77 – TMG Hospitality Heroes Pt. II

by | June 16, 2021

In part 2 of 2 of this special edition of the Suite Spot, we take a moment to recognize stories of resilience and excellence in hospitality throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Host Ryan Embree highlights some incredible hospitality professionals across the country and what they did to make them a hospitality hero during this trying time for our industry. This a feel-good episode that showcases the qualities and values that are at the heart of the hotel industry.

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Episode Transcript
Our podcast is produced as an audio resource. Transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and human editing and may contain errors. Before republishing quotes, we ask that you reference the audio.

Ryan Embree:
Welcome to Suite Spot. Where hoteliers check-in and we check out what’s trending in hotel marketing. I’m your host, Ryan Embree.

Ryan Embree:
Hello everyone, and welcome to the Suite Spot. This is your host, Ryan Embree. Today’s episode is going to be part two of our Hospitality Heroes segment. Recognizing those hotel employees that went above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic. Enjoy.

Ryan Embree:
Our next Hospitality hero is Debra Roberts, Laundry, Houseman and Breakfast staff at Gibson Hotels. Debra is nominated by Brandy Crawford. Brandy writes, “Debra is truly a team player, always offering to pick up shifts. So we’re short staff. She’s also dedicated to making sure all of our guests are happy. She’ll bring in items for coworkers and our guests if they mentioned they liked something. I wish I could clone 10 of her because she is that amazing. Great attitude always reaches out to manager with follow-ups on items needed. And she’ll also tell me not to do something, as she can take care of it when she comes in for her shift. She goes above and beyond daily. She has been my go-to person for the last 15 years.” Wow. 15 years in the hospitality industry. A lot of hoteliers haven’t experienced anything like this before. Great job Debra, and very cool story to hear. Continue the great work.

Ryan Embree:
Our next Hospitality Hero is Scott McKay, general manager at the Capitol Hotel Hartford, Avalon Hospitality Group. Scott is nominated by Robin Grazioso. Robin writes, “Scott held down the fort. He made sure all the operation aspects, including housekeeping, were done, meaning doing it himself. Front desk: he pulled multiple shifts a day; sales: trying to find business in any organization that was traveling and continued to be GM reaching out to organizations that were helping the homeless or those less fortunate to see how we could assist during the pandemic. Not one time did Scott complain and absolutely stepped up to the plate going above and beyond. He was actually closing sales leads for 2022.” Wow. What a great story of a positive mindset. Scott, you’re doing some incredible work over there. Keep up the great work.

Ryan Embree:
Our next Hospitality Hero is Seth Kines, founder and CEO at Scarlet Boom. Seth is nominated by Drew Dunstan. Drew writes at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Seth lost his hospitality job that he held for years. He decided to turn a negative into a positive and created Scarlet Boom: hotel sales and marketing firm. And less than a year, Scarlet boom has partnered with more than 30 hotels and hired five full-time hospitality professionals who were also laid off from their hotels during the pandemic. Seth and Scarlet have been able to create jobs in the middle of a pandemic that has devastated our industry, and we need to share his success story.” Well done, Seth, that’s an awesome story like Drew described there. Definitely turning a negative into a positive and reaching out and helping our hospitality brothers and sisters out there. Thank you so much for sharing Drew and congratulations Seth.

Ryan Embree:
Our next Hospitality Hero is Suzi Brady, General Manager at AD1 Global. Susie is nominated by Jon McMillain. Jon writes: “Opened two adjacent hotels, A-Loft and Element International Drive during a pandemic working six days a week, cleaning rooms as a general manager, because it needed to be done, continued to serve the community and the hospitality industry all while raising a family.” Wow, truly superhero work here, Suzi incredible job. So we’ve definitely heard some of these stories before people either starting right before or during a pandemic, but I can’t imagine opening two hotels during a pandemic. So great work, Suzi. Congratulations. And thank you for the nomination. Jon.

Ryan Embree:
Next up for our Hospitality Heroes is Jennifer Stalans Executive Housekeeper at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites Alcoa. Jennifer was nominated by Emma Stone. Emma writes, “Jennifer has worked before, during, and as we are coming out of the pandemic, she’s never hesitated to provide excellent service and the highest standard of cleanliness as her job profession was turned upside down due to COVID-19. She’s been flexible and accepting to new policies and changes in our industry and still shows up with a smile on her face every day. She’s an irreplaceable member of the team that she has spent years building, and she continues to see problems as challenges that we can overcome together. She embodies the true spirit of hospitality and is a shining example, exemplary member of the hospitality industry.” Great job, Jennifer.

Ryan Embree:
Our next Hospitality Hero is Jim Olson. RVP of Operations at Fantasy World Resort. Jim was nominated by Sandy. Carrie. Sandy writes, “Jim created the resort’s first loyalty program during COVID-19. This program has been proven, very successful for direct bookings, almost doubling the resort’s website bookings.” Super cool story. Thank you for sharing Sandy. This is just another story of resilience and hoteliers getting extremely creative during the COVID-19 pandemic. Congratulations Jim, on being a hospitality hero.

