Maximum comfort and convenience awaits at the Courtyard Denver Airport at Gateway Park. Request our complimentary shuttle service to and from Denver International Airport (DIA), located less than 12 miles away from our hotel. Rest comfortably in our stylish guest rooms and suites featuring luxurious bedding and flat-panel TVs, then get to work with well-lit desks, ergonomic chairs and complimentary Wi-Fi. During your stay, refuel at The Bistro – Eat. Drink. Connect. Enjoy breakfast and dinner, as well as specialty Starbucks beverages and custom evening cocktails. Our 24-hour Market also offers snacks and beverages for anytime cravings.
Courtyard by Marriott Denver Airport at Gateway Park
4343 Airport Way
Denver, CO 80239
Hotel Phone: 303-574-1212
Hotel Fax: 303-574-1213
Originally appeared in Hotel News Resource in June, 2018
Courtyard by Marriott Denver Airport at Gateway Park is scheduled to open its doors on Tuesday, June 19, 2018. Featuring an innovative lobby space as well as Courtyard’s latest contemporary room design, the new hotel provides flexibility and choices that allow guests to optimize and elevate their travel experience.
Located at 4343 Airport Way, the 192-room hotel will operate as a Marriott franchise, owned and managed by Stonebridge Companies of Denver, Colorado. Whether traveling for business or pleasure, the Courtyard Denver Airport at Gateway Park offers guests convenient access to Denver International Airport and downtown Denver. Rates begin at $159 per night.
Courtyard constantly researches trends, evolving to meet the changing needs of its guests. The latest room design offers hybrid zones for working, sleeping, relaxing and getting ready for a meeting or a social event. Indirect lighting and a neutral, tone-on-tone color palette makes for a soothing and calm environment.
“From day one, Courtyard has prided itself as a brand that listens to business travelers,” said Callette Nielsen, vice president and global brand manager, Courtyard. “Today’s technology has changed how people travel. Our guests want a room that has purpose and flexibility that enables a seamless transition between relaxing and working. Courtyard is designed to offer them a relaxing and functional space to work the way they want to, when they want to.”
“We are pleased to own and manage Courtyard by Marriott Denver Airport at Gateway Park,” said Navin C. Dimond, founder, president and CEO of Stonebridge Companies. “We have a strong relationship with Marriott and our Denver community, so we know that this hotel will stay true to our Distinguished Hospitality™ brand as we continue to provide modern comfort and convenience to our guests.”
The new room layout is intuitive and thoughtful, offering flexible yet comfortable spaces that enable technology. Upon arrival, guests can store bags on the “Luggage Drop” and plug personal devices into the “Tech Drop” ledge for seamless technology integration.
Signature furniture and architectural elements replace traditional art in the new guestroom. The “LoungeAround” sofa offers a pop of color and a comfortable area for relaxing or for working. The new design also features a light desk on wheels, allowing guests to work from anywhere in the room.
Courtyard Denver Airport at Gateway Park features the brand’s latest lobby design, where guests can enjoy an open and modern environment outside of their rooms. The newly designed Bistro is the epicenter of the lobby, which fosters social connections and collaboration with more flexible and informal seating options. The Bistro offers guests a wide variety of “made to order” breakfast and dinner items, “grab and go” options, and also features an array of cocktails, beer and wine for guests to unwind at the end of the day.
Throughout the hotel, guests can connect with ample electrical outlets. The business library features several computer terminals, along with a printer and separate computer stations dedicated solely to printing airline boarding passes and checking flight status.
Green has been Courtyard’s signature color since Marriott launched the brand 30 years ago. Now it is even greener with the introduction of a guest recycling program for the environment. Receptacles for paper, glass, plastic and metal are conveniently located by side exits.
The six-story hotel features a fitness center and guest laundry, and offers 1,500 square feet of meeting space to accommodate functions of up to 50 people.
Originally appeared in Money Inc. in June, 2018
4. Residence Inn by Marriott New York Manhattan/Midtown East
Midtown is one of our favorite locations to stay whenever we’re in the city. The area is right at the center of everything the city has to offer, and this hotel is right at the heart of it all. At this location, you’ll be close to several tourist destinations and the best spots to eat in the area. You’ll be blocks away from the Rockefeller Center, which we suggest you visit during the Holiday season for the most amazing experience.
By: Nat Berman
Originally appeared in Hotel Business in June, 2018
When done right, technology can be a great way for owners, operators and brands to make their guests’ stays the best they can be. But there are many pitfalls that can keep that technology from being flawless, frictionless and seamless.
Held at RLH Corporation headquarters, the Hotel Business Executive Roundtable “Tech Legacy: How new innovations are shaping modern brands” allowed 12 industry executives to share their varying opinions on the topic. The roundtable was hosted and sponsored by RLH Corp. with supporting sponsorship by Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Real Estate and Hospitality Services.
