September 9, 2020

Knightstone Capital Management Inc. (“Knightstone”) is excited to announce the formation of the Knightstone Hotel Group (“Knightstone Hotels”). Knightstone Hotels is a strategic partnership between Knightstone Capital Management and hotel industry veteran, Bill Stone (“Bill”).

Led by Bill as President, Knightstone Hotels will focus on the acquisition, development, and asset management of high-quality hotel assets in Canada and abroad. Bill brings a wealth of experience to Knightstone Hotels as one of Canada’s premier hotel advisors and consultants. Over the past 30 years, he has been involved in 350+ hotel transactions, valued at more than $6B, comprised of single asset and portfolio sales of both independent and branded properties.

“Bill is an icon within the Canadian hotel landscape, and, coupled with Knightstone’s hospitality and development expertise, we will be exceptionally positioned to establish and grow a successful hotel portfolio to augment our
existing asset base. Bill brings immense experience in skillfully structuring and negotiating hotel transactions. Having worked with him closely over the past 10 years, we are excited to launch this new venture and harness Bill’s vast
expertise to position Knightstone Hotels as an industry leader,” says Alan Perlis, President of Knightstone Capital Management.

“We believe in the long-term potential of the Canadian hotel industry. Our relationship with Knightstone has complementary synergies and the united goal of acquiring and developing a portfolio of significant urban assets. We look
forward to helping Knightstone accelerate its growth in the lodging sector,” says Bill.

Before joining Knightstone Hotels, Bill was the Executive Vice President of CBRE Hotels, where, since 2010, he established and led one of the largest hotel brokerage and advisory fifirms in Canada. Bill is well versed in complex
transactions laden with brand, management, land leases, and rights of first refusal. He is an industry resource when assessing hotel values, and during management contract and franchise agreement negotiations. Bill also worked as a hotel real estate advisor for two decades before CBRE at Colliers International and Laventhol & Horwath. Additionally, Bill sits on the Board of Directors for the York School and chairs its Premises Committee.

Deborah Borotsik joins Knightstone Hotels, alongside Bill, as Vice President. Deborah brings to Knightstone Hotels over two decades of sales, marketing, and underwriting experience in the Canadian hotel industry. Before joining Knightstone Hotels, Deborah was Vice President of CBRE Hotels, where she was responsible for due diligence, strategic advisory, and valuation of transactions. Prior to CBRE, Deborah worked at Colliers International, as well as Price Waterhouse and Laventhol & Horwath.


September 9, 2020

A new safety culture has emerged in hospitality that places employee protection at the core of operations. Prior to the global pandemic, hoteliers were already rolling out employee safety devices (ESDs) per legislative mandates and commitments to industry programs like the American Hotel & Lodging Assn.’s 5-Star Promise to better protect their people from sexual harassment situations and threats of violence. Today, as hotel employees put their lives on the line to welcome back guests, they are safer than ever before thanks to new policies, procedures, and technologies designed to limit staff/guest interaction, eradicate disease, and dispatch help in an instant.

What does this new employee safety culture look like today? It depends on each hotel company and the location of its properties. Through a new webcast series titled “New World, New Employee Safety Culture” I spoke with hoteliers to find out how their employee safety culture is taking shape. Here is what I learned …

Training and More Training

Ryan Doi, Corporate Director of Information Systems for Prince Resorts Hawaii, said the new employee safety culture at Prince Resorts is centered on training, and safety is not just defined by physical protection, but by providing financial assistance to workers as well.

Operating the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort, and Prince Waikiki, this hotel company holds a mandatory two-hour training class in which all employees are paid to attend. They are taught how to use their personal protective equipment (PPE), how to properly wash hands, and how to use new cleaning equipment. They also learn about the new guidelines in place for social distancing and what to do in case of an emergency, like if a guest or employee falls ill. This is not a one-and-done training program. Doi said refresher training will be ongoing with no end in sight. Also ongoing is the company’s commitment to extending medical coverage to all workers whether they are actively employed or furloughed through the end of this year.

“Everyone is hurting, and our employees are aching to get back to work,” Doi said. “Once they are on premises, we have an obligation to keep them safe. Our employee safety culture includes implementing React Mobile panic buttons (even though we were not mandated by the state to do so), providing mobile check-in and mobile key options to add distance between staff and guests, scanning employees temperatures at the start of each shift, equipping guests with hand sanitizer and disposable masks to use when they are not in their rooms and placing physical barriers at the front desk and concierge.