Ryan Embree:
Our next hero is Troy Wimberley, General Manager at American Motel Management, Super 8 by Wyndham. Troy was nominated by Sharon Weyand. Sharon writes, “Troy is an awesome leader. He leads by example and guides his team to extraordinary accomplishments. He’s worked in the hotel industry for 20 plus years and sets goals and meets them with ease for himself as well as his team. He’s a pillar in our community, sitting on numerous boards and is currently president of the CDC organization as well as our general manager at the hotel. He volunteers where he helps children in need of homes and families. He’s the voice of said children. Troy goes as far as opening his home and his heart to these children, he’s even taken a young man and is raising him as his own, showing him the ropes to guide him in the direction of a great career in the hospitality world. Troy has achieved numerous awards in his field with the most recent award being the Pride of Super 8 award. Quite an accomplishment. Troy is a motivator friend and family member. He takes great pride in his work. I can think of no other person more deserving than him to choose for this nomination.” Congratulations, Troy. Awesome nomination, Sharon, thank you so much for sharing.

Ryan Embree:
Our next Hospitality Hero is Megan Pendergrass Executive Housekeeping Manager at the Baymont by Wyndham Knoxville – Cedar Bluff. Megan was nominated by Keith Drajanski. “The week of St. Patty’s day 2020 Megan’s husband had hip replacement surgery that same week, the hotel furloughed the entire housekeeping staff. Megan moved her husband and three children into the hotel and worked seven days a week through the end of June all while helping her husband with his rehab. On Easter Sunday, Megan hid plastic eggs on one of the floors that was shut down so her kids could still do the Easter egg hunt. We would have never have made it through 2020 without Megan. Wow. What a great story. I’m sure that’s a memory that Meghan’s children and family will never forget. Thank you so much for the nomination Keith and congratulations Megan on being a hospitality hero.

Ryan Embree:
Our next Hospitality Hero is Brian Seal, Director of Operations/General Manager at Shiv Properties, LLC. Brian was nominated by Vanessa Larson. Vanessa writes, “Brian has been working his butt off even before the pandemic started, but really stepped up when our hotels needed it most. He works 12-plus hour days to make sure everything is covered and will do anything the hotel needs to keep it going. He’s always there for the employees of both hotels and does all of this with a smile on his face and making every guest stay as pleasant as can be. He has not stopped motivating those that are working to keep going. He deserves to be appreciated in all ways.” A lot of these hospitality heroes have been working these long hours and forfeited a lot of vacation time. Hopefully as the recovery continues to go on Brian, you can get that well-earned vacation as well as some of the other hospitality heroes we’ve mentioned on this episode.

Ryan Embree:
Our next Hospitality Hero is Ana Maria Lanuza, Front Office Manager at The Sonora Inn. Ana Marie is nominated by Tammy O’Barr. Tammy writes, “Ana Marie has proven herself to be my right hand woman at the Sonora Inn, her beautiful personality, along with her many skilled and guidance is much appreciated. I would like to thank her for helping me grow as well as other staff members.”

Ryan Embree:
Our next Hospitality Hero is Rick Ringo, Regional Director of Operations – Central Division, at Avantic Lodging Enterprises. Rick was nominated by Francine Monsalve. “Rick never hesitated and was on the road whenever a hotel needed him. At one point he was acting GM of three different hotels located in three different States. His energy is very contagious and after a five minute conversation with him, you’ll feel like you just drank an energy drink and ready for anything. We at Avantic Lodging Enterprises are very lucky to have an amazing person on our team and want to publicly recognize him. Thank you, Rick.”

Ryan Embree:
Our next Hospitality Hero is Joshua Ferry, General Manager – Task Force at Avantic Lodging Enterprises. Joshua is also nominated by Francine. Francine writes, “Joshua is our taskforce traveling general manager and during the pandemic was needed in many places. You wouldn’t know he’s taken over a hotel as he picks up where the hotel is pacing and keeps it going, correcting anything that might need a fine tuning. We’re so very lucky to have Joshua on our team and want to publicly recognize him. Thank you, Joshua.”

Ryan Embree:
Our next Hospitality Hero is Brad Cook. Brad Cook is the Regional Director of Operations – East Division at Avantic Lodging Enterprises. Brad was nominated by Josh Barker. Josh writes, “2020 was a very tough year for our industry. As the nation saw slowdown in leisure travel, we still had a core base of essential business that we had to service. Brad was quick to fill in position that needed help in each of the set of hotels and is available to answer anything that comes his way. Thank you, Brad.”

Ryan Embree:
Josh Barker also nominates John Bulla, Regional Director of Operations – West Division at Avantic Enterprises. “John is a great asset to his team with great knowledge and experience to assist us in any situation. We’re extremely lucky to have him. Thank you, John.”

Ryan Embree:
And Josh Barker nominates Francine Monsalve, Corporate Revenue Manager at Avantic Lodging Enterprises. “Francine was instrumental in making sure we kept rate integrity across our entire portfolio while helping open up other avenues of revenue. Without Francine, Avantic Lodging Enterprises would not have continued to grow as a company in 2020.”

Ryan Embree:
Well, congratulations to all of our Hospitality Heroes out there, we are just so pleased and honored to share your stories. We know how difficult 2020 was for the hotel industry. It was something that not even our heroes with the longest years of experience have ever gone through. But it’s important to take a moment to recognize and highlight these types of stories, because this is what hospitality is all about. The resiliency. You heard about how positive and the smiles that were on all of these employees’ face in a time where there weren’t a lot of smiles to be had. So congratulations again to all of our winners. Thank you for your nominations. We love to hear your stories and we’re so happy that we had the opportunity to share them with you. Thank you for listening to the Suite Spot and we’ll talk to you next time.

Ryan Embree:
To join our loyalty program, be sure to subscribe and give us a five-star rating on iTunes. Suite Spot is produced by Travel Media Group. Our editor is Marissa Kinzel with cover art by Bary Gordon. I’m your host, Ryan Embree, and we hope you enjoyed your stay.

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