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Rick Takach has a lot on his mind lately, ranging from decreases in travel spending to labor problems related to federal immigration laws. He currently serves as chairman of IAHI, a 3,000-member group consisting of InterContinental Hotels Group owners (formerly the International Association of Holiday Inns). Takach is also president of Vesta Hospitality LLC, a Vancouver, WA-based hotel chain with locations primarily along the West Coast. He spoke with GlobeSt.com about a range of issues affecting small and large hoteliers alike.

GlobeSt.com: Which one is a bigger concern for you lately, a slowdown in business travel or vacation travel?

Takach: It’s an equal concern for me. We have hotels in both business and leisure markets, and when that business falls off it becomes a concern. We’ve seen some slowing, but it’s not horrible. Our hotels had a pretty decent first quarter, but I started seeing some slowdown in June. Most of our stabilized hotels are a little ahead of 2007, yet revenues are behind budget. On the other hand, 2007 was a good year so it’s hard to complain too much.

GlobeSt.com: Which is being affected most, occupancy or revenue per room?

Takach: It’s a matter of occupancy. So far we’ve held firm with our rates, and as a matter of fact they’re up slightly this year. Our occupancy is down slightly. Most of our competitors have kept their rates firm.If we’re lucky and have slightly increased revenues, all of our other suppliers are raising costs because of fuel issues, and all of our utilities costs are increasing substantially. The real challenge I see ahead in 2009 is that the expense side of our business is going to be pretty tough. Most likely we will see lower profits next year. My goal is to mitigate that.Because of the economic environment, it’s really hard to do a transaction or build a hotel right now. The (lack of) supply growth will keep existing hotels where they need to be. If demand increases at all or stays flat, most of our hotels will still do as well as they have been simply because there isn’t additional supply coming in.

GlobeSt.com: Several hotel chains have resorted to perks such as prepaid gasoline cards as a way to attract guests. Are your hotels doing this and is it working?

Takach: I have a few small hotels on the Oregon Coast where we have tried them, and it’s amazing how much business those gas cards can generate. I don’t think it will be long lived, but at the moment it has given us a lift.

GlobeSt.com: How big of a concern are immigration rules for you lately?

Takach: Our industry is working very hard right now to make sure that the H-2B (temporary workers) visa is extended. Labor in general is difficult. There is a deficiency between the amount of people our industry needs and the amount of qualified available labor. Finding good general managers and salespeople is a challenge these days. In the food and-beverages and housekeeping part of it, the issue is finding and keeping individuals.

GlobeSt.com: With this being a presidential election year, what are the biggest priorities that you and IAHI would like to bring to the candidates’ attention?

Takach: Obviously we need to get the H-2B visa extended. Another issue is what is known as “card check” legislation, which allows labor unions to come into our hotels and attempt to force employees to join without a private vote. We’re worried as an industry that this is going to allow mass unionization. It’s not fair to citizens to have to show everybody how you’re voting. As an industry, we are pooling our resources to make sure that portion of the bill is defeated.We’re also taking a hard look at new ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regulations that are being proposed because they could have a pretty major effect on our industry.Another issue for small and mid-sized companies like ours is finding group insurance that is affordable and provides quality care for people within these organizations. It’s fairly difficult to obtain, and the problem really needs to be addressed.

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