The Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner repositions with a post-recession makeover

By Danielle Douglas
Monday, February 14, 2011

In neatly pressed black uniforms, some 60 housekeepers, managers, desk attendants, bellhops and bussers huddled together along a narrow, back hall of one of Northern Virginia's premier social centers: the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner.

Muffled sounds of machinery rivaled the hushed tones of chatter among the day staff, gathered at 8 a.m. on a recent Wednesday for the daily meeting.

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen," bellowed General Manager Mark Sherwin, eliciting a rousing response in unison.

He read through a checklist of birthday announcements, accident reports (none for that week), terrorism alerts and groups checking in. Then, he offered various department representatives a chance to share some news.

Operations: William Yahr, executive assistant director of rooms, chimed in, "December's Gallup guest scores are in and they are the highest in the past 18 months."

Finance: "Room revenue is not as high as early last year, but improving occupancy bodes well for aggressive room rates," reported the hotel's director of finance, Oliver Kilburg.

On it went. Sherwin eventually wound up the 15 minute-long meeting by reminding the staff, some of whom had begun to fidget, of the creed of good service: "pride, passion and performance."

With that, another day was underway at the Ritz-Carlton, a luxury hotel and meeting place that has become a hub of commerce in the center of Northern Virginia's economic engine for nearly two decades. But Tysons Corner is undergoing a transformation with the arrival of Metro rail and the Ritz-Carlton is contemplating its future. County officials are talking about bringing a conference center to the area, and developers are making plans for a host of new projects.

"There is no other hotel in Tysons that shares the air with the Ritz-Carlton," said Bruce Stemerman, managing director of the real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle.

But will that always be so?

A time to reposition

The hotel, with more than 30,000 square feet of event space, plays host to more than 1,000 trade conventions, corporate meetings, weddings and galas a year. Routinely rated as one of the most luxurious lodgings in the country, the 398-room, 44-suite hotel is a favorite of foreign dignitaries, some of whom are known to book entire floors at a time.

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