- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 11, 2004

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. (AP) — The Greenbrier had thousands fewer bookings last year than expected, prompting its president to ask employees for help in a letter in which he called 2003 “one of the worst years” in the resort’s history.

“At the end of last year, we were 14,311 guest days short of our goal,” Ted Kleisner wrote. “We can all do the math as to what that much shortfall meant in terms of money. And things continue to head in the wrong direction as we are currently 22,000 guest days short of our 2004 goal.

“To be blunt, 2003 was one of the worst years in The Greenbrier’s history, and again, there are no signs of better days on the horizon,” he wrote.

The Greenbrier once was rated a five-star resort by the Mobil Travel Guide but slipped to a four-star ranking the past four years. It is on AAA’s 2004 Five Diamond List and is one of just three lodgings that have won the award for the 28 years AAA has presented it.

Mr. Kleisner said the Mobil rating, the September 11 attacks, the energy crisis, a national recession and other factors have changed travel habits.

“Our only choice is to individually and collectively confront it. There is not currently a crisis, but we are not going to wait for a crisis, either. We want to be in front of the curve and not behind it. We will maintain our stability and will not change our level of service,” he said.

Mr. Kleisner invited the resort’s 1,900 employees to help. Departmental meetings have been held and others are scheduled to discuss what changes, if any, are appropriate.

The resort has combined front desk and concierge duties, cross-trained employees, stopped processing payroll in-house and combined telephone and television services.

“In addition to those changes, we have chosen a new marketing agency to reposition The Greenbrier,” Mr. Kleisner wrote.

The Greenbrier is owned by CSX Corp., which embarked on a major cost-cutting and streamlining effort of its own at many of its companies in November.

Mr. Kleisner said that effort did not include the Greenbrier, but CSX expects all its companies to be fiscally responsible.

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