“We also developed a touchless check in where no credit cards are touched by staff and there is no transferring of materials,” he said. “While we prefer that guests handle their own luggage, assistance is provided upon request and baggage carts are sanitized before and after each use. We also encourage self-parking to protect our valets. We invested in electrostatic sprayers, in-room tablets, and technologies that enable guests to control the room environment through their phones or by a sanitized TV remote. We removed any unnecessary high-touch items from rooms and enhanced in-room dining for touchless food and beverage delivery. More importantly, from the moment a reservation is made, we communicate our safety procedures to guests making them aware that our employee’s protection is a top priority. Hawaii has some of the lowest COVID-19 cases in the United States, and we plan to keep it that way.”

No-Touch Technology

For The Gale South Beach, a Hilton hotel, reopening was a roller coaster of uncertainty. General Manager Kevin Waldstein said at one point, Miami was the “Epicenter of the Epicenter.” As a result, the hotel’s operator, Menin Hospitality, put employee safety at the epicenter of operations. To get employees eager to return to work, associates needed 100 percent confidence that they would be protected from virus spread. With Miami being a “party city,” Waldstein said social distancing could be difficult, so management needed to build a safety culture based on cleanliness and communication. Between the 200-page Miami Beach operating guidelines, Hilton’s “Clean Stay” initiative with the Mayo Clinic and Lysol, and Menin Hospitality’s “Clean with Confidence” program that provides a playbook of new procedures for all departments throughout the hotel, Waldstein said The Gale South Beach has become the cleanest and safest hotel in Miami.

While cleaning is important, it’s not the only safety solution. At the core of the hotel’s employee safety culture is technology. The hotel is one of the first in the country to leverage Google’s hotel solution powered by Volarato fulfill guest requests without staff interaction. Using the Google Nest Hub running on Volara’s conversation management software, guests can ask the voice assistant to make calls, play music, watch shows, request amenities, book services, turn on/off TVs, increase the room temperature, adjust the lights, set alarms and more without ever lifting a finger or touching an in-room device. If they want something, they simply say “Hey Google, bring me more towels.” Then, through Volara's secure integration hub, the hotel’s ALICEwork order management technology routes the request to the right department and the Kipsu text messaging platform follows up to ensure prompt service delivery and satisfaction. By communicating with guests remotely via mobile and voice, The Gale is limiting employee exposure while enhancing and personalizing the guest experience.

“You hear a lot about hoteliers shifting to contactless guest experiences using technology,” Waldstein said. “We’re thrilled to be taking advantage of Google and Volara technology to limit staff and guest interactions. We also plan to leverage our existing React Mobile panic buttons in new ways; if we hear or see a guest who is in distress or if an employee falls ill, we can use the safety platform to dispatch help. While our hotel remains closed until October, we have workers on site preparing the hotel for reopening. They are busy refreshing rooms, polishing marble, honing woodwork, and sprucing up landscaping. When travel resumes and visitors come back to Miami, they are going to be ‘wowed’ at The Gale. We wouldn’t be as read to reopen today as we are without the support of our staff, and our new employee safety culture is keeping them motivated and eager to get back to work.”

Cleanliness & ‘Contactlessness’

Jay Reed, a partner with hospitality advisory firm CIO Suite and former CIO of Aimbridge Hospitality, concurred with Waldstein that technology is at the core of many hotel companies’ employee safety cultures. He said new threats are making it challenging to reduce risks facing hotel employees, and without the right technology, it may be difficult to get frontline workers to return post pandemic. As an industry, Reed said hoteliers need do everything possible to motivate them to come back, including compensating them and training them like Prince Resorts Hawaii is doing, protecting them from disease with heightened cleaning programs and contactless technologies as being done at The Gale South Beach, and dispatching help in emergency situations with the use of employee safety devices.

“To attract tomorrow’s travelers, cleanliness and ‘contactless-ness’ go hand in hand,” Reed said. “Several hotel companies are leveraging cleaning technologies and electrostatic sprayers to sanitize and disinfect surfaces. Most major hotel brands have also set new standards and established best practices for cleaning that will put even the most germophobic travelers’ minds at ease. Other technologies, such as Mobile Key that turns guests’ smartphones into room keys, or smart speakers with voice assistants that encourage guests to ask Alexa for things they want rather than risking human interaction or touching potentially germy in-room devices, are gaining traction. Basically, anything that is high tech, but not high touch, will resonate well with travelers.

