, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), which this week announced the winners of the AH&LA Achievement Awards, part of its annual Stars of the Industry Awards honoring standout initiatives at hotel properties.

Honored in the "Special Events, Ongoing, Small Property" category was the Barnsley Gardens Resort in Adairsville, Ga., which in 2009 created a spring and fall event to drive traffic during the down economy. In the spring, the hotel hosts a month-long event known as "Firefly Nights," which is billed as a romantic evening of live music and dancing in the hotel's historic Manor House Ruins and gardens. In the fall, meanwhile, it hosts "Under the Autumn Moon Nights" with fire pits and dancing. During both events, the hotel's two restaurants enjoyed record numbers, while occupancy rose to 100 percent.

In the "Special Events, Ongoing, Large Property" category, two properties won. The first, the St. Regis Atlanta, was recognized for its Astor Holiday Rink, an annual ice rink that was inspired by a 1934 photo of an event at the original St. Regis in New York. The second, the W Los Angeles – Westwood was similarly recognized for transforming its swimming pool into a "hybrid" ice rink in 2009. Atlanta's ice rink attracts more than 5,000 people every year while Los Angeles' attracted more than 15,000 people and brought in more than $30,000 in revenues, not to mention $120,000 in catering from holiday parties.

The Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee was honored in the "Special Events, One-time Only, Small Property" category for turning its property into a 1933 speakeasy to celebrate the 77th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. During the "Repeal of Prohibition" party, hotel staff dressed up in costumes; guests competed for titles like "Best Gangster" and "Best Flapper"; and prohibition cocktails were served, including a special Iron Horse Prohibition Ale that was served at the 1933 going price of five cents per pint. The hotel invited 3,500 VIPs and collected more than $13,000 in beverage sales.

Finally, the Hyatt Regency Bethesda in Bethesda, Md., won in the category of "Special Events, One-time Only, Large Property." Each year, the hotel hosts an awards banquet to recognize associates and managers. A month prior to last year's banquet, the infamous Haiti earthquake struck, and more than 20 employees who were from Haiti could not locate family members. Staff therefore agreed to donate the money that would have been used for the banquet to Haiti; at a staff meeting, each Haitian employee was given $400 to send to their families — the equivalent of a six-month salary in that country.

AH&LA also gave hotels awards in the categories of Good Earthkeeping, Guest Relations, Community Service, Diversity and Technology. For a complete list of winners, visit www.ahla.com.