The Perimeter is home to many high-end hotels and more are under construction or on the drawing boards. One prominent Perimeter hotel is the 372-room Westin Atlanta Perimeter North in Sandy Springs’ Concourse Center. Reporter Newspapers asked the Westin’s general manager, Martin van der Laan, for his view of the state of the industry.

Martin Van Der Laan

Q: We’re familiar with conventions as a big driver of hotel business in Atlanta. What are some of the business or tourism factors that draw hotel guests to the Perimeter area?
There is no question that the strong business environment in Sandy Springs and the north Perimeter market create great opportunities for hospitality and tourism. With so many major national companies having their headquarters or main regional offices in our area, it helps drive great business toward our north Perimeter hotels and restaurants. This, combined with a thriving small business community and a high quality of life community, keeps our hotels and restaurants performing well. There is great loyalty from the experienced business travelers and solid following by locals and regional visitors alike.

Q: There is a lot of metro Atlanta hotel competition, and several new hotels are planned or under construction in the Perimeter area. How can Perimeter hotels compete with the hotels in Buckhead or Downtown? And can the supply of guests fill all these new hotels?
As Sandy Springs and the north Perimeter area continue to grow, and with the great infrastructure, a solid sense of community, and a high degree of quality of life in general, our area certainly can compete with Buckhead and Downtown. It is imperative that we continue to attract great talent to our labor force and create great opportunities and career path growth for the talents that we already have in place. As long as the overall growth path continues in our area, our industry will remain hot as well.

Q: What is the main attraction that makes a guest choose a Perimeter hotel?
Many guests will choose to stay in Sandy Springs due to the great business infrastructure, the proximity to several major highways, easy access to the entire metropolitan area via MARTA, and great service levels in our hotel and others. In addition, our community and its welcoming people provide an array of great services, attractions close by and terrific shopping and restaurants, like our Savor Bar & Kitchen at the Westin. Lastly, for our property, the Starwood Preferred Guest program is extremely important to us, as the members are some of the most loyal and experienced travelers you can find in our industry. These guests will go out of their way to stay at a Starwood-affiliated brand like Westin.

Q: The Westin has some unusual offerings, such as the workout gear loans. Tell us a bit about those programs and what inspired the hotel to make those extra efforts.
The New Balance Gear Lending program is designed for the active travelers throughout the Westin brand.
We will provide at a very nominal fee work-out gear, so our guests do not have to travel with it. This includes shoes, socks, shirts and shorts. We combine this with the Westin WorkOut Studio, area running maps and many other programs focused on the well-being of our guests. The overall “well-being” movement is a huge part of the Westin culture.

Q: Area businesses of all types and sizes seem to share a common concern with traffic congestion. Is traffic a challenge for your hotel’s guests or employees? If so, what are some strategies you use to cope?
Like anybody else in the area, we have a common concern with traffic congestion. It does affect our guests and staff alike at some level.
We have a large percentage of guests who arrive by MARTA and utilize it for transit to and from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and local work-related travel. We also have a lot of staff that utilizes MARTA and the Concourse Shuttle, and our hotel shuttles are used to provide pick-ups and drop-offs at the Medical Center station in particular.
Any increased development of MARTA is obviously encouraged, but appears years away. The interest to explore additional bypass and access roads where possible in the area is encouraged as well.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.