Business

Valley Hospitality buys Columbus Sheraton

The Four Points by Sheraton hotel in Columbus has been sold to Columbus-based hotel and food management company Valley Hospitality.

And now, the hotel is operating under the name The Columbus Airport Hotel — at least for the time being.

Ocean Properties Ltd. sold the property to Valley Hospitality for an undisclosed amount at the beginning of February, said Richard Ade, chief financial officer of Ocean Properties.

"It was better suited to someone who had a a number of properties in the area," Ade said. "It was a better fit for Valley Hospitality."

The Four Points by Sheraton was the only hotel Ocean Properties owned in Georgia. The company is headquartered in New Hampshire and Florida and has about 100 hotels and resorts across the country, with a heavy concentration in Florida and the Northeast. It operates under several different hotel brands, including the Marriott, Holiday Inn, Westin and Hilton.

Calls to Valley Hospitality were directed to owner Jack Pezold, who did not return any calls.

In Columbus, Valley Hospitality owns the Marriott, Houlihan's Restaurant, Hampton Inn and the Cannon Brew Pub. It also owns Hampton Inn in LaGrange and two Econo Lodges at Fort Benning and Fort Rucker.

Rebranding

Ade said it is to his "understanding . . . that Valley Hospitality has other plans for it, so it will no longer be a Sheraton or under the Starwood system." Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., is one of the largest hotel and leisure companies in the world. Their brands include W Hotels, Le Meridien, Westin Hotels & Resorts, and Sheraton Hotels & Resorts — including Four Points by Sheraton.

Peter Bowden, president and chief executive officer of the Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau, said branding matters for hotels — to an extent.

"A lot of different chains or flags have their customer rewards programs in place," he said. "You've got people who'll only stay at a Marriott, or who'll only stay at a Hilton."

If the hotel indeed flies under a different flag other than the Sheraton, Columbus will no longer have any Sheraton hotels.

"Whatever it is . . . I'm pretty confident they'll select a flag that'll be recognizable, that'll bring its own following," Bowden said.

In the meantime, the hotel is going by the name the Columbus Airport Hotel. The hotel's sign closest to the street reads as such, and phone calls to the hotel are answered as the Columbus Airport Hotel.

Bowden said because the hotel is in the process of re-branding, it cannot use the Sheraton name. That may be problematic for new customers who are unfamiliar with the name in the interim. But a grand re-opening with a new brand name later can generate a buzz around the business.

"It's not a bad thing," Bowden said.

Ade said the 177-room local Sheraton has "always performed well in the marketplace" and said there is a possibility the company could come back to the Columbus area — perhaps with a larger development

Opened in 1988 The Sidney Simons Boulevard hotel opened in 1988 under the Sheraton brand. Ocean Properties purchased the Columbus lodging property in the early 1990s and operated it as a Four Points by Sheraton throughout the company's ownership.

"Columbus has been great to us," Ade said. "We enjoyed our time there. We think a local developer who has multiple properties and opportunities for advancement at other locations in the Columbus area will work very well for the employee base."

Bowden said having local ownership cultivates a sense of community — “which means that that investment group has an interest in making business work for Columbus."

"In other words, you've got a company that's bought local, understands the landscape, if you will, understands all the systems in place," he said. "All those things an out-of-town company would have to get engaged in, a local business already has those relationships."

The hotel features seven meeting rooms, an outdoor pool and whirlpool, gym, restaurant and lounge, among other amenities. It is among a number of hotels close to the Columbus airport, such as the Holiday Inn, Sleep Inn, Courtyard by Marriott and Hampton Inn.

Valley Hospitality has already launched hiring efforts for more staffers at the yet-to-be-re-branded hotel. In the Ledger-Enquirer's classified section, immediate openings for housekeepers, dishwashers, cooks and servers were advertised for The Columbus Airport Hotel. The hotel's address was listed as 5351 Sidney Simons Blvd., the Four Points by Sheraton's address.

On Valley Hospitality's Web site, the company advertised similar job postings for a "Columbus Airport Hotel."

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