Letter: Hotel study requires care, eye toward niche

Hotel study requires care, eye toward niche

To the editor:

Proceeding with caution, as suggested by Selectmen David Roche and Warren Archie in responding to the push for a hotel study (Eagle, Jan. 2) to avoid unbridled development of lodging facilities in Lenox, is a wise recommendation.

Caution is a key concern in trying to set criteria for measuring potential success for proposed new lodging facilities in Lenox. A key factor in the equation is to understand the niche the new facility is marketing into or expanding or creating.

Three of Lenox's more successful larger resorts, Canyon Ranch, Cranwell, and Kripalu, were each authentically created in the Berkshires and expanded the market for "wellness resorts." Each resort focused on slightly different attributes and attractions within segments of the wellness niche. Most important is that they "grew the market" for the segments they were serving with higher quality services and facilities than previously available.

These results were basically based on the developer's research, sense, understanding, and feel for the market niche they were seeking to serve and their ability to finance, define and market to that niche. Their strength as quality providers and niche marketers became apparent once they were up and operating successfully. How a town board predetermines this potential for success must be dealt with cautiously, especially when breaking new ground in an emerging market.

There are even openings for growth serving existing visitors to the Berkshires with newer, upgraded facilities. Higher-grade facilities will attract and accommodate an expanded audience of the demographic the Berkshires already serves. So, highly important in trying to assess the potential for any new or expanded plan submitted to the town is the plan to impact the market, increasing the profit flow from the niche the facility plans to serve.

The economics of the marketing process would be the best guide to consider the project's potential for success. The project is the private sector developer's risk and right to explore and exploit. If they fail, someone else will be in the wings to pick up the pieces and move it towards success. Like in any business, things evolve, and the fittest survive.

When considering outside consultants to advise on the hotel study, it might be best to begin by drawing upon the knowledge, wisdom and experience of Lew Kiesler and Reggie Cooper, two former managers who guided Cranwell and Canyon Ranch respectively to success during early accelerated growth, economic downturn, and challenging times.

Barry Hollister, Pittsfield


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