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VOL. 128 | NO. 105 | Thursday, May 30, 2013

Westin Addresses Overbooked Weekend

By Andy Meek

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The Westin Memphis Beale Street Hotel has spent about $15,000 to compensate customers the hotel did not have rooms for last weekend during an overbooked three-day period that included several high-profile events Downtown.

The Westin Memphis Beale Street has spent about $15,000 to compensate customers the hotel did not have room for because of its contract with the NBA. 

(Daily News File Photo: Lance Murphey)

Glenn Malone, chief operating officer for the Westin’s parent firm Senate Hospitality Group, said the hotel took an even bigger hit than that $15,000. That figure does not include the business lost from having to make several dozen rooms available over the weekend as part of the hotel’s contract with the NBA, since the Memphis Grizzlies played a home game Saturday, May 25, as part of the Western Conference Finals.

There had been speculation in the press and on social media, Malone said, that the hotel turned away some guests because it preferred to accommodate the NBA. However, he explained that if it had only been a revenue issue, the hotel would have preferred to make the rooms available to the public, since the NBA negotiates for lower rates than the public pays.

In addition to helping customers find alternate places to stay, Malone said the Westin directly paid affected customers their choice of $250 or 20,000 Starpoints through the Starwoods preferred guest program.

“The overbooking occurred due to a good thing for the city and for Downtown, it was just something we had not anticipated,” Malone said. “And, frankly, even if we had been able to project the Grizzlies would have gone to that championship round, we certainly would not have known what the dates would be for the games.”

The Westin actually sold out for this past weekend about 10 months ago. Memphis in May events were on the calendar. But only in recent months did a few other events materialize that also would draw crowds over the same weekend – the Grizzlies advancing to the playoffs, and former Beatle Paul McCartney playing a show at FedExForum Sunday, May 26.

About 50 would-be guests of the Westin – which has 203 guest rooms – were affected over the weekend because of the confluence of events. An average NBA team will take 45 to 55 guest rooms per night at the Westin when they’re in town, and since the hotel is contractually obligated to accommodate the NBA, that was an additional complicating factor.

“Typically, that’s not an issue,” Malone said of the NBA. “With the regular season, we know when the games are. The schedule comes out, and we block those rooms in our reserve system for those NBA teams that we know will be coming to stay with us to play the Grizzlies. Obviously, though, we don’t know whether the Grizzlies will make it into the playoffs, or how far they’ll go.

“It’s not unusual in the hotel business for over-bookings to occur, but we’ve not typically had that issue at the Westin. We do everything we can to ensure when guests make a reservation that that reservation will be there when they arrive at the hotel. Obviously in this occurrence that’s not what happened.”

Going forward, Malone said the hotel will put a hold in place to reserve NBA-related rooms on high-demand weekends because of Memphis in May.

“What we will do next year is we will look at Barbecue Fest weekend, for example,” Malone said. “We will look at Sunset Symphony weekend. Those are two particularly high-demand weekends for Memphis in May, and we’ll set aside a block of rooms for a visiting NBA team. So it will be as if an NBA team already has a reservation at the hotel. That didn’t happen this year. Next year, we’ll just go ahead and anticipate a potential (NBA) need that may not materialize.”

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