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Personnel Profile: Brenda Kirian

The Hyatt just spent $15 million on renovations in the midst of the worst economic downturn in a couple of generations.
The way we looked at it, the hotel opened 21 years ago and really changed the landscape of downtown Sacramento. It made us a true convention city, because finally we had a big hotel next to the Convention Center. We’ve always prided ourselves on being the prime hotel. We looked at it with more competition coming into the marketplace, there’s been other hotels that have opened downtown. Regardless of the economy, we needed to spend the money to make sure we were the best.  

We took all 14 floors of guest rooms and stripped them all the way down, new carpets, new wall coverings, scraped the ceilings, all new furnishing, and really modernized it. The last renovation we’d done was in 2001, just prior to the Sheraton opening. We put plugs in the bedside tables so that people know when you’re in bed you can have your cell phone charging. People like that right next to them because most people use that as their alarm clock. On the other bedside table we have iPod docking stations, because everyone wants to travel with their own music. We put 42 inch flat screen TV’s, with high definition, because the whole idea is you want it to be like home, especially in a place like Sacramento when so many of our guests are guests that are coming up to do business at the capitol and they are here three nights a week, four nights a week, every week during session.

Who is still traveling these days?
Lobbyists. No matter how bad the economy is, there is always arguing at the capitol, so there’s always something going on.  

Maybe especially when the economy gets bad.
Exactly. Sometimes, the more they fight over the budget, the better business is, the more special interest groups are coming in. Conventions are still big. We’ve seen a scale-down in some of the education-related conventions because of budget cuts. But in general people are thinking you still need to go to a convention and network with other people and learn things. So, thankfully, conventions haven’t fallen off. In fact, we’ve increased some of our business to make up for the lack of travel. Sacramento is pretty lucky, because in good times we don’t profit as much as other cities but in bad times we don’t suffer as much because the capitol has to run, there’s business that has to happen.

I think that’s what makes this hotel so successful, out the front door you have the Capitol and out the back you have the Convention Center. Between the two there is always business. It’s suffered a little, but you go to some cities…after the energy crisis, Houston went out of business. You look at places like Silicon Valley, and we’re lucky. There’s always going to be government.

We hope. So it seems you guys have a bit of a rivalry going with the Sheraton.
Obviously there is a friendly competition, but more often than not we work with the Sheraton trying to get the big citywide conventions so we really sell with them and the Convention Center and the Convention and Visitor’s bureau. We go on sales trips together as a city.

They’re a Starwood and we’re a Hyatt. But we work to bring the business to the city, because of the size of our two hotels and the Convention Center.  We compete with other cities where the convention could fit entirely in one hotel. We compete with the Town & Country in San Diego. They can house all of the meeting space and all of the guest rooms. We have the three entities working together and say, we will make this as easy as possible, split your rooms, have your meetings there, have your food at both hotels. It’s kind of a unique relationship. The most important thing is to get people to Sacramento. It’s a long walk to the Convention Center, but we say that it’s shorter to walk from our ballroom to the Sheraton ballroom than in some big convention hotels to go from one side to the other. It’s kind of unique.  

What we hope for is repeat customers. We usually have a government rate that ranges from $119-$148. Through the end of the year we’re offering an $84 deal. That’s unheard of usually. All they have to do is ask for the state government rate.

So what are some of the environmental aspects that were built into the renovations?
We just got our two palms [State Green Hotel Rating Program]!  We just got our award last month! One thing we did just prior to the renovation was switch all our toilets to low-flow toilets, which saves a ton of water. All of the lighting in the guest rooms is low-wattage lighting and that already has saved us a ton.  And then prior to the renovation, the less glamorous side of the renovation, was replacing our heat pump systems and that sort of thing.  It isn’t the most beautiful part of the 15 million dollars but it has saved us a lot on our energy bill.  We’ve partnered with SMUD in a lot of the projects.


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