Irvin Mayfield's Blog

Week 3: Al Groos

by SonnyLee on Feb.01, 2012, under Weekly Guests

President and General Manager of the Royal Sonesta New Orleans

*Winners for the Al Groos blog have been selected and emailed.

In August 2010, Alfred L. Groos was appointed President and General Manager of the Royal Sonesta New Orleans. A native of New York and a graduate of the Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, Mr. Groos began his professional career at the Sonesta International Hotel Corporation in 1977. Working his way up the corporate ladder, Mr. Groos began at the Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans as a trainee.  In time, he served as the hotel’s Food and Beverage Director, Rooms Director, and Executive Assistant General Manager.  He left the Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans to become the General Manager for the Chateau Sonesta New Orleans, another landmark hotel that opened in the French Quarter in 1994.

In 1996, Mr. Groos was named Vice President and General Manager of the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Boston, where he served as President of the Cambridge Hotel Association and Vice President of the Massachusetts Lodging Association.  In 2000, Mr. Groos was honored with the Spirit of Partnership Award from the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Mr. Groos returned to New Orleans in 2000 and rejoined the Chateau Sonesta Hotel as Vice President and General Manager.  Three years later, he was named Where Magazine’s “General Manager of the Year.”  In 2006, Mr. Groos was named Vice-President and General Manager of the Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans.

In 2003, Mr. Groos served as President of the New Orleans Hotel & Lodging Association.  The Association, which is comprised of hospitality professionals of Greater New Orleans, represents the lodging industry and provides a means to further professionalism, knowledge, and profitability.

In 2005, Mr. Groos was named Chairman of the Board of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.  He currently serves on the Bureau’s Executive Committee.  On December 10 2006, Mr. Groos was sworn in as the Vice Conseiller Gastronomique for the Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs.

In 2007, Mr. Groos was appointed by the Mayor of New Orleans as a Commissioner to the Board of the Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority.  The Board’s mission is to spur economic growth and development with the purpose of attracting visitors to the state of Louisiana.

In 2009, Mr. Groos was appointed to the Advisory Board of the Lester E. Kabacoff School of Hotel Restaurant and Tourism Administration.  He was selected by the Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, to the French Quarter Marigny Historic Area Management District Board of Directors. The organization’s mission is to strengthen the historic area within its boundaries and maintain it as a vital component of Louisiana’s tourism industry.

In 2010, Mr. Groos was selected as an honored member of Sonesta’s Corporate Operations Committee.  As a committee member, Al Groos will oversee the daily operations of the Royal Sonesta Hotel Cambridge.

30 Comments for this entry

  • EmekaD

    Smooth jazz, iconic balconies, the smell of original PJ’s coffee, and a 5-star restaurant styled like no other, is the gumbo of captivating flavor that is just the beginning of what you will get at the Royal Sonesta Hotel, says General Manger Al Groos.
    The Bourbon street attraction has earned the distinction as the highest grossing hotel in the city of New Orleans, averaging around $45 million per year. Under Groos’ leadership the hotel was able to collaborate the essence and soul of the crescent city in its hotel atmosphere.
    Al Groos began his journey with the Royal Sonesta in 1977. After graduating from Cornell University he came to New Orleans sight-unseen and began an entry level position in the kitchen, but it wouldn’t be long after until he worked himself up to the Food and Beverage Director.
    In Gross’ interview he shed light on the importance of the tourism industry in New Orleans. Currently the forty percent of all general revenue in city comes from tourism.

  • Brianna Foster

    Guest speaker Al Groos enlightened the class on the role of the hotel industry in New Orleans. I always knew there were many hotels in the New Orleans and that the tourist attractions we have are beneficial to the city, but I was not aware of the connection of hotels, specifically, and local citizens.

    As Mr. Groos defined the connection for us, he discussed the benefits of there being so many hotels in our city. He gave us many examples of how the Royal Sonesta is used by locals every day, be it for the enjoyment of the food and beverages offered at Desire Bistro & Oyster Bar and PJ’s Coffee & Tea Co., an evening of jazz and drinks at Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse or for business meetings, conferences, and conventions.

    In addition to all of the informal ways that hotels positively affect New Orleans, their tax revenue alone accounts for forty percent of the operating revenue for the city, not to mention the extension of funds to the RTA, school board, Super Dome, and convention centers. Hotels also often work closely with community leaders for the betterment of the community. For example, the Royal Sonesta is also affiliated with the 8th District police officers, providing them free lunch daily, as well as a free suite during Mardi Gras to allow access to a central location for maximum security.

    Because the hotel industry is involved in so many different affairs in the city, it provides hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the city. Although the tourist industry may not seem like an attractive career path for many locals, there are actually many jobs opening in areas unrelated to service, such as marketing and design. There are also benefits to taking a job in the hotel industry, like training and scholarships for employees’ children, and the opportunity to explore other interests through the hotel. For example, through his leadership at the Royal Sonesta, Al Groos had brought a new restaurant, jazz club, and coffee shop of his choice to the city.

  • Brianna Foster

    After Al Groos talked to our class about the many connections between the tourist industry and locals, I began to rethink the way I utilize my city’s resources and to whom I contribute my business. I customarily am one to avoid the “touristy” places in New Orleans and lean toward the more “local” spots to spend my time and money. In reality, New Orleans is one of the few gems of a city where many of the “touristy” places are local and unique, and have a lot to offer to guests as well as community members. Mr. Groos pointed out the importance of the community becoming engaged with the businesses downtown and in the French Quarter for the contribution to the job market in the area and the tax revenue that it brings into the city.