Nicole Carlino, Hotel Business’ managing editor and moderator of the roundtable, opened the session by posing the question, “What role does technology play in what an owner wants to see in a brand they are going to invest in?”
“Today, hotels are not just focused on design, they are focused on the program, and that has become an important differentiator in the industry, so the technology has to support that,” said Paul Sacco, chief development officer of upscale brands with RLH. “It is not just about the room, it is about a terrific common-space experience, and that common space has to allow guests, who are increasingly accustomed to using newer technologies, to enjoy the space, whether it is mobile check-in or, like in our Hotel RLs, an iPad check-in. The new hotel program has to be conducive to those technologies.”
Steve Van, president/CEO of Prism Hotels & Resorts, said that most operators, owners and developers are looking for a competitive advantage. “Most technological breakthroughs end up being a defensive policy. You just have them because everyone else does,” he said. “What is interesting is using technology differently to get guests in hotels. That would be a competitive advantage that is harder to reproduce than just, ‘We’re gonna have iPhone check-in, too.’ Once something happens in the business, everybody has got it and they go by the wayside. What you are really looking for is not even a breakthrough technology, but something that is used in a different way.”
Finding that technological breakthrough is getting harder and harder as technology is making leaps and bounds, especially at guests’ homes. “Basically, it used to be that when you stayed at hotels, you saw new things in technology and you wanted to bring them home,” said Walter Barela, principal with Peak Hospitality LLC. “Now, I think it has gotten to the point where we have so much technology in our homes, we tend to expect and want it in a hotel.”
Most participants agreed that most importantly—just like at home—guests want seamless connectivity. “Our research shows that there are four key components with the guest,” said Joseph Bojanowski, president of PM Hotel Group. “The first is that they be connected to their family and their home when they arrive at the hotel. We need a really good phone signal. I want to call my family. I want to let them know that I am there and I want a really good connection on the internet. Second, I want to be connected to work if I am there for business, so give me an easy way to get on, and don’t make it difficult for me to figure out how… The third is connected to the hotel—I want to know what is going on there. I want to be able to see some menus, I want the hours of operation of the fitness center or pool. The fourth is around the trend of everyone wanting to have an experiential component; let me know what is going on somehow so I can make some decisions. It is our responsibility to figure out how to deliver that to them in a seamless, uncomplicated way.”
Blake Hart, e-commerce manager with Kokua Hospitality, agreed that seamless connectivity is extremely important. “We have seen at many of our hotels where guests just want seamless connectivity,” he said. “They can sign in simply and not have to download an app that makes them feel like they are providing their personal information to the hotel.”
It is important that the connectivity can meet every guests’ needs, no matter the generation.
“You have to have a technology that is easy enough to use for grandma and grandpa, plus flexible enough for my kids and everyone in between,” said Brian Fry, president of Commonwealth Hotels LLC. “One thing where we get ourselves into trouble with brands sometimes is that the desire is to funnel all of the guests through one platform, through one program for the brand’s purposes, rather than accept the fact that the guests want to interact with technology on their own terms. Finding a way to do that better is a real opportunity.”
As the only broker on the panel, Mike Cahill, CEO/founder of HREC, had a question of his own for the rest of the panel. “Technology—is that considered primarily the responsibility of the brand versus the operator? What does the operator do to advance technology, or is everyone just relying on the brand, and the operator follows the brand?”
There was no simple answer to the question. “We try to be proactive about it as an operator, but that is a terrible challenge when you have cross-branded properties, because you’ll put into play some technology that works,” said Fry. “We had some texting programs that were quite early on and were working very well. Then the brands jumped on and decided they wanted a certain platform and before you know it, you have to reinvest in a different platform; now I have three different platforms that I have to use for three different brand families when they are all trying to have a strategic advantage over the other ones, so you can’t use a common platform across. It is really challenging. We are very discouraged to take those kinds of investments because we feel like whatever we are going to invest in is at the mercy of brand decisions that we don’t have a lot of control over.”
When it comes to infrastructure, John Edwards, SVP/chief information officer with RLH Corp., thinks that newer brands have advantages over the legacy brands because they don’t have the same requirements for operators. “Here is a scenario: Some of the more established brands, you talk about mobile check-in and you talk about infrastructure—when you look at door-lock manufacturers as an example, there is one solution for mobile check-in within certain brands. One of the things that we have really focused on is how do we adapt to the hardware that is at the hotels to allow it to work for mobile check-in? So we have two mobile vendors for door locks, and we are working on a third. What it does is it lets the newer brands start to move within the operators’ space a little faster because when you look at some of the newer brands, they don’t say you have to have this TV and this door lock manufacturer and this WiFi solution. Instead, some of the newer up-and-coming brands are saying, ‘Look, here are our standards, and as long as you meet those standards and play within our rules, you can go crazy with one direction for technology, and a different operator can go crazy with another one—as long as there is an overall guest experience that is branded and consistent.’”
