March 2015 Newsletter
Vol 2, Issue 3
2015 will mark the hotel industry’s best year ever in terms of occupancy. We are in a seller’s market that is projected to last through 2020. A recent article in Successful Meetings by Tim Brown is one that hits the mark, telling how hotels are finding ways to expand profits through a host of added fees – beyond the main profit centers of Sleeping Room and Food & Beverage revenue. As Brown suggests, groups need to customize hotel contracts to keep rates and expenses in check. Now, more than ever, smaller reunions should take advantage of BookMyReunion’s customized BMR Hotel Contract. Military reunions are ‘special needs’ groups. Band together with BMR and your group’s special needs will be more than met.
In today’s seller’s market groups large and small need professional help to negotiate the best possible deal. It’s now easy for small groups that take advantage of the pre-negotiated BMR Hotel Contract, but negotiating with major hotel chains can be tricky for larger groups. Armed Forces Reunions’ network of reunion-friendly hotels will help groups navigate the next five years of expanding hotel rates and fees.
In February’s newsletter I discussed dealing with Room Attrition. Let’s take a look at Food & Beverage. Be conservative with expected numbers at meal functions, as F&B Minimums (the dollar amount your group must spend) are based on these numbers. Never calculate cash bar sales into the Minimum – only the meals. The F&B Minimum is based on the meal’s base cost, before service charge and tax are added. Put a lower than expected number in the Function Agenda – as long as the space a hotel reserves is adequate to handle your hoped-for numbers. If you plan for a head table and color guard aisle, guesstimate how many people a meeting room can handle by multiplying the total square footage by .06. Also, always get meeting room names listed in the contract’s Function Agenda, to ensure you have the space to meet your needs. Don’t assume that the function space a hotel assigns is adequate to meet your needs. Sales Managers may book meeting rooms according to a hotel’s Capacity Chart estimates – which do not take into account head tables, aisles, AV equipment, stages, or dance floors. My best advice is to get a professional on your side to make sure your needs are met.
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the deployment of regular combat troops to Vietnam. On March 8, 1965 3,500 U.S. Marines landed near Da Nang in South Vietnam. Our Featured Veteran is John Mick, who shares his story with the Third Battalion, Third Marines. The 3/3 RVN Association meets biennially, and we’ve planned their reunions since 2002. For those interested in following the 50th Commemoration of Vietnam War activities go to: http://www.vietnamwar50th.com/
Be sure to read about this month’s Featured Destination – Jacksonville, FL. Our first reunion in Jacksonville was in 1990, and this past year we hosted the USS Hancock’s very successful biennial reunion in this top reunion destination. The Jacksonville area is home to Naval Stations Mayport, Jacksonville, & Kings Bay. Popular attractions include St. Augustine, Amelia Island, and St. Johns River cruises. This is a city that is dedicated to supporting the military!
This month’s Featured Reunion Specialist is Don Haggett, Director of Sales for Lafayette Hotels, whose Best Western Merry Manor Inn is widely known as THE military reunion hotel in Maine. Don is without question Portland’s reunion guru.
Nestled between the beautiful Atlantic Ocean and the sparkling St. Johns River, the “River City by the Sea” is the perfect destination for military families and groups looking to honor our nation’s heroes and enjoy a great time. Home to a longstanding military presence, Jacksonville has two navy bases, armed forces monuments, historic sites, thousands of active-duty military personnel, plus a vibrant arts and culture scene, an extensive park system, pristine beaches, delicious authentic cuisine, fun attractions, and great Southern hospitality waiting to entertain visitors from across the globe.
Naval Air Station Jacksonville is the birthplace of the famed Blue Angels. And at the beaches, Naval Station Mayport welcomes ships from all over the world. The annual Jacksonville Air Show alternates between the sandy shores of Jacksonville Beach and the impressive force of NAS JAX every October. Another annual event where our military heritage is celebrated and elevated is the Jacksonville Veteran’s Day Parade. Held in Downtown, it is the largest military parade in the state of Florida.
Visiting groups and Navy buffs can tour our military attractions, cruise down the St. Johns River on a dinner cruise boat, explore the outdoors with guided fishing charters, hit the greens in one Jacksonville’s many golf courses, enjoy military appreciation day at THE PLAYERS Championship, cheer on the Jacksonville Jaguars, learn to surf or paddleboard in our 22 miles of beaches, kayak hundreds of miles of wetlands and marshes, enjoy a night at the Symphony, visit the Jacksonville Maritime Heritage Center, and indulge in Jacksonville’s diverse dining and nightlife scene.
“Only in Jax” Military Sites
• Duval County Veterans Memorial Wall- Downtown
• Memorial Park- Riverside
• The Lone Sailor Statue- Southbank RiverWalk in Downtown
• The Museum of Southern History- Avondale
• Yellow Bluff Fort Historic State Park- Northside
• Jacksonville Maritime Heritage Center- Downtown
On January 31, 1968 70,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces launched the Tet Offensive. The massive surprise onslaught and months-long series of battles were among the most bloody and harrowing of the Vietnam War, which began in earnest 50 years ago in March with the deployment of 3,500 Marines. Almost 4,000 U.S. soldiers were killed and thousands wounded during the Tet Offensive, many along the front lines of the DMZ. There, 19 year-old U.S. Marine PFC John Mick saw his first combat. Fighting in a platoon of 14 men, he lost three of his buddies in an ambush.