“Now working as a hospitality consultant, I am often asked which technologies are needed to help properties reopen efficiently and which will be in high demand by travelers,” he added. “My response is this: those that ensure employee safety, keep properties clean, and provide a contactless experience will build consumer confidence and get travelers and employees ready to return. Hotels that aren’t concerned with employee safety will find themselves plagued with turnover. And we all know it costs far more to hire and train new employees than it does to keep existing ones.”

Medical Advice

SIXTY Hotels, a luxury boutique brand with properties in New York City and Beverly Hills, is “Always Open” thanks to a medical team that put strict policies in place to help each property better protect its people. Chris Horn, Vice President of Operations for SIXTY Hotels, said it was the medical team that helped the company formulate its new employee safety culture. He said SIXTY has always had house doctors on call to assist guests in distress. When the pandemic hit, the team was called in to analyze its three properties, SIXTY Soho, SIXTY LES, and SIXTY Beverly Hills. They walked through each department, looked at everything employees touch, how and where they enter/exit the building, how and where they store equipment, how many people are on shift at the same time, etc. Based on their findings they made recommendations and new standard operating procedures were established that formulate the company’s new employee safety culture.

“It’s because of this medical plan and our employee safety culture that our hotels and people are doing so well,” Horn said. “Hats off to our teams. They are the difference makers, the real heroes of hospitality, and the reason that transient business is coming back.

“The more we learned about the coronavirus, the more our standard operating procedures evolved to help protect our people,” he said. “Take room turns for example. When a guest departs, his or her room is locked down and not touched for 24 hours to prevent airborne particles from escaping the space. After that time passes, a house person wearing personal protective equipment including masks and gloves enters the room with a disinfection kit and power sprayer to thoroughly disinfect the area. Towels and sheets are bagged and sealed and taken to a sealed area in the back of the house where they sit for another 24 hours before they are laundered. Another 24 hours would then pass prior to a Room Attendant entering to facilitate guestroom cleaning.Once rooms are cleaned, room attendants take their carts/tools to the basement and store them in a disinfection area. Once decontaminated, the carts then move to a clean area, where room attendants can retrieve them on their next shift. As workers return the next day, they must undergo personal health screening that include temperature checks. When deemed healthy, they are issued new gloves and masks for the day, retrieve their carts, and proceed to their assigned rooms for cleaning.”

To continue protecting its people, SIXTY also is requiring guests to carry their own luggage. Non-essential high-touch items are removed from rooms to limit virus exposure. Amenity and menu requests are delivered via blind drop; there is a knock on the door and items are left in a single use bag or hung on the door handle. Traditional plated roomservice has been modified to feature single use containers and individually wrapped items to forego washing of dinner plates and glassware. And all properties equip their workers with React Mobile employee safety devices to dispatch help as needed.

How we as an industry will fair over the coming months is unknown. What I did learn from each of these hoteliers is that with the dark cloud of COVID-19 came a silver lining: Hotels are now physically cleaner and operating leaner than ever before, and their employees have a renewed desire to engage with management and each other. They are eager to get back to work knowing that management has put processes and technologies in place to protect themselves and their livelihoods.


September 9, 2020

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to impact occupancy rates of hotels across the U.S., hoteliers are doing what they can to signal to travelers that their properties are taking every precaution to keep them safe, but this messaging — even with the continued support of brands and industry associations — is often inconsistent with the narrative consumers are hearing from other sources. The confidence to travel again is predicated on the confidence in the information being consumed. Competing information sources have left business and leisure travelers unsure which precautions are impactful. 

To that end, here are a few examples of innovative approaches being taken by hoteliers across that globe that I think you’ll find interesting and may even implement at your property.

Fly Them Private!

Even though commercial airlines are doing their best to promote their efforts to keep customers safe, travelers aren’t convinced. Fifty-eight percent of travelers have avoided air travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent survey conducted by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Additionally, 33 percent of those surveyed plan on continuing to avoid air travel to avoid contracting COVID-19. Obviously, this isn’t great news for the airline industry, but it’s also a significant challenge for the hotel industry which traditionally receives many of those air passengers.

While some hoteliers are refocusing their efforts on guests traveling by other means of  transportation, to increase occupancy others aren’t letting people’s fear of flying commercial amid a pandemic get in the way of filling beds with heads. Several luxury properties, such as the Four Seasons Resort Lanai in Hawaii, The Lake House on Canandaigua in New York, and the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal in Mexico, are now offering private flights to lure guests. Of course, not every hotelier can roll out the red carpet on the tarmac next to a private jet, but those that can are limiting guest exposure to COVID-19 while increasing hotel occupancy and revenue.