    Mr. Groos also encouraged us to contemplate the job opportunities to be had in the tourist industry. Hotels have a very sustainable business model which allows employees to expand on their interests with the strong structure of the hotel for support and benefits that you cannot reap when opening a small business alone. There are also many opportunities for community outreach through the tourist industry, and a clear opportunity to influence outsiders’ view of the city, as the hotel is the largest touch point for visitors after their arrival to the city.

    I am glad to be enlightened about the endless possibilities of the tourism and hotel industry and I will now consider the hotels in New Orleans an integral piece to the puzzle that is our city.

  • ClaudioP

    The thought of a hotel being a miniature city is one that still strikes me a little funny. It is a point that Al Groos made as i walked into the class late. I guess it made sense after he explained it. Although growing up i don’t feel that i agreed with that because of my experiences with hotels. Being the son of an Artist that travels the world, i remember staying in hotels that were basically a place to rest, and clean up. The difference with my experience is that we did not stay at hotels like the Sonesta hotel.
    I remember stepping foot into the Sonesta on a Sunday night when i went to see a friend who was playing drums with Germaine Bazzle. When the band took a break i took a little walk around and noticed the PJ’s coffee along with a few other things. That struck me as very interesting especially because of the fact that you usually don’t see a local coffee shop in a hotel like this. I would expect a Starbucks. I went back to the Playhouse and continued watching the band. What happened next really caught me off guard, Allen Toussaint walked in and sat next to me at the bar. I was in shock and actually asked him if he was Mr. Toussaint. I left with the impression of the Sonesta being a hotel with a local coffee shop, and a venue that even the locals came to. Going back to the day Mr. Groos came in and talked to the class, i listened pretty intently because what really sparked my interest was the fact that here was a hotel that was not only interested in making a fabulous hotel, but making it authentically a New Olreans hotel. I went on to bring up the subject of how beautiful it was to me that i have come to a city where people are not only proud of their culture, but they SUPPORT it.

  • ClaudioP

    Continuing on the topic of Al Groos and the role that hotels play in a city. The evidence is clear that specifically in this city, the hotel industry brings in a lot of revenue. Mr. Groos went on to name all the things he felt the hotel industry does and does not get credit for. All the jobs provided, and business that the people they bring in attract. What was interesting for me was that i felt that Mr. Groos made the point that they really make a point to not just focus on the money aspect of their business. The point that struck was that a hotel can help a city enormously on all fronts. Here is the Sonesta, that gives work to people in all different job descriptions, it helps the city by bringing in people to that city, it helps musicians by giving us a venue to play at, and hear top quality music, and it helps police officers by giving them a room to stay in during Mardi Gras, and by allowing them to always eat for free at their hotel. These are just some of the things that he pointed out. Wow. That is genuinely a Great thing for New Orleans.
    Mr. Groos is kind of a picture perfect story of success. He started small and with persistence and hard work came to be the force he is now. It encouraged me to meet someone like this, for two reasons: usually you hear this kind of story, but it is used as an example to make a point to employers and usually seems like a happily-ever-after story, second it encourages me to just keep my goals in mind and stay focused on what it is that i want to do.
    For my own study, i usually check out these kind of interviews but with musicians and other artistic people. To be in this class and experience these interviews in respect to something bigger than simply “how did you come up with the title for your album?” is a very powerful experience. It makes me more aware of looking at the bigger picture. I think i am starting to understand maybe why Irvin is so involved with things both in music, and outside of music. Because in reality they are all related.

  • WilliamW

    Its been said many times that the French Quarter is the economic engine of New Orleans. After listening to Al Groos, the current VP and General Manager of the Royal Sonesta, hotels are the cylinders that drive the engine and the visitors/tourists are the fuel to feed them. Mr Groos certainly knows the hotel industry. He started out peeling onions and melons in the Sonesta and ran every aspect of the hotel up to his current position as head the largest hotel in the Sonesta chain. The hotel industry in New Orleans generates thousands of direct and indirect jobs and is the largest employer in the city. The other important aspect of the hotel industry in New Orleans is that it produces 40% of the tax revenue to the city through hotel taxes. This explains, as it should why the city needs to protect the French Quarter and convention visitors. This is done through partnerships that exist between the hotels and the Police Department. This also explains why the city needs to spend extra money in the quarter keeping it clean. Professor Mayfield pointed out each hotel is like a mini city that needs to provide services 24 hours, 365 days a year to its occupants. With that said, its more than a city because in my opinion we don’t receive those service from our city.