“We fought almost constantly for months, always close to a bunker, always praying and nearly always under fire,” said Mick, who was with the MOS 0311 Infantry, Third Battalion, Third Marines (3/3). “Sometimes we could see and hear the North Vietnamese, sometimes not. Sometimes there’d be five of them, sometimes hundreds – in front, behind, everywhere. It was too dangerous for camera crews. Any pictures taken were by us. It was rough.”
No Shining Armor, The Marines at War in Vietnam, by Col. Otto J. Lehrack USMC (Ret.) best describes the war, Mick said. The book is briefly summated by Alexander S. Cochran, former editor of the journals Vietnam, World War II, and Military History: “This is war at the small unit level – squad, platoon, and company – told in a ‘no-holds-barred’ fashion, which means carnage and killing, chaos and intensity, heroism and terror…”
Born into a family of Marines, including his grandfather, father and uncles, Mick (now 66 and residing in Sebastian, FL) was beyond lucky in taking only a slight wound to the arm, which he bandaged to continue the fight. “We were in constant movement, never had a real position; what you carried on your back was it. We got food and resupplied, but were always on patrol. We were often up to our chest in mud, so dirty that on R&R in Australia I took a three-hour shower.”
The Viet Cong’s offensive ultimately failed as a military campaign, but news coverage of the offensive shocked the American public and eroded support for the war. The U.S. lost more than 58,000 dead and over 30,000 wounded; the Viet Cong had an estimated 1.1 million dead and more than 600,000 wounded by the fall of Saigon and the U.S. evacuation in 1975.
Mick was promoted to corporal in November, 1968 and sent to duty in the Caribbean, Cuba, Guantanamo Bay and Camp Lejeune. He retired in 1971 as a sergeant and returned to his hometown of Columbus, Ohio where he met Sharon, his wife to be. They moved to Florida and both found careers in the healthcare industry. Mick, like all war veterans, still has troubling memories, sometimes jumping at loud noises. He kept a journal that he eventually shared with others, helping to put the war in perspective.
“I took down the home addresses of a lot the guys,” says Mick. “Fellow Marine T.J. Kelly and I started contacting them and 17 of us gathered in 1986 in Washington D.C. Our battalion commander, the late USMC Col. James Marsh, just happened to see us and when he found out what we were doing suggested we contact the whole battalion next time. We had 127 Marines and 330 family members in 1988 in Melbourne Beach, Florida. We agreed to hold the event every two years.”
The 3/3 RVN Association grew and became too much work for Mick, Kelly and his associates to manage and still have time to enjoy the camaraderie. The reunions now draw more than 600 veterans, families and friends. Fifteen years ago he contacted Armed Forces Reunions to handle the logistics. “Now we have time to talk, share memories of those we lost, and of course have some fun too. If you ever have to do one of these reunions from scratch, you’ll soon learn how hard it is. AFR is fantastic at what they do.” About four years ago the reunion was opened to veterans from 3/3 in all wars.
Mick recently retired, but still gets up at 5 a.m. and often meets fellow vets for coffee at Captain Hiram’s restaurant. “It’s still with us of course and it’s very important to continue the tradition of 3/3. The reunions bring out a wide range of emotions and the reunion in San Diego next year is a highpoint on all our calendars.”
Scott McCaskey is a contributing writer for BMR.com; Account Director at Goldman & Associates Public Relations and former staff writer for the Virginian-Pilot newspaper.
BMR: How long have you been working in the military reunion market, and how long at your current hotel? I’ve been working with military reunions for 40 years – 17 with the Best Western Merry Manor Inn. You could say I know something about working with reunions.
BMR: What’s so significant about military reunions and how does the reunion market differ from other markets? The people who attend these reunions are very special to myself and the staff here at the Best Western Merry Manor Inn. They have sacrificed so that we can enjoy the freedoms that we enjoy today. We want to make sure that their experience in Portland and in the state of Maine is one that will bring fond memories for years to come.
BMR: What does your hotel do for reunions that’s special? We coordinate all the reunion activities including the hospitality room, meals, transportation, plus reservations to visit attractions and events. This is a free service of ours. We provide great hospitality rooms and complimentary welcome receptions, plus transportation to and from all of the transportation hubs in Portland.
BMR: What makes Portland so attractive to reunion groups? Portland is one of the most beautiful cities in the country. Our waterfront district (the Old Port Exchange) offers a wide variety of shops, galleries, restaurants and lounges for our guests to explore. As a matter of fact, Portland has more restaurants per capita than any other city in the country except for San Francisco. Reunions can visit the Maine Maritime Museum and Bath Iron Works, where they continue to build the finest fighting ships in the world. Shoppers will love the flagship store for LL Bean plus over 100 additional outlet stores in Freeport, just a short drive from Portland. DiMillos Restaurant on the waterfront is the largest floating restaurant on the east coast. They are known for their excellent seafood and the best view in town. We also take groups to Foster’s Downeast Clambakes where they enjoy an old fashion lobster bake with entertainment. No trip to Portland is complete without a visit to the world famous Portland Head Light or a cruise on scenic Casco Bay.
BMR: How will BookMyReunion.com benefit your hotel? BMR tells people of our history in handling reunions (over 100 reunions in the past 17 years) and they help tell reunion planners of what we have to offer when they plan their reunion with us. We look forward to serving groups that book their reunions through BookMyReunion.com.