Sacco brought up the fact that it is important for operators to plan for the future of technology. “Being out ahead of technology is hard,” he said. “Think of something as simple as the alarm clocks that are still set up for the original Apple connectivity, but they are still in so many of these hotels. How many pieces of fitness equipment, whether it is in a hotel or a gym, have that? The fitness equipment has a 10-year life, but the adapter has a two-year life.”
“I think a lot has to do with the fact that so much of it is reactionary,” said Phillip Hutchins, principal of Rockies Lodging Capital LLC. “All of a sudden it is ‘Well, we’ve got to get that plug on that clock or that treadmill.’ But nobody thinks, ‘Why don’t we make something that is more adaptable? What happens if that plug changes in five years? Then we should just put the USB port in.’ From my perspective, that is the biggest thing.”
Carlino then asked how hoteliers are able to mitigate the potential challenges of investing in something, and then in three years it becomes obsolete.
“At least for the infrastructure, I don’t know that we can avoid it because the number of devices is rising exponentially, the bandwidth requirements are going up as exponentially, the cost is going down, but that doesn’t help because you are replacing things that you thought had a useful life of five years and it turned out to be three years,” said Fry, noting that hoteliers need to adjust their perspective. “For us, we are recognizing it as an investment—you have to reserve for it and keep it in your strategy when you are investing that that is the cost, and you are just going to have to recognize it is there.”
Bojanowski added, “It is either an operating cost or a capital investment, and if you are not planning for it, shame on you, because it is a known cost and if anyone thinks technology is not changing, and it is not going to be a cost of the owner and operator, then they have probably made a mistake,” he said.
Preparing for future technology also means preparing for a new type of guest. “I think when you start looking outside, you have to start looking worldwide, especially with the growth of the Chinese tourist,” said Michael Blake, CEO of Hospitality Technology Next Generation (HTNG). “What are they using? That is going to be more prevalent as we start seeing them in a lot of hotels. It is not just seeing what we are all comfortable with, it is going to be what the world is comfortable with.”
Some of the panelists discussed the types of technologies that might work well in the guestroom.
“I think what would be helpful in the room would be Alexa or Google Assistant because I don’t have to turn my light on to look at the phone to see push talk for the front desk to ask for a late checkout,” said Barela. “I can just say ‘Alexa, call the front desk for a late checkout.’”
Others brought up the privacy concerns with using that type of technology. “We just have to get the consumer technology to an enterprise class, to where it is not always listening,” said Edwards. “I think what is a great example is the Google Home that is embedded in the LG TVs now. Some of the new TV solutions in the hotels allow for consumer-grade TVs. We have had to have educational sessions with some of our owners and operators and say, ‘This TV is always listening.’ Depending on the wiretapping laws where your hotel is, all of a sudden, you are at a major risk.”
The television may become the focal point of connectivity for guests in the next 10 years. “So whether that is ordering food or requesting something to your room or even connecting to find out what is happening in the neighborhood, I think that becomes a connection point for everything when you start moving into areas like convergence, whether it be check-in, checkout, whatever it is you want to view, a maintenance order, Grubhub. Now maybe I have that account right on my TV, and you can just order it right from your room,” said Bojanowski.
With all of these technological advances, there is a concern that there may be a loss of guest touchpoints and human interaction. “When there is overreach with technological advancement, it becomes gimmicky or gadgetry just for the sake of trying to differentiate,” said Chris Cheney, VP of hotel performance and analytics with Stonebridge Companies. “I think the root cause of that is the entire guest experience is becoming digital—the booking process, the check-in process without a front desk, getting into the room, checking out without seeing a person. I think brands and operators at large are concerned that we are losing guest touchpoints, human interaction and a place to differentiate with our service.
“There is still so much waiting in the industry on service for us,” he continued. “Are we connecting with guests? Are we delivering what they want? Are we delivering it better than our peers do? So as you are losing human interaction guest touchpoints, brands are trying to desperately replace that with technology touchpoints, and the technology is just not there to really differentiate if you don’t execute it perfectly.”
Too much technology can also be a bad thing. “I think there is a tendency on a large scale to overreach with things like the curtains and lighting on an iPad control,” said Cheney. “Not everyone wants that or needs it; they are just trying to create something to differentiate, but pretty soon, everybody does it, so you are not differentiating any more.”
Barela agreed. “You don’t want intrusive technology,” he said. “I appreciate a text telling me my reservation, check-in time and address of the hotel because it makes it really easy to just click on the address and get directions. What I hate is after I stay at the hotel, the constant texts where you have to block the number. The other thing is, don’t make me download an app for everything. Every time you go to a conference, you have to download their app so you can get around the conference. My phone is full of apps, so when a hotel wants me to download an app, it is an inconvenience.”
