It’s no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has been challenging for the hotel industry. Business travel has sunk to unprecedented lows. With social distancing protocols, leisure travel has been down as well. Even with all 2020 (and now 2021) has thrown at it, the JW Marriott at Nashville has persevered. We got a chance to interview the Director of People and Culture, Matt Owens, the Director of Marketing, Hanna Bankston, and the Director of Rooms, Chris Jennings at the JW to get their perspective on managing a hotel during the coronavirus. For more Covid-19 response highlights check out 5 ways caterers have been serving their communities.
We’ve seen a lot of customers pivot services during this pandemic to ensure their customers are safe. What are some of the new safety precautions JW has put in place this past year?
In addition to following the guidelines set forth by local, federal, and world health organizations, JW Marriott Nashville also executes industry-specific protocols and elevated practices as outlined in the standards designed by Marriott International through its Commitment to Clean program.
Highlights of these precautions include:
- Enhanced high frequency public space cleaning and disinfection, especially in high-traffic areas such as restrooms, elevators, and escalators.
- Increased hand sanitizing stations in public areas, restaurants, points of sale, restrooms, and elevators.
- Social distancing practices throughout the property and its many gathering areas that promote physical 6-feet distancing plus implementation of partitions in queuing locations including Front Desk check-in lines, at restaurant host stands and point of sale terminals.
- Personal protective equipment provided to all associates (e.g., face coverings, gloves, etc.) in addition to guest communications via websites, email, and on-property signage outlining city and hotel face covering requirements.
- Every guest room is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between each guest as usual with added implementations specifically created to help best protect our guests including sanitization of high touch items: such as television remotes that are enveloped in cellophane after cleaning.
- Electro-static sprayers are used in between guests and throughout public spaces to disseminate a more stringent hospital-grade disinfectant for overall guest protection.
- All housekeeping toiletry and amenity requests are fulfilled while guests are away from their room in order to limit exposure.
- From check-in and check-out to in-room dining deliveries, the Marriott Bonvoy app has curated a contactless experience should one be desired. Contactless valet parking pickup is also available via the hotel’s text messaging service.
What advice would you give to other hotels trying manage a hotel during the coronavirus?
Prioritizing customer safety and security is paramount, even if it comes at the sacrifice of additional spend through restrictions of services or offerings which in turn may cause customer frustrations due to unmet expectations. It’s vital to keep an honest and open flow of communication between leadership and associates so that any changes and restrictions made can be thoroughly explained placing guest and associate safety at the forefront of the dialogue. Lastly, even with the myriad of guidance provided by a plethora of agencies, there is no defined playbook for a situation of this magnitude, therefore, patience and flexibility are key. Defining and sharing your company’s plan of attack to navigate operational adjustments in addition to planning for changes in local phases and restrictions is vital.
We’ve noticed that while business travel is down year over year, local and regional travel is picking up as folks have been anxious to get out of the house. What adjustments have you made at the property level to cater to this group of customers?
We analyzed the change in customer demographics and location of origin and made messaging and offering adjustments accordingly. For example, the drive market, which was once secondary to major fly markets like Los Angeles and New York City, now produces the majority of business. As a result, offerings have been adjusted to include discounts on parking, waived pet fees, discounted local room rates, the creation of hotel office promotions, etc. One example of this was the creation of a local offer called “The Great Eight Neighbor Rate.” This grants all Tennessee locals and residents of the 8 states that border Tennessee a 15% off nightly discount, half-priced nightly parking, and waived pet fees.
Many customers we’ve spoken with have had fluctuations in their staff due to restrictions, seasonal demand, and other pandemic-related factors. How have you been able to navigate your staff requirements while continuing to deliver exceptional customer service?
Key areas of the workforce were not completely eliminated but instead were furloughed in anticipation of normalized business levels across key travel times such as holiday periods which has allowed us to re-activate support as needed. Leadership as also maintained contact with its former employees and have had a few return to help with upticks in business. When we couldn’t fill all of our needs internally, the Nowsta Marketplace has been there to help supplement our staff by leveraging agency partners to ensure the necessary employees were available. For example, Valentine’s Day weekend was four times busier than normal and through our partnership with Nowsta, we were able to quickly onboard an additional 15 employees in vital support staff positions making it possible to provide the elevated levels of service that sets our luxury hotel apart. This in turn often results in repeat business, the backbone of any successful establishment.