Balcony Concerts

Everybody is looking for entertainment to pass the time. We’ve all been cooped up in our homes  for the past several months and being able to take a trip, even if it’s relatively close by, is how many of us would like to take a breather. But in many locations, entertainment options are limited due to the pandemic. Instead of offering many of the same activity’s competitors are marketing to guests, leading hotels are getting creative and using their properties distinct features to their advantage.

For example, Paséa Hotel & Spa, located in the heart of Huntington Beach, Calif., this summer began hosting balcony concerts where guests can watch live concerts from their balconies on Friday and Saturday evenings. During a show, bands perform on a roof on the property, which is situated below the guestrooms. The concert fee is tacked on to the room fee, so guests don’t need to pay for additional tickets to enjoy the event. In effect, the guest rooms have been turned into luxury suites at a outdoor concert venue, except the ticket holders get to stay the night. 

Robot Butlers and Voice Assistants

By minimizing guest interaction with employees, properties can keep both their guests and employees safer. Leading hoteliers are utilizing innovative technologies to keep their “social distance” from guests.

The pandemic has prompted a rapid expansion of voice assistant solutions atop Amazon’s Alexa, IBM Watson, Alibaba’s TMall Genie and other major platforms in hotels across the globe.  These custom solutions enable guests to engage with the hotel amenities and services without having to put the guestroom phone up to their lips or stop by the front desk for a face to face with an associate. They also facilitate controls of the in-room television, lights, thermostats and more without the guest ever needing to touch a switch or germ-infested remote control. 

Many hotels have coupled their voice assistant with a robot butler, to complete socially distanced deliveries.  Leading hotels from the Westin Buffalo to the EMC2 in Chicago to the Aloft Hotel in Dublin, Calif., have successfully implemented complementary voice-assistant-plus-robot-butler guest experiences that together fulfill socially distant guest service.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the management of leading hotels to rethink the way they use the technology available to them. Today, no longer a novelty, voice assistants are supporting guests with information critical to their stay, concierge recommendations, and service requests while robots are a full part of the team delivering wine, towels, groceries and more to guests who prefer contactless deliveries.

Promote Staycations

With many people putting off traveling for the remainder of 2020, marketing successfully to tourists from afar has proved to be challenging for many hoteliers. It’s because of this that many hotels have switched to making special offers to locals

Partnering with local tourism boards on aligned messaging and marketing efforts can amplify the reach of these offers and campaigns. In Niagara Falls, tourism leaders are marketing to individuals who may feel safer driving across New York State instead of flying in from elsewhere. The city had to change the size of its targeted audience significantly, going from marketing to global travelers to local or regional ones. Destination Niagara USA, the county’s tourism promotion agency, is using "Wide Open Spaces Now Open for Adventure” as the city's advertising slogan to promote the openness of the destination to visitors. On board with and supportive of these efforts? You guessed it — local hotels.

Whatever strategy you employ, there is no question that this pandemic is challenging all hoteliers to think differently about their offerings to the market.  The winners — and there will be winners — coming out of this pandemic will redefine hospitality for the next generation.


WASHINGTON (August 31, 2020) – The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) today released an analysis on the economic and human struggle  of the hotel industry six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, with millions of employees still furloughed or laid off and travel demand lagging far behind normal levels.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Four out of 10 hotel employees are still not working.

  • Almost two-thirds (65%) of hotels remain at or below 50 percent occupancy, which is below the threshold at which most hotels can break even and pay debt.
  • Consumer travel remains at all-time low, with only 33 percent of Americans reporting they have traveled overnight for leisure or vacation since March and just 38 percent saying they are likely to travel by the end of the year.
  • Urban hotels are suffering the most and facing collapse with cripplingly low occupancies of 38 percent, significantly below the national average.
  • COVID-19 has left hotels in major cities across the country struggling to stay in business, resulting in massive job loss and dramatically reducing state and local tax revenue for 2020 and beyond.

Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA, said the prolonged economic impact of the pandemic has taken an incredible toll on the hotel industry, with no sign of a recovery in sight.

“While hotels have seen an uptick in demand during the summer compared to where we were in April, occupancy rates are nowhere near where they were a year ago. Thousands of hotels can’t afford to pay their mortgages and are facing the possibility of foreclosure and closing their doors permanently,” said Rogers.

“We are incredibly worried about the fall and what the drop in demand will mean for the industry and the millions of employees we have been unable to bring back. The job loss will be devasting to our industry, our communities, and the overall American economy. We need urgent, bipartisan action from Congress now.”

