Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel GM Tarson—No Reservations About Taking Helm at Downtown Atlanta Landmark
Tuesday, August 18th, 2015
Ron Tarson, General Manager of the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel, proudly admits he’s been around the block a few times in the hospitality business, from Colorado to St. Louis, then onward to Toronto and Boston. From his perch at the tallest hotel in the Southeast, what really excites him is what he sees happening around his block today: the vibrancy of downtown Atlanta.
“We’re quite happy about the way downtown Atlanta is going. There are exciting special attractions, new restaurants opening and well-attended events happening weekly. We’re glad to be right in the middle of it all. In fact, we’re using social media, including our 41,000 visitors on Facebook, to communicate all of these exciting entertainment opportunities and the convenience and amenities of the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel.”
Tarson’s well-rounded career travels have taken him through wide-ranging responsibilities in training, operations, corporate management, research and as a regional Vice-President of Sales and Marketing, making him a highly-qualified fit for his current position.
Since his arrival in Atlanta in 2012, Tarson and Westin have undertaken a $70 million total renovation of the property, from top to bottom, all 723 feet, 73 stories and 1173 rooms, not to mention the hotel’s signature Sun Dial Restaurant, Bar and The View experience. All this achieved, on time and on budget, while also making forecasted financial obligations for consecutive years. As a result, “The Peach” has earned its first exclusive Four-Diamond rating from AAA.
Tarson credits his leadership team and his staff whom he describes as “laser focused” on guests. “We have to have a team mindset in everything we do. We’re quite fortunate to have employees who have been here for 10 or 20 years, and a few ever since the hotel opened in 1976. I encourage them to go beyond their innate Southern hospitality and to just be themselves. I also let them know that I notice and the guests notice it when that happens and we appreciate their efforts.”
Tarson elaborated, “Sun Dial Executive Chef, Jason Starnes, offers an eclectic, farm-to-table menu for each season of the year, featuring fresh fare, fish, steak and comfort food. The Bar also offers small plates, snacks, sandwiches and starters, as well as an extensive list of wine, beer, and spirits for signature cocktails.”
This rotating, top floor of the Westin Peachtree Plaza, with two levels makes a complete revolution on its rail system every 30 minutes, offering customers an expansive, unique view of metro Atlanta. Visitors can even access an interactive video screen to learn about the local office towers, points of interest, nearby cities and historical markers.
Especially important to many meeting planners, business travelers and others, Westin properties such as the Peachtree Plaza, offers its guests a sustainable meeting package. After a $13 million environmental renovation in 2011, the Westin Peachtree Plaza earned Green Seal Silver Level certification, becoming the largest convention hotel in the Southeast to be Green Seal certified, and meeting high environmental standards for waste minimization, water and energy efficiency, and hazardous substance handling.
The hotel even met the challenge of the American Society of Association Executives to start to give “green tours” of its backend operations, such as its recycling area, loading docks, freezers, housekeeping, etc.
For the past year, Tarson has worn another hat, this one, for the Georgia Hotel and Lodging Association. He serves as the Chairman of the Government Affairs Committee, an advocacy group for all Georgia hoteliers. The role has placed him square in the middle of recent critical legislation, such as transportation funding, hotel fees and the religious freedom issues. Tarson also reminded legislators of the voting bloc of lodging industry employees, 56,000 strong.
He went on to say, “Georgia's hotel industry represents 9.7 percent of all jobs in the state directly or indirectly. As the largest sector of small business in the state, the hospitality industry generates $3.7 billion in direct sales. Whereas the occupancy rate for Georgia’s hotels in 2011 stood at 61%, last year it grew to an unprecedented 71% versus the national occupancy level of 65%, which is the highest level of occupancy ever recorded. Generally speaking, industry fundamentals remain solid and above long-run average occupancy levels should lead to strong growth through 2016.”
Tarson concluded, “Next year the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel turns 40 years old, but given our recent total overhaul, the facility remains a contemporary icon on the downtown Atlanta landscape. We’ll certainly celebrate this achievement in a big way.
“The architecture has not gone out of style and the internal transformation has been remarkable. The furnishings, colors and other amenities are first-rate and up-to-date, allowing us to embrace guests with the Westin Well-Being Movement. The Movement is dedicated to inspiring visitors to discover new approaches to healthy living under Westin’s six pillars of well-being: Sleep Well, Eat Well, Move Well, Feel Well, Work Well and Play Well. That’s why we offer such amenities as a Heavenly bed, a nutrient-rich menu, Heavenly Shower/Baths, WestinWORKOUT® Rooms and our unique RunWestin Concierge program for advising our guests who are avid runners. Anyone coming to Atlanta on business or pleasure is welcome to come see and experience what we have to offer.”