  • WilliamW

    Mr Groos stated how important it was to immerse himself in the community to understand its culture. He understands when visitors arrive they want a New Orleans experience; they want to wake up and know they are in New Orleans. His partnership with Irvin Mayfield, with Jazz ,and John Folse one of Louisiana’s great chefs exemplifies the passion he brings to the business. The Royal Sonesta with its balconies and strategic local in the heart of the quarter provides a total New Orleans experience. Unlike Las Vegas or other major city, New Orleans has local talent rooted here. The Royal Sonesta Hotel has incorporated this talent into their business model. Mr Groos also became the newest member of the New Orleans Visitor and Convention bureau in 2005 which had some monumental challenges. They had lost 1.3 trillion dollars of bookings due to Katrina out to year 2018. How were they going to reestablish confidence to the tourism and convention business so that New Orleans would return to normal? Investments were made by hotels and the government had to provide assurances the levees would be rebuilt. The tourism and convention business is now back. The remaining challenges are to improve the access to New Orleans via more direct flights, and to improve the taxi business from the airport and around town. This could be accomplished by expanding the rail from the quarter or CBD to the airport

  • MelissaM

    For me personally, an individual that you have just met or in this case as a presenter in class, you have very little to distinguish their personality and character by. Work ethic, how he dealt with obstacles, sense of humor if one is visible, the words that come to his mind for the word game, and the words he leaves the class with are all you have to work with. Doing research online before the class tells you even less. I am enjoying this class very much because of how it’s structured this way. So far, all the research I have done on the speakers such as Mr. Al Groos, has given me a much different perspective on him than I leave the presentation with. In only an hour and a half or so, my expectations of him being a solemn business man residing only on the surface of things, were changed to thinking that he is a soulful man with a good heart. One example of this was how he said that the hotel gives away scholarships and training to workers in the hotel and their families who need it to get to college and for specifics in gaining a career. I have much admiration for the people or interrelated with a business that has money spewing from their ears, yet has worked hard for it, whether it be labor intensive or stressful and mentally intensive, and also shares it with those in need. Money is just a unique looking piece of paper until someone does something progressive with it to give it meaning.

  • MelissaM

    Mr. Groos has clearly been through a lot in his business career to get to where he is now, mainly the event of Katrina. He stated that he could speak about Katrina consuming New Orleans during the time of his trying to open the Royal Sonesta, and I wish we could have a separate class to hear about the details. The small bit that he shared with us about it got my complete and full attention as I cannot imagine what it must have been like having been through a much less devastating flash flood this past summer.

    It was very inspiring in the business aspect when Al Groos spoke about his efforts in creating the vibes percolating from the Royal Sonesta Hotel. I don’t think he could have gone about it in a better way. In his explanation of how he immersed himself in the community, as he described the way he went about it, Mr. Groos words still linger in my mind, “when you wake up at the Sonesta, you know you are in NOLA.” I had never thought about how true it is that you can go to a ritzy place in any city, and not be able to tell whether it’s NYC, Boston or Philadelphia. Having considered the culture of New Orleans in the creation of every feature of the hotel, it is unquestionable that this man has a precise mind and sense of creativity. The distinct originality of the hotel, as well as incorporating the beautiful jazz which shares a communal love, surely has brought this multifaceted business that holds much importance to the city from underwater, to a thriving place to remember.

  • TaraP

    The Royal Sonesta Hotel has been a historical land mark of New Orleans for many years. Many years before my time the Royal Sonesta was a brew house for Regal Beer. Most people know it today by the massive people hanging off the second and third story iron gate balconies screaming “Boobies” during Mardi Gras. Not to mention the $300 you are going to spend on one night for those rooms. Working across the street from the Royal Sonesta on Conti gave me an up close and personal view of the Royal Sonesta. Al Gross is a dedicated Royal indeed, serving his entire career to the popular hotel chain. Many of his employers greatly respect him and admire the work he does for the hotel. Mr. Gross first joined the Sonesta International Hotel Corporation in 1977. Groos is a transplant to New Orleans from New York and admires this city to the fullest. Striving to make the French quarter a fun and exciting place to stay, Groos makes your visit to the Royal Sonesta Hotel a wonderful and pleasant holiday. His goals are to make you want to understand New Orleans and feel the power it provides.

  • TaraP

    Al Groos is a well known man through out the French Quarter in the Big Easy. Groos has managed to accomplish some kind of positive award every year since joining the Royal Sonesta crew. From training in the Royal Sonesta of New Orleans to becoming the President and General manager of the hotel Groos has defiantly gone places in life, even though it is in the same company. The Sonesta is a home for Al Gross he has learned and seen many exciting things through out his career. The Royal Sonesta opened its doors in 1969 and has had Al Gross stand side by side with both hotels in New Orleans since 1977. In the last 15 years Gross has accomplished more than one would do in an entire life time. Not only has he done wonders for New Orleans but Al also is associated with the Royal Sonesta in Boston. In 1996 till about the year 2000 Gross was honored with the “spirit of Partnership Award” and was named vice president and general manager for Royal Sonesta in Boston. Al Groos shortly after that returned to New Orleans to earn the Vice President title at the Chateau Sonesta. Al Groos has created and inspired a positive work place for the Royal Sonesta Hotels.

  • CoreyW

    Al Groos spoke about how often he sees young people give up because they are afraid of failure, and that you should be afraid to make mistakes. You hear things like these so much in childhood that they become cliche and meaningless, but that’s the danger of cliche. So many important insights are common, yet they are common because they are so profoundly important. As I grow older I understand this more, how much can be lost, how much joy unfounded simply because of self-doubt. Its a devil.
    40% of city revenue comes from hotels for New Orleans. This was actually pretty amazing. Of course in hindsight it makes sense, but I think Mr. Groos is absolutely right that people in general, and the America government deeply underestimate the economic vitality provided by the visitation industry. Groos made an excellent insight in saying that we generally think of big industry when we think of jobs. I think this is in part because most of America isn’t really that great a tourist destination (miles and miles of corn…), but any decent city can become marketable, I think, even if there is nothing really there, it can be made that way, people just don’t see it.
    I also appreciate Groos’s insight that we are afraid to be tourists of our own city, we are perhaps hyper-concerned with being authentic, so much so that we can’t go out to any place that might have tourists (“I only go the the authentic local bars…”).

