By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
Even though the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Washington DC–Silver Spring in Silver Spring, Maryland, hasn’t reopened yet, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, Armand Thelen, BBA, CHDM, CHSE, has been working harder than ever since the start of the pandemic. He has taken on work supporting property maintenance, managing client engagement, and even doing administrative tasks in addition to his regular duties. Recently, he talked to HSMAI about that experience, including some of the positive developments that have come out of the situation.
What has your work environment looked like since the pandemic hit?
I am fortunate to have been working continuously since the onset of the pandemic, forming part of the commercial team at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Washington DC–Silver Spring. Hilton provides a flexible and safe work environment, so I choose to spend most days in my hotel-based private office, while working from home on occasion.
What has been the most challenging part of ramping back up?
At the moment, we’re working to determine our reopening date, and this requires a careful review of many factors. We are analyzing market data, keeping an eye on business trends, and staying close to customer feedback, among other considerations — all of which require time and focus. We are committed to fully restoring operations at our hotel and look forward to welcoming guests and team members back as soon as possible.
Have you implemented any new strategies that have been successful?
Speed to market and personal connections remain key winning sales strategies when it comes to managing RFPs and customer relations. As business trends show the transient/leisure market recovering first, we are adapting our strategies to ensure we capture this customer base effectively. Our hotel has implemented Hilton CleanStay — Hilton’s industry-defining standard of cleanliness and disinfection. Our elevated process and team member training have been developed with RB, maker of Lysol, to help our guests enjoy an even cleaner and safer stay from check-in to checkout. Also, value-added amenities such as free parking and complimentary Wi-Fi are a must in order to capture today’s traveler.
What trends have you seen in the customers who are booking now?
The most significant trend I am seeing is the change in how events are being considered and booked. Event clients are rightly interested in our cleaning protocols as well as booking flexibility. We are in a great position to address these requests with Hilton EventReady with CleanStay, our global cleanliness and client service program specific to meetings and events.
Have you seen anything positive come out of all of this?
Absolutely! The sense of community and support within the hospitality industry and in the local market are bigger and stronger through this challenge that unites us all. As an organization, Hilton’s commercial leadership team has engaged with us regularly, ensuring we have the right support and are focused on the road to recovery. We are also sharing best practices and specific examples of unique success stories, and this creates hope for us all and encourages us to stay focused on the positive!
What do you miss most about the way things used to be?
I miss the opportunity to work with our team and support others to help them be successful. Being able to share ideas and experiences is how we all grow and become better each day.
Do you have any advice for someone who is just being brought back to work?
Know and understand things have changed while you were gone. Be ready to adapt and hit the ground running. Using one my favorite quotes I say: “What got you here today won’t get you there tomorrow.” This is particularly true in the current environment we are all facing.
For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Recovery Resources page.