PLATTSBURGH — A Plattsburgh State graduate has shown first-class hotel development can still be a Mickey Mouse operation.Joseph Haughney, a 1990 graduate of the school's Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management program, spent about 15 years working for the Walt Disney Co. before he left for a new job last October. That included five years as the owner's representative for hotel development at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, which opened in fall 2005.
Haughney was responsible for development of the resort's two hotels: the 400-room, five-star Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel and the 600-room, four-star Disney's Hollywood Hotel.The former features a traditional Victorian decor, while the latter has a more Disney-oriented look, Haughney said."It was very intriguing to work on two hotels that are so different."Hong Kong has long been a travel hub of Asia, within a five-hour flight of half the world's population, Haughney said.The resort was a joint venture with the government of Hong Kong, part of a government effort to make the city more of a vacation destination.
There is very little buildable land left on the island, he said, so the entire 350-acre property is reclaimed land. Ships called spewers created the land by sucking sand from the bottom of the South China Sea and spitting it back out at the desired location.In addition to sand, the spewers picked up and spit out some unexploded ordnance, Haughney said. That meant the entire buildable portion of the property had to be scanned to a depth of 10 feet."We had to move all the sand, scan it and then put it back," Haughney said.
The practice of balancing placement of elements is considered so important in the Orient that the developers hired a Feng Shui expert."Because the Feng Shui master was uncomfortable with our design, we shifted one of the buildings about three degrees," Haughney said.The company also paid $300,000 to install a water feature in front of one of the hotels to meet a remaining Feng Shui issue, he said.Haughney said his 15 years with Disney were mostly spent developing and operating hotels built to serve theme-park visitors.
Now the senior project director of operations for Baha Mar Development Co., he's working on a $2.5 billion project designed to attract guests to a 100,000-square-foot-plus Caesar's Palace casino. He said it will be the largest casino in the Bahamas.Development includes four hotels: the 1,000-room Caesars Palace Hotel at Baha Mar, the 700-room Westin Baha Mar, the 300-room W Baha Mar and the 200-room St. Regis Baha Mar.Two hotels already exist, which will give the resort about 3,000 rooms.The resort's initial phase will also include an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, 200,000 square feet of meeting space, 3,000 feet of continuous beachfront and a 50,000-square-foot retail village with upscale shopping, restaurants and entertainment venues. It is scheduled to open early in 2011."The casino resort is on the most pristine bay I have ever seen," he said. "We hope to start construction this summer."Haughney is the first graduate of the school's Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management program to return to campus as part of the Distinguished Visiting Alumni Program, which started in 1989."I was one of the early graduates of the Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management program," he said. "I'm a huge advocate of the program."