NYU notebook: Balance and women

I am reading through my notes from last week’s NYU investment conference one last time. In fact, my notebook is thinner this year, as we produced a lot of video that will be coming your way over the next week.

We already gave you some insight from Dorchester Collection CEO Christopher Cowdray. A video interview with Commune CEO Stephen Brandman will run today (Friday), and we are currently producing a piece that will offer various opinions on the state of the industry. Stay tuned and keep checking the digital issue of HOTELS for more rich media content. If you have not already watched it, the June issue has two video clips from an interview with Corinthia Hotels Founder Alfred Pisani — one particularly compelling as he talks about how his hotel in Tripoli managed to stay open and survive through the revolution in Libya.

But back to NYU. I want to make note of two interesting interviews: one with global head of DoubleTree by Hilton, Rob Palleschi, and the other with Sofitel Worldwide CEO Robert Gaymer-Jones.

In addition to talking about DoubleTree’s impressive global pipeline that is expected to add 50 properties in 2012, Palleschi mostly wanted to talk about how he is making sure his brand team is not overworked. This comes after brand-passionate, hard-working DoubleTree PR executive Tom Wingham unexpectedly passed away a few months earlier.

Palleschi talked about the need for everyone on his team making sure they have a better work-life balance and to honor gregarious Tom Wingham by stepping away from work to have some fun and check something off their bucket list — something different. Amen, Rob.

What intrigued me about my conversation with Sofitel’s Gaymer-Jones was his reference to making Sofitel a female-focused brand with its design, its service and with little touches such as use of amenities that feature botanicals.

When you stop to think about all the new concepts coming to market, why hasn’t someone cornered the female niche? Why isn’t someone more overtly marketing to the growing number of women business travelers? It seems to make perfect sense, and there are enough secure men who would appreciate a bit more sensitive hotel concept, as well. I don’t think you would only attract women.

For the record, Sofitel has been repositioned by its parent, Accor, as an “approachable luxury” concept and has thrown out since 2009 some 85 less-than-spectacular hotels from its system. Approximately 120 Sofitels remain, and more than 20 hotels are under construction right now, with Gaymer-Jones citing North America and Latin America as the most challenging markets for brand growth.