When technology doesn’t work flawlessly, it can be worse than not offering the technology at all. “Technology needs to serve a purpose and if it doesn’t serve a purpose, then it is apparently intended for a point of differentiation,” said Bill Linehan, EVP/chief marketing officer with RLH. “If that point of differentiation is not flawless, then it is not working and it is creating more friction. When it serves a purpose, such as keyless entry, it should also not only serve a purpose, but create efficiencies, so that there are savings in other areas… It is about creating options, and when it is creating gimmicks, I think it is incredibly risky because gimmicks are costly, and if they don’t work, then it is even more costly because now, all of a sudden, you’ve got consumers complaining about it.”
Beyond guest-facing technology, back-of-the-house innovations were also discussed, especially related to the labor shortage. “I don’t think that anyone here has enough associates today, particularly in the housekeeping department, and I don’t know any of our housekeepers today who are working that hard to put their children through school so that they can become housekeepers,” said Bojanowski. “Immigration levels are down significantly. I don’t think we are going to have a choice but to move to automation in housekeeping, because there just aren’t going to be enough. So whatever functions can be automated—maybe the housekeeper is just a bedmaker and you put the robot in the bathroom to clean it and vacuum [the room]. And maybe we can pay more, and it is a much better job. But I don’t think we are going to have enough employees to run housekeeping in our hotels five years from now, and certainly not 10 years from now.”
And, of course, with technology, it all comes down to data. Edwards noted, “From the back-of-house technology side of things, the newer brands and even the legacy brands have got to adopt a more open architecture for connectivity. For a long time, the brand maintained and controlled system data. I think a lot of the core enterprise solutions are forcing some of the brands to change that. The newer brands that adopt this open architecture or standards-based solutions right from HTNG or HFTP, that allow the owner and operator to be more efficient by saying, ‘Here is the data you need to be able to run your hotel’—that’s huge.”
Fry noted that there are still many brands that do the exact opposite. “They intercede between the owner and the operator and their data to the point where they went on your URLs and you can’t control your message to your guests,” he said. “It feels like a solution based on liability concern, rather than on innovation and embracing the guests.”
“It is a joint issue,” Edwards added. “The legacy concept that the brand owns the data and the brand owns the risk and the brand maintains all of that, while it is valid to some extent, the reality now is that the owner and operator owns just as much of that data and just as much of that risk to some extent.”
By: Greg Wallis
Originally appeared in Wicked Local Watertown in June, 2018
No one is more surprised about Emily Mandeville’s career than she is.
Working in hospitality was a given, but hotels? That was unexpected, she said.
Today she is sales manager for the150-room Residence Inn by Marriott, located at 570 Arsenal Street in Watertown.
“Hotels—I never pictured myself [working] in them, but I always pictured myself in hospitality,” she said. “I love working with people I love working with different personalities and learning [about] different people.”
“I look at everything with a different perspective, which kind of helps our team,” she added.
Her job is to let people know what the hotel can offer them. There are many things to say, Mandeville said.
“Residence Inn is a nice brand because it’s so inclusive,” she said. “We have complimentary parking; complimentary breakfast and we also do have a shuttle that takes people into Harvard Square. We’re next to Target, which is oddly [one of] the biggest selling points.”
She has been in her current role since 2016.
Cakes, concierge and connection
A Marshfield native, Mandeville knew hospitality would be her focus, ever since she was a cake decorator in high school. She loved the organic interactions with customers and the ability to help them with whatever milestone they were celebrating.
She worked at a catering company for roughly a decade, first while attending high school and then while at Southern New Hampshire University. She graduated in 2013.
“It just fell into place,” she said. “I applied to so many places near and far. I just could picture myself there and I loved it.”
After graduation, she worked for Eservus Online Concierge Services as a corporate concierge. The role gave her another perspective on hospitality.
“I’m fortunate—I’ve gone to school for the industry I want to work in, and now I’m still in the industry that I went to school for,” Mandeville said.
Getting to know Watertown
She worked as a marketing coordinator for The Wilder Companies, developer for the Arsenal Yards project for a year.
“I’m fortunate to have really good mentors,” Mandeville said. “Sometimes working with small companies and also me going to a small school there’s so many more resources and more contact points to work off of.”
The knowledge of the changes coming at Arsenal Yards has been helpful in making sales in her role now, she says.
“When I worked at the mall and here I actually realized how close this community is,” Mandeville said. “Watertown is so historical. Whether you come here frequently or this is your first time, people want to know [about it].
“It’s such a competitive market. And that’s what I’m learning: it’s such a numbers industry,” she added.
Her goal: Rise to the top
Right now, Mandeville focuses her efforts on the social side of booking events for a range of categories which include military, educational, religious and fraternal events. The hotel has an 850-square-foot meeting space for these get-togethers which range anywhere from a family reunion to a sports gathering.