  • CoreyW

    Again, the danger of cliche, being hyper-obsessed with appearing authentic, is toxic. Mr. Groos’s sentiment that its not about a city, its about what you bring, its about the people, can sound cliche, especially in a political realm, but it becomes authentic when you really believe it, when you really care about your home, and I think Mr. Groos does. You could hear it in his voice, in his words and his charitable actions.
    “Uniqueness starts with architecture” really resonated with me. America is becoming cluttered with chains, grey concrete boxes, and glass/steel towers. I fear for New Orleans, and I really hope it keeps its soul, because its one of the few places I’ve lived that feels any different from all the other places in America. “When you wake up in New Orleans, you know where you are” was also great. Of course it depends on where in New Orleans you wake up, but still, its something I deeply desire for America, for each community to cultivate its own sense of self/place.
    It was frustrating to learn about the political struggles that hinder New Orlean’s visitation industry. But its always that way, the oil business repress green technology, and the taxi business repress a potential rail system from the airport to the city. I would really like to see transport improved in the city, and maybe the hostels/cheap lodging. Having visited the city multiple times before living here, I can see great potential for this city as a destination for young people who can’t necessarily afford the more expensive hotels, and who done have a car.

  • VlainV

    Approaching this interview I was slightly more optimistic than I was for the first time around being that I was pleasantly surprised by Bob Browns charisma and informative explanations of his responsibilities. This week’s guest was Al Groos a native of New York and a graduate of Cornell University. With a rich history of employment in the hospitality industry it’s no wonder why he is such a big success at the Royal Sonesta of New Orleans. Groos is the appointed President and General Manager of the Royal Sonesta Hotel of New Orleans, and the experience and expertise he brings to the Royal Sonesta truly makes it a landmark hotel in the famous French Quarter of New Orleans.
    Groos’ approach to running a hotel is remarkably unique. He uses the rich culture of New Orleans to decorate and distinguish the Royal Sonesta from other hotels in the city. A scenario that he uses describes the experience that he wants the guests to feel while staying at the hotel, he said “If someone were to wake up in any one of these chain hotels they wouldn’t know where they were, but if someone were to wake up in the Royal Sonesta they would know immediately that they are in New Orleans.” This is the effect that he ultimately wanted to relate when creating the ambience in the Royal Sonesta. Groos goes as far as only allowing local talent and businesses to be incorporated in the hotel such as the local P.J.’s Coffee café and the Irvin Mayfield Playhouse. Being a world traveler and staying in various hotels across the country and internationally this is an awesome method to attract tourists to the hotel and encourage them to spend their time in the heart of the French Quarter. I love that his approach to running a hotel is more than just a Bed-in-a-Box but an experience that you can remember and look back on as a memorable aspect of their stay in New Orleans.
    The business aspect of running a hotel was extensively discussed during the interview. I was unaware that hotels provide 45% of the cities revenue in the general fund, at least in New Orleans. When you think about all the institutions in a city, hotels are the last things I would think to be the major contributing factor to the cities fund. But being that New Orleans is a major tourist city it doesn’t come as much of as a surprise that hotels support the city. Another fact is that hotels offer the most jobs in the community. The amount of labor it takes to run a successful hotel takes a huge amount of manpower and therefore offers a lot more jobs than other entities in the city. Groos referred to hotels as “little cities”, and as he explained what a hotel consists of and it’s many different subdivisions I started to see his vision and understand his interpretation of the culture of hotels.
    Taking from this interview the most important message I received was that as citizens of a great city we need to be proud of our hotels especially the Royal Sonesta being that it embraces New Orleans culture and does its best to share it with locals and tourists. So whether you are a guest or a native The Royal Sonesta of New Orleans is a wonderful hotel to stay at and work for and should be very proud of its uniqueness and individuality.

  • CoreyR

    The lecture series presented by Al Gross, GM of Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans; Great job goes out to Mr. Gross you really explain the value of Service as you discussed the political side of the Sonesta’s viable role to New Orleans thru “Hotel Partnerships”, For example, NOPD 8th District Police Percent partnership thru an educational polite program, whereas officers form a special forces to combat strategies to deal with the behavior type of criminals as our city move forward. Mostly everyone could understand that these partnerships make New Orleans so unique. Mr. Gross idea of “It starts with vision” has really stuck with me in understanding the bigger connection of Department Store DH Holmes to HRI Inc. Royal Sonesta Hotel 5 Star New Orleans. This theory of vision unifies an excellence of leadership and him “not afraid to try new things”. I would like to also point out his least favorite word “I Can’t” his belief “do it.” Al Gross connected with the audience in many forms of his service. I must state it was a pleasure to have an opportunity as a Political Science student to see how a perfect partnership can be. He connect with the culture of New Orleans very clearly.

