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GEORGIA’S ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY BRINGS GREAT OPPORTUNITIES FOR HOTELS

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Daniel Robbins, Global Account Director for Entertainment at Sonesta International Hotel Group, shares entertainment tourism insights with ETAG

With all the buzz in Georgia surrounding the booming entertainment industry including music, film, television, esports, videogaming, fashion, and all of the creative arts, ETAG was excited to get an inside perspective from a leader in the hotel industry. Daniel Robbins, Global Account Director for Entertainment at Sonesta International Hotel Group, is strategically focused on the entertainment industry nationwide and the business opportunities it brings to his hotels.

 

ETAG’s Lynda Lee Smith met with Daniel to discuss both the impact and opportunities from entertainment tourism.

ETAG: The economic impact from the entertainment industry in Georgia has grown exponentially over the last two decades including music, video gaming, esports, and, of course, film and television. However, the tourism impact does not get the spotlight. How has the growth in the industry shifted the sales strategy for your hotel group?

 

DANIEL: Just over a decade ago, hotels in Georgia had no real strategy for entertainment tourism. Fast forward to today and it is hard to find a hotel that has not booked some level of entertainment guests across the state. Almost all the larger hotels in the higher populated areas have some level of sales approach for entertainment tourism business.

Sonesta has grown rapidly in the broader metro area of Atlanta – 18 hotels exist within the parameters of the airport over to Duluth and north to Kennesaw. These include full service and extended stay hotels. All are “entertainment ready”, including the one next to the new Assembly Studios, with kitchens equipped for longer term production crews. Sonesta International Hotels is broad with over 100,000 rooms worldwide across 17 brands. Fifty-four hotels in the Sonesta portfolio are located throughout Georgia and more are on the way.  

Hotels pursuing the entertainment industry must understand what “entertainment ready” truly means.  It requires understanding the nuances that occur with the entertainment industry and being flexible and easy to work with. Sonesta has made a commitment to be a trusted partner to the entertainment industry.

Early in my career, it was primarily large film crews coming in from Los Angeles. That is no longer the case, since Georgia now has the creative workforce to support production. There is so much additional opportunity to bring in the leisure traveler. Think about what The Walking Dead for travel to the Senoia area…how can we expand on that? People want to experience the entertainment industry up close. For example, Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour in London is ranked #1on trip advisor. This is the continued growth opportunity for Georgia.

ETAG: How would your workforce be impacted if this industry diminished in Georgia?  

 

DANIEL: If the entertainment industry declined in Georgia, my position would likely cease to be based here. A film crew staying at an extended stay hotel has a huge impact on the level of staffing –housekeeping team, engineering team, outside laundry – 100 rooms equate to 100 sets of sheets to clean daily. Hotels are staffed based on business needs, so the busier they are the more staff are brought on to meet the needs.

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     Sonesta Hotel International

ETAG: Conferences and meetings are usually preferred business for hotels with designated meeting space. What is the key difference in hosting a conference versus an entertainment group?  

DANIEL: The key difference is the flexibility required for entertainment. Conferences can be planned way out

and structured. The entertainment industry tends to shift at the last minute so the hotels can utilize available rooms for business that had not been anticipated. Offsite production may only require a few nights’ stay, whereas an overnight shoot requires different specialty crews. These crews are often Georgia based but they don’t live in the area, so they need to travel to the site.

ETAG: What types of entertainment events drive the most overnight traffic to the hotels?

 

DANIEL: Primarily music, film and production drive the current overnight traffic. But esports and video gaming are the growing segment with tremendous potential for impact in the future.

 

ETAG: Do you feel the hotel industry is fully educated on the esports and video gaming industry and how to engage to develop business opportunities?

 

DANIEL: I feel like overall the hotel industry is not educated in this rapidly growing sector in entertainment globally. Everyone knows it is massive and growing, but I don’t think we are strategically engaged. We want to work with the industry and figure out how we can support and provide the services they need. It goes back to being flexible and understanding the nuances within the industry to be able to meet the needs.

 

ETAG: Given your front row seat to the entertainment tourism industry, what do you think the next decade holds for growth in Georgia?

 

DANIEL: I have witnessed the entertainment tourism exponential growth in Georgia for over a decade and I only see a bright future ahead. With Georgia’s workforce development and focus on the entertainment industry, thousands of Georgians are currently employed in high-paying jobs in the industry. This is only going to compound over the next decade.

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