Hilton CEO's two-pronged message rallies industry

LOS ANGELES: Hilton Hotel CEO Stephen Bollenbach is on a mission to

highlight his company's financial strengths, and to discourage his

industry from seeking government aid.



"He has a particular view in light of September 11 as to how the

industry will rebound and how we'll run our company," explained Marc

Grossman, Hilton's SVP of corporate affairs.



Bollenbach is highlighting two points, which make up what Grossman calls

his "personal theory" on the industry.



His core message is that despite low occupancy levels and staff layoffs

at some Hiltons, the company remains financially sound, and he expects a

rebound in room occupancy early in 2002.



While occupancy rates plummeted in the days after the attacks, they have

risen in recent weeks. Bollenbach predicts that the downturn will start

reversing by the Christmas season.



To show his faith, Bollenbach is continuing with most capital spending

plans for next year, including construction on a new addition to the

Portland, OR Hilton, and remodeling plans in New Orleans and San

Francisco.



Bollenbach is also pushing a more controversial stance: that the hotel

industry should not ask for a federal government bail-out, as the

airlines and insurance industries have recently done.



"We draw the line on direct financial assistance in the form of loans or

grants to a hotel company," said Grossman, who added that general

governmental support of tourism is welcome.



Bollenbach began his campaign the week after the terrorist attacks with

a conference call to investors and analysts. Since then, he has taken

his message to media outlets such as Time, The Wall Street Journal, and

The New York Times. He is also sending out a weekly letter to

employees.



Despite the optimism, Grossman admitted that upcoming PR and ad efforts

will be aimed at "getting bodies in the building," largely through rate

reductions.



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