Mandeville was recently accepted into the Stonebridge Companies’ Aspiring Leaders Program for managers. The program is based out of Colorado and brings together young leaders to help them learn the skills needed to advance in management. She has her mind set on becoming a director of sales one day.
“That’s really the goal; that’s the path they’re helping me with,” she said. “To know that you’re working with a company that also sees the success in you makes you feel good.”
Watertown is changing fast right across from the hotel. Mandeville is excited to see how her business and her career will grow in time along with the town.
“I’m just really fortunate and happy that all of this fell into my lap and that I’m able to work in such a close community,” she said. “Especially with so much coming into Watertown I’m excited for that to happen as well.”
By: Kerry Feltner
Originally appeared in Hotel Online in June, 2018
The Jacquard Hotel & Rooftop, opening Summer 2018, today announces the appointment of seasoned hospitality veteran Ann Sutherland Lynch as director of sales and marketing. In her new position, Lynch will utilize her deep experience in hospitality sales and marketing to lead her team at the new Autograph Collection hotel owned and operated by Denver-based Stonebridge Companies.
Lynch, who holds a Masters Certificate in Hospitality Management from Cornell University, began her career in sales and marketing in Colorado. She was most recently the corporate director of sales and marketing at Timbers Resorts, known for its collection of boutique hotels and private, luxury residence clubs worldwide. In this role, Lynch provided strategic and tactical hospitality sales and marketing leadership to more than a dozen properties. Prior to that, Lynch served as the director of sales and marketing at The Sebastian – Vail, a Timbers Resort in Vail, Colorado, where she focused on opening and positioning the resort through carefully planned sales tactics and integrated marketing efforts.
“I am confident my skillset and nearly three decades of sales and marketing experience will help the property not only reach, but exceed, its goals,” said Lynch. “I am excited to be a part of this new property and look forward to showcasing The Jacquard as a sophisticated and vibrant host for locals and travelers.”
Prior to working with Timbers Resorts, Lynch held marketing and sales positions with Gold Key Resorts & Professional Hospitality Resources, one of the fastest growing and most respected hospitality companies in the mid-Atlantic, as well as Destination Hotels & Resorts, a collection of resorts and hotels that span the nation. Lynch began her career in hospitality in 1990 with Vail Resorts and also holds a B.S. in exercise physiology from the University of Colorado Boulder.
“We are elated to have Annie join The Jacquard in such an integral role,” said Anne Frye, regional director of sales and marketing for Stonebridge Companies. “Annie comes with an immense knowledge of the hospitality industry and will be an invaluable addition to our team.”
Located in the heart of Denver’s iconic Cherry Creek neighborhood, synonymous with fashion, business, dining and art, The Jacquard will deliver upon its brand promise of Haute Happiness, delighting each guest with tailor-made experiences, spirited celebration and service delivered with style. The hotel’s key features include it’s 75-foot pool and adjacent rooftop bar with sweeping 180 degree views of the Rocky Mountains and downtown Denver as well as 6,900 square feet of light-filled meeting space featuring 15-foot floor-to-ceiling windows. For more information on The Jacquard, visit TheJacquard.com, call (303) 515-2000, or follow @TheJacquard on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Originally appeared in MSU Insider in May, 2018
When Navin Dimond, founder and CEO of Stonebridge Cos., started a paid internship program for hospitality students at Metropolitan State University of Denver, it wasn’t because he attended the University. It was because he saw a lot of students who looked like him.
“This institution serves a lot of first-generation students, who are less likely to go to college, let alone finish college. It resonated with me, because that was me,” he said.
The Rita and Navin Dimond Fellows Program places MSU Denver students in Stonebridge Cos. hotels for a high-level training experience tailored to the interests of each student, many of whom receive employment opportunities after the fellowship.
“We can play more of a role than giving money. We can provide a deeper experience for the students through paid internships and potential future employment opportunities,” Dimond said.
Since the Dimonds established the fellowship in 2014 through a generous gift to MSU Denver’s Hospitality, Tourism and Events Department, 32 Roadrunners have earned invaluable industry experience at Stonebridge’s properties, and many have gone on to work for the company.
Risa Herrema, group sales manager at Stonebridge’s Hilton Garden Inn Denver Downtown, landed a position at the company right after completing the fellowship and was promoted within a year. She credits MSU Denver for helping find and develop career opportunities for students.
“MSU Denver really invests in students to help them throughout school and then after graduation to help place them in a good job,” she said.
Joe Boss, director of food and beverage at Stonebridge’s Hilton Garden Inn Denver/Cherry Creek, intended to take only core classes at MSU Denver, but once the Hospitality Learning Center opened, it drew him in.
“MSU Denver works really hard to get you ready for the outside world. It’s a great hospitality program,” Boss said. “The Dimond Fellowship really gives you hands-on experience, and from that I got a job offer to come work for Stonebridge Cos.”
