Gatlinburg, Tenn. – One of Sevier County’s largest hotel management companies issued a call for more productive community dialogue and solidarity to support local tourism today, on the heels of a press conference staged at the company’s Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Gatlinburg property by a community-protest group, on Friday, July 28, 2017.
The incident involved a Gatlinburg wildfire-response protest group, which has grown vocal in recent months, issuing a wide range of complaints and taking to social media with negative comments about local community and business leaders – including an active campaign telling social media followers to post negative online comments and reviews of Sevier County hotels, as well as to boycott them.
The group reserved meeting space at Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Gatlinburg the morning of Friday, July 28 – the same day as its planned press conference – amid confusion as to the group’s identity and purposes, as reported by hotel officials.
According to President / CEO Logan Coykendall of Hospitality Solutions, Inc., a hotel development and management company, and an investor in the Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Gatlinburg as well as six other Sevier County hotels, the company would have politely declined the protest group’s request for meeting space, had it been apparent the identity of the group and the purpose of its press event.
“We think it’s important to set the record straight,” Coykendall said.
“We respect citizens’ rights to seek information and be informed as our region continues to manage the aftermath of the November wildfires,” he said. “However, when protesters are overtly negative with increasingly personal attacks of elected leaders and a string of threats made both verbally and in writing against local tourism businesses, it’s counterproductive to the community’s ability to recover. It’s for these reasons that Hospitality Solutions and our hotel properties respectfully reserve the right not to serve as host to their platform.”
Miscommunication About Group’s Identity
Based on information provided by the protest group, hotel employees believed that the event would be a Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA)-sponsored press conference, not knowing the actual identity of the group and its purposes for its press conference event.
“There was a miscommunication when a leader of the group initially booked the space at the hotel the morning of July 28,” Coykendall said. “This miscommunication resulted in our staff erroneously believing that this
event was a TEMA press conference, for purposes of providing public information. The true identity of the group conducting the press conference only came to light once the actual press conference event began.”
Refusal to Leave Premises and Intentional Use of Police Presence for Media Hype
Upon discovering the group’s identity and purpose, Courtyard management staff asked the protest group’s organizers to discontinue their press conference and assured the group that it would not be charged for the space. A leader of the group then refused the hotel management’s request and urged hotel management to call the police to force the group to vacate, because news media on site attending the press event would “love that even more.”
Hotel Space Never Billed or Paid in Advance
The protest group was never billed on July 28 and never paid for the event space in advance, which contradicts widespread claims by the protest group that it paid for the meeting space prior to the event.
“The room was never formally contracted, given the hurried pace of when the initial request was made for the event space, which was the same morning as the press conference,” said Davy Thomas, chief operating officer and partner at Hospitality Solutions. “As a result of our staff seeking to accommodate a same-day turnaround time on the event-space request, billing had not occurred, nor had a payment been received.”
“Interestingly, a leader of the protest group returned to the property and later contacted our team with an e-mail time-stamped at 11:35 p.m. Eastern the night of July 28 – a matter of hours after the incident – indicating he planned to send us payment for the event space, which he insisted that we accept and apply to his Marriott Rewards account,” Thomas said. “However, this payment will not be accepted, given the circumstances as they unfolded on July 28.”
Productive Dialogue and Support Critical for Advancing Sevier County Tourism
Hospitality Solutions urges Sevier County community citizens, elected officials and business leaders to work together in a unified way to support a fast-paced recovery for local tourism.
“As a community, we’ve been through an event unlike any other this past year,” Coykendall said. “There will be some moments of disagreement in our community, given the complex circumstances of this tragedy. However, we will seriously stall our own chances of economic recovery if we let in-fighting dominate our mindset and allow unproductive dialogues to distract us from the serious business we have at hand. We must completely focus on creating great experiences that will keep our visitors coming back, in support of our economic future as a community.”
About Hospitality Solutions:
Hospitality Solutions, Inc., formed in 2004, has become an industry leader through its commitment to service excellence and quantifiable results in revenue management, operations efficiency and quality of life. Hospitality Solutions currently manages properties in the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area.
Hospitality Solutions, Inc., is a client of Mary Beth West Communications, LLC. For more information, please contact Mary Beth West, firstname.lastname@example.org.