  • LukeG

    The Impact of a Vision

    As a young man just finishing college, Mr. Al Groos’ focus was not on the short term gratification gained through a pursuit of temporary pleasures; instead, it was filled with a vision of what he could contribute to the community and how he could have a marked impact on the industry he sought a career in – hotel, restaurant and tourism. Mr. Groos eagerly took up the opportunity to work as a helper in a hotel kitchen at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in New Orleans; not for the money because he had a bigger vision. Mr. Groos was determined that, if he proved himself in the hotel kitchen, he would be given more opportunities with greater responsibilities and, more importantly, the ability to have a more significant impact on the community.

    This determination eventually opened doors for Mr. Groos in Kitchen management and several other middle-management positions throughout the various functions of the Royal Sonesta Hotel. In 1996, he was even tapped to become the General Manager of the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Boston. From humble beginnings, Mr. Groos’ vision to have a greater impact kept him focused and opened a door for him that is reserved for only the best managers. To this day his strong vision is still having a remarkable impact not just on the Royal Sonesta Hotel, of which he is now the General Manager of the New Orleans location, but on our entire community.

  • LukeG

    A Vision of Community

    One thing Mr. Al Groos has experienced throughout his life is that, when you have a vision and live your life determined to fulfill that vision, you will consequently have a significant impact on those who are in the community around you. Mr. Groos made the statement, “It is important to immerse yourself into the fabric of the community.” This statement is not just a nice rule of thumb; it is a life guide by which Mr. Groos has been able to impact the greater good of an entire city – the City of New Orleans. Combine the fact that Mr. Groos has held onto and accomplished his vision which impacts the community around him with the life guide he adheres to of total “immersion into the fabric of the community”, his leadership has had a profound positive effect on that whole community.

    Within the community of the Royal Sonesta Hotel, Mr. Groos has demonstrated the ability to revitalize and strengthen the Royal Sonesta brand in each of the branches’ surrounding communities. He accomplished this by implementing his vision of immersion into the surrounding community. Mr. Groos’ leadership has been so strong at the Royal Sonesta Hotel that he was even named “General Manager of the Year” in 2003 by Where Magazine.

    The impact of his leadership has been felt far beyond the Royal Sonesta Hotel branches in which he has worked; his leadership has been felt throughout the fabric of the communities themselves. One of the signature things that he has done is to design the hotels specifically based on the cultural influences of their respective communities. As a result of his community leadership, Mr. Groos has even been selected to oversee multiple hospitality associations including the New Orleans Hotel & Lodging Association and the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. With such a significant life of success already accomplished, Mr. Groos has proven that by beginning with a vision, holding onto that vision until it is fulfilled, and pulling the community into your vision, you can accomplish incredible feats for the greater good of the entire community around you.

  • zach

    Al Groos is the President and General Manager of the Royal Sonesta Hotel in New Orleans. Al Groos is from New York and he graduated from Cornell. While he was growing up in New York his family worked in the restaurant business. After he graduated from Cornell he came to New Orleans and joined the Royal Sonesta upon his arrival. During his time working for the Royal Sonesta he realized that the hotel business is where he wanted to stay. He would be offered a job at a new hotel in the city and he took the job for about a year. After that he went to work in Boston until he was asked to work back in New Orleans again.
    Then Katrina came along and made a big mess of his hotel business. There was six million dollars in damage and the hotel was forced to do a second opening. The challenge after Katrina was not to rebuild the hotel itself, it was to rebuild it as a tourism destination. Along with his hotel, Katrina caused the city of New Orleans 1.3 trillion dollars in damage.
    One of Al Groos’s goals in the hotel business is to create partnerships with the community. An example of that is providing the police force with food and them helping the hotel out in return.
    Hotels supply forty percent of the city’s revenue and that is incredibly important. Someone who stays in a hotel and can go out and spend money and also appreciate the city is a huge difference from someone who comes to get what he or she want and then leave. Hotels also provide numerous jobs that entail all kinds of work for the community.
    Al Groos knows that there is more to just running the hotel; he is also affecting all things about the city. He knows that as a hotel, you must immerse yourself into the community to appeal to the people. Another goal of Al Groos is to make sure that the guests get a great New Orleans experience.
    I could tell that Al Groos truly cares for the city of New Orleans when he said that he would like to see that the forty percent of the revenue that is from hotels to decrease. That way everyone can know that many others are contributing to the well being of the city.

  • YvonneW

    At first I though Al Gross was impersonable and unaproachable, but after speaking to him personally I found that is far from the truth. He demonstrated the importance of hotels and tourism in general to the New Orleans area. When he compared a hotel to a small city at first I would have disagreed, but I recently did an Intro to Hospitality course where I learned how involved hotels really are if they are good. I was amazed to see how important Al felt it was to give back opportunities to his employees and the police of the area. The hotel offers scholarships to the children of the employees. The police are given free meals from the Royal Sonesta and a nice room during Mardi Gras weeks. They want to take care of the police because they are such a vital part of the well being of the hotel.

  • YvonneW

    Al Groos originally started in his career in the food industry, but after college he went to a hotel and then went on to management from there. He is wants everyone to follow their dream and he thinks no one shoulc ever say they can’t. He has been voted as one of the best managers. He makes the hotel he works at original and unique to the area. He brings his experience and wisdom to the hotel and makes it better. In doing this he brings more clientel to the hotel and ultimately more tourists to the area. He streases customer service and cleanliness to bring customer to the hotel and also bring back customers. He says the hotels in the New Orlean’s area help to provide over 20% ot the cities revenue. But he hopes to help bring in other companies to the New Orlean’s area and use this income in another aspects to help the area.