Jazmaray Martinez was recently named the Elite Fellow of the spring 2018 class, which includes Sara Martin and Berkeley “Dawn” Everett.
Like Dimond, Martinez is a first-generation college student who worked hard to get where she is today. She worked at the Dazbog coffee shop on the Auraria Campus for a year before enrolling at MSU Denver. She credits her family values for her interest in hospitality and her drive to get a degree.
“I will be the first grandkid to graduate college out of about 26 grandchildren. I’m not the oldest – my other cousins took a different route from me – but I think I’m making my family proud, for sure,” said Martinez, an events and meeting management major with hotel management minor, planning to graduate in December.
Martinez also works as an event programmer for the Office of Student Activities and was awarded the Karen Raforth Scholarship, given to an outstanding student employee who works within Student Engagement and Wellness at MSU Denver. She hopes to continue working part-time at a Stonebridge hotel until she finishes school.
After Martinez won the Elite Fellow Award, she was promised a small dinner with the Dimonds and other Stonebridge Cos. staff. When she showed up at the venue, several members of her family were there to surprise her.
“There were about 70 people from Stonebridge, plus they gave my family a 10-person limit. … That’s almost impossible, but they did pretty good,” said Martinez, who congregates with her 24 cousins almost every Sunday at her grandmother’s house in Five Points. “My grandma didn’t get to attend my high school graduation because she was working, so this was like that ‘wow’ moment to see that her granddaughter is doing well.”
For Navin and Rita Dimond, it’s obvious that moments like these are why they created and are actively engaged in the fellowship program.
“It’s about you, the student. It’s not about us,” Dimond said.
By: Matt Watson
Photos by: Alyson McClaran
Originally appeared in Hotel News Now in May, 2018
Guest complaints are inevitable. And while experts agree complaints don’t turn into problems unless they aren’t resolved, the path to recovery starts with management’s ability to empower employees.
“Engagement hinges on first setting the expectation that every member of the team is capable and has the ability to serve our guests,” said Chris Manley, COO for Stonebridge Companies. “Our duty is to instill a sense of ownership by the teams in their critical role in guest satisfaction.”
That’s why the company includes empowerment as one of the four pillars of its mission statement. Every team member is permitted to resolve guest complaints regardless of where the issue occurred during the stay, Manley said.
“This shows we appreciate all feedback and that each and every member of the team is adept at addressing (guest) concerns and resolving the problem in the moment,” he said.
Teri Xavier, VP of people and culture at Kokua Hospitality, said giving employees the ability to remedy a complaint is critical to guest satisfaction.
“Most travelers today when they go to the front desk, they are probably expecting to have to tell their story more than once. That can be frustrating for a traveler,” she said.
By allowing front-line employees to resolve guest complaints without calling in management, issues can be solved faster, she said. The quicker a guest is made happy, the better for the overall service recovery.
“It not only lends credibility to the position as a guest service agent; in the end, it alleviates some stress or concerns from the guest,” Xavier said.
Garry Cox, Area GM of The Axiom Hotel, Napa Winery Inn, and Carmel Mission Inn, said there are two types of guests: walkers and talkers.
“The majority of people out there are walkers and don’t want to make a big deal and complain. They are the most hurtful to business because they won’t say anything to us, but they will tell their friends when they get home,” he said.
The “talkers” might be unpleasant to deal with, but Cox said they are the most beneficial to business because they give hoteliers an opportunity to fix any issues. But, those talkers could become walkers if employees aren’t allowed to handle their concerns, he said.
“They might complain to the desk clerk and if the clerk says, ‘Let me go get my manager,’ then they might say, ‘Don’t bother,’” Cox said.
Proper training is the first line of defense and the tool that can build employees’ confidence—especially when every situation will differ, sources said.
First, Cox said it’s important to drive home to employees the idea that guest complaints aren’t personal, which can be difficult to remember when faced with an irate guest. Role-playing scenarios can help employees build confidence when they then face those real-life situations, he said.
“We teach them how to receive guest complaints, and we teach them how to listen,” Cox said. “Listening can be hard to do when someone is telling you something negative; it’s human nature to interrupt. Most times when guests are upset, if you just listen, they will talk themselves off a ledge.”
Xavier agreed that listening is key to successfully handling a guest complaint. At Kokua, employees are trained to give guests time to talk uninterrupted until they feel the guest is ready to be asked questions or to clarify.
“The second part of that is that clarification. When a guest is complaining about something, you need to fully understand it,” she said.
Beyond that, employees are trained to remain empathetic and apologize, she added. It might not be the employee’s fault the internet doesn’t work, but he or she is the one hearing the complaint—and that’s all the guest cares about.
“And sometimes the answer is obvious as to how it can be corrected. If the internet was spotty, simply take the charge off the bill,” she said.
