Buford Highway hotels listed online as “located in Buckhead” are the latest battleground in Buckhead’s seemingly never-ending effort to brand itself as Atlanta’s most prestigious neighborhood.
Sam Massell, the former Atlanta mayor and current Buckhead Coalition president, said it’s “misleading advertising” to say hotels outside the city limits are in Buckhead. He said that’s “unfair” to guests who might “stay at a hotel thinking they’re in Buckhead and wake up the next morning and see a cow pasture instead of a skyscraper.”
One of those hotels is the Red Roof Inn PLUS+ Atlanta-Buckhead, which is actually in Brookhaven. Red Roof spokesperson Andrea Thompson said the hotel doesn’t think it’s a big deal to stick a nearby neighborhood into the lengthy name. “Our Buckhead property…wanted to provide a great economic lodging option in this market as they are no more than five miles away from the neighborhood,” she said.
The Buckhead Coalition, however, has long fought what might be called Buckhead creep—adjacent areas taking on the name associated with fine houses, wealthy residents and high-end shops.
In the 1980s and ’90s, the coalition commissioned a demographic study to draw up a map of Buckhead and got essentially officially-unofficial boundaries approved by the Georgia House of Representatives and the Atlanta Regional Commission. More recently, it even commissioned a Buckhead flag.
The lines have mostly stuck, though the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods has admitted a few outside neighborhoods into its fold.
“The brand name, of course, is very important to Buckhead,” said Massell.
Back in the era of telephone books, Massell said, “I looked up businesses that had Buckhead in the name that were nowhere near Buckhead. We wrote them all letters saying it was misleading advertising.” Some changed their names, he said.
Then there was the 1990s Olympics tourism grudge match with Buckhead, Ga., a city that is a dot on the map about 60 miles east of Atlanta on I-20. Massell said Buckhead and the city get along well now—the coalition even sent the city a Buckhead flag—though he couldn’t resist a little dig.
“They’ve got a little general store that sells fish worms and bologna sandwiches—next to each other,” he said dryly. “I don’t think you can buy gasoline out there. I think you can buy kerosene.”
The current hotel issue is focused on Expedia.com, an online booking service that labels several Buford Highway hotels as “located in Buckhead.” It’s apparently boilerplate language Expedia decided to use. The hotels have names that are long mouthfuls, citing locations like I-85 and Emory University, but in their own listings most do not claim to be in Buckhead.
The issue came up in May at a meeting of the Buckhead Hotel Council—a group of local hotel managers—where Expedia officials happened to be making a presentation. Representatives from the coalition and the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau complained of the “Buckhead” misuse, and the Expedia officials reportedly said they will take some sort of action.
“We are currently in the process of researching some of the official boundaries and are working with our geography team to make any necessary updates,” said Expedia spokesperson Rozenia Stanford.
Heather Kirksey, a spokesperson for the Convention & Visitors Bureau, said its representatives “expressed our company opinion that listing hotels, restaurants and attractions in their known geographic areas helps customers make the most informed decision about the location.”
The southern end of Buford Highway is in Buckhead, and before Brookhaven incorporated in 2012, its section was long known as “East Buckhead,” according to Terri Moss, who runs a Brookhaven boxing business called the Buckhead Fight Club. “The name Brookhaven feels more like a suburb, whereas Buckhead feels more like a trendy part of Atlanta,” she said.
Massell acknowledges there is no measurable damage done to Buckhead hotels by the loose use of the name, and he says he didn’t realize the controversial Expedia entries were all along Buford Highway. “I don’t want to paint a negative picture about Buford Highway,” he said, adding it’s all about the Buckhead brand.
“We have to be honest with ourselves—that’s an odd name, ‘Buckhead,’” he said. “We work very hard branding that word ‘Buckhead.’”