  • MarkW

    Al Groos spoke with our class on the topic of hotel management in the city of New Orleans. He was less distinguishable and amiable as compared with any of our guests to appear before or after him. His story is an atypical one, rising through the corporate chain, now to run one of the city’s most renowned hotels, and partner with Irvin Mayfield for the Jazz Playhouse. Obviously tourism is one of our foremost economic generators, and the New Orleans CVB attempts to market our indigenous culture to bring in tons of revenue.
    And that’s great.
    Except I don’t agree with Groos’s image of a purely “New Orleans Experience.”
    I’d like to make it clear that corporate efforts to create a true “New Orleans Experience” is a process of sterilization that ruins the original product, which is our culture.
    PJ’s coffeehouse offers a gift shop experience where one can purchase mediocre coffee in paper cups.
    Fairgrinds Coffeehouse in Bayou St. John sells rich, dark, fresh coffee for a cheaper price, with a free refill, in a historic building between the bayou and the fairgrounds.
    They offer a New Orleans experience.
    So please, I beg of all directors of tourism, don’t destroy what it is that people love about New Orleans: Dinginess, authenticity, originality.
    In fact, I don’t believe in super developments in the French Quarter, or multi-million dollar restaurants.
    The French Quarter was the slums.
    The tourism directors and city government are creating a New Orleans-
    A New Orleans that is divided from its former self.

  • MarkW

    Call me hip, or whatever, but I go to places like St. Claude. That was my introduction to New Orleans, seeing bands for $5 like Why are We Building Such a Big Ship?, the Zydepunks, Hurray for the Riff-Raff.

    But maybe everyone doesn’t want the same things out of New Orleans.
    High bred individuals that grew up in high bred communities might not dare step foot in places like the All-Ways Lounge. The sight of drag queens, gays, and gutterpunks may repel them all the way back to their suite in the the Monteleone…
    Which, by the way, is a great place to take a leak if you’re walking to the Marigny from Canal.
    That has been my only utilization of luxury hotel accommodations in the New Orleans area.
    And that goes to show, I don’t know anything about them.
    My only point at the end of this scattered rant is that tourism is important, but the most important take home message is that the future of New Orleans’ historic districts is partly in policy makers’ hands, and every entity involved should consider the fact of what draws people to New Orleans in the first place.

  • SarahM

    Before listening to Al Groos I didn’t realize how important tourism was to the economy here in New Orleans. I was aware that it was common around Mardi Gras time but I didn’t know how much it helped the economy and how political it was. Al was the general manager at the Royal Sonnesta hotel but he started off at the bottom and moved his way up in the industry which gave him a lot of experience. To me that is very inspiration because he wasn’t handed anything he worked hard to get where he is. I was extremely shocked to hear how much money one hotel made annually , 45 million to be exact. Then it started to hit me how many people come in and out of New Orleans for pleasure or work related trips. I alone had visited New Orleans about 10 times before I moved here for school. After Katrina tourism greatly dropped, which was disabling the already struggling economy after this tragic disaster. The tourism economy alone lost 1.3 trillion dollars. I think its very inspiring the passion Al has to help rebuild New Orleans and its tourism. Al says that ,” he has been declined more than he has been accepted” and for the position he now holds today it really shows his determination. Not only does he have an opinion about tourism but the medical centers in New Orleans, which he believes that if they are improved the communities would improve which would boost tourism more. I believe New Orleans beauty speaks for itself but, it has needed a little help to bring in more people since the struggles this city has been through with crime, or disaster and if anyone would head the rebuilding of tourism I would want it to be Al Groos.

  • Brian

    As an HRT major and having knowledge of the major hotels in New Orleans, I was very excited when I heard that Al Groos, General Manager of the Royal Sonnesta Hotel, was coming to class. Beginning his interview he stated that he was from New York, so I was a little curious at how much he really knew about hotels and tourism in the city of New Orleans. Turns out he has a lot of experience and has worked in every position available in hotels. He opened up a restaurant then moved to New Orleans and began Food and Beverage at the Royal Sonnesta. He became the General Manager at Chateau Sonnesta then moved to Boston, Massachusetts and worked there for four years. Eventually, he was asked to come back to New Orleans. He has been at the Royal Sonnesta Hotel since 2006. The Royal Sonnesta Hotel is a $45 million annual business and it is also partnered with the 8th district police. The hotel offers great benefits to its employees and gives scholarships for college. I learned a lot about tourism in New Orleans, and hotels because of Al Groos. All French Quarter hotels supply 40% of the revenue of New Orleans. His biggest obstacle as a hotel is the political system that they are run under. He wants to rebuild tourism in New Orleans and thinks that the new medical centers are unappreciated and because of them, neighborhoods will get better and hundreds of jobs will open up. My two favorite quotes from Mr. Al Groos are “I’ve been declined more than I’ve been accepted,” and “Don’t be afraid to try something new.” He is saying that life has its ups and downs, but opportunities will arise, and also you never know what you are fully capable of so try everything you want to.