Then, employees are trained to thank the guest for bringing the issue to their attention and let the guest know how they will follow up internally so that it doesn’t happen again.
Going above and beyond—a little too much?
Training employees to handle complaints that are easily remedied is one thing. Empowering employees to handle the really tough situations is another challenge. And what should management do if employees go a little too above and beyond?
Manley said Stonebridge doesn’t have standard operating procedures for service recovery because it must always be tailored to the guest and the situation. That means sometimes employees might offer high-value solutions to guest complaints.
“Strong leaders develop a culture of hospitality within our properties. They must instill the confidence in each team member’s ability to solve complex problems in creative ways,” he said. “We would never chastise anyone who goes above and beyond to do so, but thank them for exceeding our guest’s expectations.”
In the event that a situation could have been handled in another way, management would have a respectful conversation with the employee and discuss suggestions to resolve the same type of issue in the future.
Cox agreed that ongoing support is crucial to employee empowerment—and ultimately guest satisfaction.
“We empower all team members to do what they need to do. When an employee does something they felt was right, I never tell them it was the wrong thing to do. I wasn’t there to deal with it, so I need to support them,” he said.
For example, if an employee offers two complimentary nights as a remedy for a situation that perhaps called for a free breakfast, sources said management can’t just take it back. Guests don’t care about an operator’s standard operating procedure for service recovery; they only care about the solution to their problem. If management doesn’t honor the employee’s solution, that guest will become an enemy.
“Even if they are a guest once a year, look at what you lost,” Cox said. “You always have to make it right with the guest so that they feel valued.”
On the other hand, Xavier said management can’t take back employees’ empowerment either. It’s just as detrimental to break an employee’s trust as it is to break a guest’s trust.
“The employee was in the situation and did the best they could given the circumstances. Maybe they were on the late night or graveyard shift and no manager was around,” she said. “Support the employee. Talk about what went right, what went wrong and how to help alleviate the situation the next time around.”
By: Alicia Hoisington
Originally appeared in Hotel Management in April, 2018
There’s no denying it—holidays are important in the hospitality industry. It has become industry standard to celebrate the major holidays by helping to spread some cheer for guests who can’t be at home. But what about the hundreds of holidays every year that are hardly recognized? Now, that’s a gold mine of opportunity for keeping our guests and team members engaged year round.
For our hotel—the Hilton Garden Inn Cherry Creek in Denver—we started a tradition of celebrating the nontraditional holidays after seeing the effects of the post-holiday blues written on the faces of guests and team members. It’s predictable. We can see it every January as we watch guests come in and out of the hotel.
The first “holiday” we found worthy of celebration was National Rubber Ducky Day. For a full week in January, we set up a series of events for our guests. We ordered hundreds of rubber ducks. Some were dressed in costume, some of them were different colors. We loved the assortment.
Next, we put messages on the bottom of the ducks—a free appetizer at the bar, a bottle of wine sent to the room, free Hilton Honors points—and we place the ducks around the hotel in hiding spots. This can be anything from a duck “exercising” on a treadmill to a duck wearing a robe while lounging in the spa room. Guests are encouraged to find the ducks throughout the week in order to claim their free gifts.
It’s a win-win for all involved. Our team members enjoy scouting the hiding spots and coming up with creative ways of displaying the ducks, while the guests enjoy finding them and receiving prizes. We even include baskets decked out with rubber ducks to our most loyal guests.
On Jan. 13, the actual National Rubber Ducky Day, we have a “Floating of the Ducks,” during which we invite guests to the pool area to watch as we “release” the hundreds of ducks into the pool, where they remain for the rest of the week. We’ve found that the kids really enjoy playing with the ducks… and it brings a smile to our faces, too.
At first, the team was skeptical that the guests would engage. In fact, it has been such a hit that we’ve seen improvement in our guest survey scores around the dates of these “wacky” holidays that we celebrate. After beginning our Rubber Ducky Day celebration in 2015, we saw our overall service scores increase by more than 17 percent the following month.
What spawned from this celebration has been a series of fun events arranged by our hotel in order to keep our guests smiling and coming back. We’ve since expanded the “wacky” holidays that we celebrate.
For example, we celebrate National Gumdrop Day in February, which focuses on engaging with our team members. We came up with this event idea after celebrating a similar event around Christmas, during which we have each of the departments at the hotel (i.e., sales, housekeeping, management) make gingerbread houses, and the most creative wins a prize.
With this in mind, on National Gumdrop Day we buy hundreds of gumdrops and host a competition among the teams at our hotel. We tell them to come up with the most creative design they can think of, made entirely out of gumdrops. Once the teams are finished, we put their designs out in the lobby and ask our guests to vote for the one they find the most creative. It always gets a laugh.