As a result of the sharp and sustained drop in travel demand, industry leaders say hotels are now facing the harsh reality of deciding whether to close their doors permanently. Hoteliers are urging Congress to move swiftly to help the industry through a targeted extension of the Paycheck Protection Program, establishing a commercial mortgage backed securities market relief fund, and making structural changes to the Main Street Lending Facility to ensure hotel companies can access the program.

“Our industry is in crisis. Thousands of hotels are in jeopardy of closing forever, and that will have a ripple effect throughout our communities for years to come,” said Rogers. “We need help urgently to keep hotels open so that our industry and our employees can survive and recover from this public health crisis.”



MARKHAM, Ontario and TORONTO, Sept. 1, 2020To create instant and ongoing communication between hoteliers and travelers, as well as internal staff operations, Maestro PMS, the leader in cloud and on-premise property-management system solutions for independent hotels and luxury resorts, conference centers, vacation rentals, and multi-property groups, has partnered with Fetchto provide a digital hub to enhance guest engagement, communication, and operations. Using Fetch, hoteliers will have another third-party option to access  everything they need to embrace contactless, digital guest interactions while maintaining a consistent, high-quality experience.

“The guest experience is evolving, and communication will continue to advance once COVID subsides,” said Warren Dehan, Maestro president. “Through the Maestro suite of products we offer a collection of contact free and guest engagement tools, and we are delighted to integrate with Fetch to expand the offerings to hoteliers giving them ability to engage with customers 24/7 throughout their entire journey ― before, during, and after the stay. Fetch app enables hoteliers to capture every engagement opportunity through 24/7 guest outreach and improved analytics, while also streamlining communications between property staff. Using email and/or SMS, we are digitally linking guests to staff and meeting their every need without physical contact.”

Over the last few years, contactless check in and check out have been gaining momentum as guests continue to choose to skip the front desk. Since COVID's appearance, the technology has become so important it can sway guest bookings. Communicating with these guests can be a challenge, but Fetch makes it simple. The solution enables hotels to interact with guests using digital avenues, such as email or SMS/text messaging. For example, guests booking at a property powered by Fetch are sent messages at strategic times urging them to provide feedback after booking a stay, checking into their room, or upon check out, for example. By reaching out when guests are most likely checking their personal devices, Fetch increases the chances of a response from guests, keeping them in closer contact with hotel operators and maintaining consistency.

Fetch also equips hotels with a full guest-engagement suite capable of organizing and sending surveys, collecting and presenting guest analytics, two-way messaging, and a 24/7 chat concierge linked directly to staff members. Through this suite of tools, Fetch is designed to help hoteliers find opportunities to improve the guest experience or attract more guests through proactive surveys and two-way messaging. Fetch can also provide real-time alerts and a full analytics suite capable of providing actionable data on guest satisfaction, hotel performance, and current trends.

"Our goal was to create a one-stop-shop for communication between hoteliers and guests, and also within a hotel's team," said Russell Silver, founder and CEO of Fetch. "We were looking for inefficient processes, such as manually generated shift reports, and built them right into Fetch as features hoteliers can schedule to generate automatically. We wanted to give operators a way to improve communication and operations in an efficient, service-oriented manner.

“Through this integration partnership with Maestro, Fetch will have the opportunity to work with the more than 800 hotels integrated with Maestro PMS, and improve communication across the industry while preserving the key service elements that make hospitality so special,” he said. “We have a mission to put everything hotels need to stay in contact with guests and employees in one place, and Maestro is helping us deliver.”

In addition to helping hotels maintain social distancing between team members and guests, Fetch is designed to help hotels obtain crucial guest data about their stay. If hotels can receive complaints and react to them fast enough, hotel operators can alter or remove a potentially negative online review before it is posted.

Toronto’s Town Inn is one of the first properties to benefit from the Maestro/Fetch integration. The property’s Director of Revenue and Sales Daniel Seifer said integrating Fetch into his property’s existing Maestro PMS was seamless. Using both systems, Seifer said his extended-stay hotel can maintain contact with guests and employees, keeping them updated about the status of the property. He also said that in some cases the digital aspect of guest communication has allowed for greater insight into how to improve his property.

"In many cases, we find some guests can be reluctant to address certain issues over the phone, or at the front desk,” Seifer said. “When prompted to provide responses over email, however, we received a lot of good, useful feedback we could apply to our property. People are sometimes more open if they aren't speaking directly to someone. Ultimately, it's fine with us, we want to make sure our guests are happy, and Fetch helps us find ways to improve."

For more information on Maestro PMS, visit For more information on Fetch, visit


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