  • JenniferS

    I was very excited to hear Mr. Al Groos speak as I am currently taking an introductory hospitality course and have many friends in the Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism business. He definitely did not disappoint. Mr. Groos was a part of opening the New Orleans Royal Sonesta, which was opened after converting the DH Holmes and originally called the “Chateau Sonesta”. He later moved to manage the Sonesta property in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but was asked to return to New Orleans in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the city in August of 2005. He explained that the New Orleans Royal Sonesta sustained 6 million dollars worth of damage and lost an estimated 1.3 trillion dollars because of Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Groos told us that this hurricane presented a “challenge much larger than running a hotel” as they were faced with not only a damaged building, but a city that now likely had a tarnished image in the tourism world. While this is very upsetting, it is definitely not shocking as it is assumed that most tourists want to visit places that they view to be beautiful, safe, and entertaining. After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was likely none of those things, especially in the minds of tourists who constantly saw images of neighborhoods inundated with water, blue tarps over roofs, and looters pillaging closed stores and empty homes. Those images don’t exactly say “Visit wonderful New Orleans today!” and Mr. Groos explained that he and others in the tourism industry has to take part in not only rebuilding the city, but “rebuilding New Orleans as a tourist destination”. He talked a good bit about the recovery of the city post-Katrina and I could tell that he truly carted about rebuilding the City of new Orleans, even though he is not from here. It is very clear that he understand the importance of the hospitality and tourism industry in New Orleans and he is dedicated and focused on making this city a top tourist destination. I think that having dedicated people like Al Gross is very essential to the full recovery of out city. We need people who are willing to work as hard as they possibly can to bring New Orleans back to its former glory.

    Mr. Groos also taught me a lot about the Royal Sonesta and the hotel industry in general. He explained the basic operating divisions of a hotel and the importance of each. He also told us a lot about what he does specifically as a General Manager. I also learned that hotels supply 40% of the revenue for the City of New Orleans and that the Royal Sonesta alone makes 45 million dollars each year, making it the highest grossing Sonesta property in the United States. This is quite an accomplishment for a hotel in any city, but it is especially impressive because of the state of New Orleans as a city still in recovery. I’m very glad that we have dedicated people like Mr. Al Groos in such an important industry in New Orleans and I greatly enjoyed listening to him in class.

  • Casie

    Al Groos was born and raised in New York. Growing up his family had a restaurant and he always thought he wanted to open his own restaurant. Al graduated from Cornell University of Hotel Administration. He began in the hotel industry as a food and beverage trainee, it was then that he decided he no longer wanted to open a restaurant and that hotels were more suited for him. He moved up in the ranks of Sonesta hotels and he became the General Manager for the Chateau Sonesta in New Orleans which opened in 1994. Al moved away from New Orleans for a short stint from 1996-2000 to Boston to be Vice President and General Manager of the Royal Sonesta Hotel. In 2000, Al returned to New Orleans and the Chateau Sonesta Hotel to be the Vice President and General Manager . Six years later he moved to the Royal Sonesta to be their Vice President and General Manager. While in New Orleans and Boston Al has held and still does hold many other prestigious positions throughout the city besides the ones in the hotel. Al was the General Manager at the Chateau Sonesta in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit. He recalled weathering the storm in the hotel. The Chateau Sonesta alone incurred 6 million dollars worth of damage and lost 1.3 trillion dollars worth of business in the aftermath of the storm, which still has not ended today. In restoring the hotel, he and others in the industry are not only rebuilding themselves, but also New Orleans as a tourist destination. Al was quite passionate on bringing the New Orleans culture back after the storm. When he moved to the Royal Sonesta on Bourbon Street in 2006, he helped transform the hotel. He wanted to make the hotel a tourist destination all by itself. He changed some things in the hotel such as removing the Starbucks chain coffee house to PJ’s a local New Orleans chain. He introduced Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse, prior there was no jazz in the hotel. He has personally headed the project for the new restaurant in the hotel with Chef John Folse. All of these changes and additions were to bring all New Orleans influences into the hotel. The hotel industry in New Orleans accounts for 40% of revenue in the general fund, this comes from hotel tax. Hotels are also the largest employer in the city. The Royal Sonesta is in the heart of the French Quarter and is a very close partner with the 8th district police. When he said that during Mardi Gras the hotel blocks out space for the 8th district as their headquarters I was surprised but grateful. I spend large amounts of time in the French Quarter at my family’s business and have worked with the 8th district before. For them, having a communal place that is outside of the neighboring police station where they can meet and also eat is wonderful, because of the large amounts of reinforcements that come into the city just for Mardi Gras. I loved Al’s class. He explained the hotel industry in a different light than I had looked at before even as an HRT major. I love that he wants to fill the Royal Sonesta with the New Orleans culture. I have to agree with him there is no reason to have chain influences when there is such a rich culture present in New Orleans. I admire the hotel for appreciating their employees and trying to better their families by offering scholarships to send their kids to college. Many organizations do not try to help their employees and what better way but to reinvest some of the money the hotel makes, but in the next generation and with the people who work hard every day to make the hotel prosper. Al said “you have to understand the market you are working in” I truly believe that even though he was born in New York he has become a New Orleanean and not only come to understand the culture but enriched it. I walked away with the quote “Don’t be afraid to try!” you have to make mistakes in order to learn.