Another popular holiday we’ve initiated is National Doughnut Day in June. We celebrate with a wall of doughnuts… literally. We use glazed and chocolate doughnuts, and put them on a wall. Nearby, we display a table of condiments to encourage guests to decorate their own doughnut. We put out everything we can think of—cereal toppings, sprinkles, gummy worms—you name it.
Every year, we continue to add to the roster of holidays we celebrate. Whether tied to local happenings, like “Orange Crush” day for the Denver Broncos, where we give each guest a plastic football and a can of Orange Crush soda; “Monkey Around” Day, when our housekeeping team members make monkey figures out of towels and place them around guestrooms; or a more serious community engagement like our Wounded Warrior Project bake sale, we are constantly brainstorming unique ways to involve our guests.
Stonebridge Companies, the developer, owner and operator of our hotel, chooses a charity every year for the company to support. Last year, it was Wounded Warrior Project that spawned the aforementioned bake sale. For 2018, the property leaders chose the American Cancer Society. We seek to balance the fun and lighthearted celebrations with efforts that also focus on giving back and engaging the community.
At the end of the day, if we can get a smile—from guest or team member—then I feel confident we are sustaining the distinguished hospitality that each of the Stonebridge hotels strives to provide for guests and team members.
We have fun brainstorming the events, and our guests have fun as they participate. Who knows what we will think of next? The wackier the better, our mantra stands.
Eric Hautzenrader, is a GM at ownership, management and hospitality company Stonebridge Companies. Hautzenrader is in charge of the Hilton Garden Inn Cherry Creek in Denver.
By: Eric Hautzenrader, General Manager, Hilton Garden Inn Denver Cherry Creek, Stonebridge Companies
Originally appeared in Lodging Magazine in March, 2018
In today’s business environment, there’s no denying the power of social media. More than 2 billion people are active on social media and the number increases daily. Hoteliers should no longer view a social media presence as optional, but rather focus on utilizing the various platforms to enhance the experience for guests and value for hotels.
When establishing a social media plan, it is important to adhere to both the guidelines of the hotel brands with which one works and also incorporate one’s own brand and ideas. Most hotels are dependent on word of mouth and positive reviews from loyal guests, which is what makes social media a natural marketing and branding tool.
Below are four lessons to consider when navigating social media in order to market individual hotels as well as a hospitality company.
1. Respond, Respond, Respond
When a hospitality firm’s properties fall under different brands, the company is expected to adhere to each specific brand’s social media requirements. Some brands prefer Twitter and ask to post five times weekly, while others leave the decision about frequency and usage to the owner.
At all times, hoteliers are expected to respond and serve as communicators for the brands, which means attending to every review that comes in, taking on the responsibility of directing guests to correct sources, and serving past and potential customers.
It is essential in hospitality to respond to messages within a certain time frame–usually, within the first few hours. Communication in this format should be viewed in the same way one would treat a guest standing at the front desk.
2. Treat TripAdvisor Like Any Other Social Media Platform
TripAdvisor should be included in any hospitality social media plan. As hoteliers know, it is a huge source of information to potential guests. TripAdvisor ranks hotels based on three factors: recently posted reviews, quantity of reviews, and quality of reviews. Trends report that people are more apt to post about a negative experience than a positive one. However, hotels can implement systems to help improve the frequency of guest feedback. For example, staff can hand out Google and TripAdvisor review cards to guests to increase the likelihood of on-the-spot posts.
Overall, it is essential that all general managers are aware of any and all reviews–especially the less favorable ones. This can be one of the most useful tools for improving service.
3. Improve Guest Engagement Through Campaigns
Campaigns can be an effective tool for encouraging Facebook “likes” on a page. Simply running a month-long competition offering a chance for bonus hotel points can greatly enhance the page’s social media presence. Points are coveted by guests and are an inexpensive incentive for hotels to purchase.
Holidays provide another opportunity to launch a social media campaign. Many hotel restaurants already plan Thanksgiving buffets. Why not promote the event on social media? Hotels may be surprised by the interest from those seeking to spend the holiday out of their homes. This is an opportunity to reach an audience beyond guests already familiar with the hotel.
To have the biggest impact, it is important to budget for advertising boosts to the campaign posts. This will significantly extend the reach of the posts, and ad dollars stretch far on social media.
4. Consider the Overall Guest Experience
People don’t necessarily care about the hotel they’re staying at, especially if it mimics others within the same brand. However, they do care about what they can do during their stay and around the hotel.
Posting videos is an easy way to engage audiences with the hotel. Content about events hosted on the property help to personalize the property. Posting about employees also helps to humanize a hotel and its culture.
Share information on things to do in the area and connect with local businesses that could advise guests on the hotel’s accommodation offerings. Is there a local landmark, attraction, or tourist hotspot near the hotel? Follow these pages and promote their services to followers. People will repay the favor.
By: Jordan Jones, Social Media Manager, Stonebridge Companies