By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
At the start of the pandemic, Director of Sales Carrie Boor was one of only three full-time employees left to run the Courtyard by Marriott Columbus/New Albany in New Albany, Ohio. The hotel has since been fortunate enough to be bring back the majority of its employees, but recovery is still a long way off. Recently, Boor sat down with HSMAI to share her experience.
As someone who has been working throughout the entire pandemic, how have things changed since March?
Being in a select-service hotel puts you in many different positions, and as a director of sales, I’m a one-man band to begin with. We furloughed most of our employees in March and it was only me, the general manager, and the assistant general manager left to run the hotel. There was also a night auditor, part-time housekeeper, and part-time maintenance workers, but for the most part it was the three of us. We each covered a shift and took turns being the lone soldier in the hotel. After about two-and-a-half months, we were able to bring employees back with PPP.
Fortunately, we have remained open despite everything. I have returned to the sales office full-time, but it’s been a whole different ballgame. We’ve been able to maintain an occupancy level far below what it should be, but each month improves over the previous.
Would you consider your hotel to be in recovery mode or still in active crisis mode?
I don’t think anyone is in recovery mode yet. Extended-stay properties in some markets seem to be faring better. Recovery may not come until the spring, but it’s not expected to go back to “normal” by any means. We’re a corporate hotel, and losing corporate travelers has been difficult. When speaking with a few of our customers, some may return to their offices after the first of the year.
Where have you been finding business?
My weekends are what drive the majority of business right now, and it is almost all weddings. During the months when I was by myself, I did nothing but cancel and reschedule wedding room blocks every day. There are a number of wedding venues in the area. When Ohio eased the restrictions allowing 300 people in one location, the weddings resumed. Currently, we aren’t seeing cancellations for the weddings themselves, but the room blocks are much smaller than they have been historically.
What changes have you made in order to retain business?
At the start of all of this, we, like many hotels, reached out to hospitals, retirement centers, and any area of first responders that we could do business with. We made sure we were listed everywhere as a hotel that was open to taking any type of business. That was when we were in panic mode and doing whatever we needed to do to stay afloat.
We have moved rates around to remain competitive. We have taken a look at every opportunity and tried to offer a good rate that works within the customer’s budget as well as ours. Potential customers may request a very low rate that in the past we would not have even considered. Now we essentially review everything and make decisions based on what is in-house currently and how this new opportunity will layer into our mix of business.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with HSMAI readers?
Stay positive. We are hospitality. We will get through this and come out stronger on the other side.
For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Recovery Resources page.