  • MayaG

    I’ve never thought much of hotels in the French Quarter other than they’re over-priced tourists traps, but it seems that I missed a lecture that may have made me reconsider that train of thought. Although I was unable to attend Mr. Groos’s lecture, I have gathered many insightful and thought-provoking phrases just from reading the other students’ posts. In order to better familiarize myself with both Al Groos and the Royal Sonesta Hotel, I watched a video online which features Mr. Groos being interviewed by Mark Murphy for a travel website. It was sort of a condensed 6 minute version of his in class lecture, as I heard many of the quotes featured in the previous posts being repeated in the video. In the video Mr. Groos explained how during the 1940s the French Quarter was a mostly industrialized area. It was not until the 1960s that the French Quarter became a more residential and touristy area. The location of The Royal Sonesta Hotel itself could not be a more perfect example, because until it opened in 1969 the building served as the Regal Beer Brewery. The interior of the hotel has since come a long way from being a brewery, as it is decorated and designed in pure New Orleans form and architecture. There are classic Bourbon Street style balconies overlooking the hotel’s patio area and the beautiful third story pool area.

  • MayaG

    One of the things that repeated both in the video I watched as well as in the class’ posts was the phrase “When you wake up in New Orleans, you know you’re here.” I can only imagine how true that reigns for guests of The Royal Sonesta because it is located directly on Bourbon Street. Many guests wake up to the smell of PJ’s local coffee from within the hotel and the sound of jazz and streetcars from outside. These are exactly the types of things that make me stray from the area, the sort of cliché-ness, but these are exactly the things that keep this city thriving according to Mr. Groos. He spoke about how many residents are “afraid to be tourists in our own city”. Many of us native New Orleanians have a high and mighty type of attitude about the French Quarter, branding it as a tourist trap. In actuality, the French Quarter is a gem not only of this city but of this entire country. Mr. Groos informed the class that 40% of the city’s revenue comes from hotels. So these “over-prices tourist traps” as many of us view them, help keep the city we were born and raised in alive. As much of an annoyance as it can be, tourism fuels this city and there is no way around that.

    What I found most amazing of everything I read from the posts and watched in the video was that Al Groos has been an employee of The Royal Sonesta since 1977. To hear how Mr. Groos started from the bottom so many years ago, and worked his way up to his current position as President and General Manager was truly admirable.

  • EmekaD

    The thing that captured me the most of the Al Gros discussion was his inspiring story. He represents the American Dream the idea of “if you want something work hard for it”. His beginnings in New Orleans by no means were stumbling blocks but rather building blocks to build him into what he is today. Each step from going to school at Cornell, to working entry- level in New Orleans, moving up East to work and eventually back to the Crescent city represents that hard work paying off. Also one of the things I like most about discussion is that he was able to work his way up the corporate ladder to eventually get to a place where he come incorporate the culture of New Orleans into his vision for the Royal Sonesta. All of this came from his experiences that groomed him into President and General Manager of the Royal Sonesta. From this lecture I was inspire to travail, and constantly work hard toward the visions and dreams I have.

  • RyanJ

    Al Groos is a native of New York City where he grew up with his family working in the restaurant business. He would later receive a degree from Cornell University in hotel administration. Mr. Groos first came to New Orleans with what he described as 3 nap sacs of possessions. He started his training at Sonesta in the Food and Beverage Division where he decided he really enjoyed the hotel business and wanted to stay in it. He later transferred to the Rooms Division where he learned all about the aspects of guest lodging. He continued his way up the corporate ladder and served as Assistant General Manager before transferring to the Chateau Sonesta, also in New Orleans. Mr. Groos would later transfer to Boston to serve as General Manager of the Royal Sonesta there.
    Al Groos returned to New Orleans in 2000 where he would hold the position of General Manger of the Chateau Sonesta hotel and later as Vice President and General Manager of the Royal Sonesta Hotel in 2006. During this time New Orleans would experience the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The Royal Sonesta sustained six million dollars in damages and Mr. Groos was challenged with getting the hotel operational. As Chairman of the Board of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, he was not only burdened with reopening his hotel but reviving the tourism business of the entire city. He said he would have to rebuild The Royal Sonesta and New Orleans’s image as a tourist destination. The storm cost the city 2.3 trillion is lost business.
    The Royal Sonesta, under his watch, became a local meeting place for rebuilding city infrastructure in these trying times. Mr. Groos and his staff feed the local 8th district police every day and provide meeting space for the force to coordinate its efforts to police the city during major events such as Mardi Gras and the many large sporting events held here. When asked about the safety of the city in light of several violent acts in New Orleans’ French Quarter he stressed the need for a large police presence sighting that there would be 800 officers in the French Quarter for the BCS National Championship. The reasoning for this is to try and uphold the reputation of New Orleans as a safe place to have such events in the future. With the amount of tax revenue and the major influx of money into the city’s businesses, the image of New Orleans as a destination city is crucial. The amount of officers in the French Quarter that weekend was later denounced by former Mayor Ray Nagin, sighting it left the rest of the city in complete chaos. This differing of opinion shows how far apart the city officials are in matters regarded the health of the tourism industry and the wellbeing of the city’s residents.
    The hotel division of New Orleans is 45 million dollar annual business. This supplies forty percent of the city’s revenue with the thirteen percent hotel tax funding infrastructure like the school board and public transportation. The Royal Sonesta alone is the largest employer in the city with three hundred employees making above 50,000 dollars annually. Overall Al Groos dedication to the city and the economic impact that his establishments and initiatives provide is a vital aspect to the revival and continued success of New Orleans.

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