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Q&A: Joel Contor, Director of Sales & Marketing, The Kimpton Gray

By Sharon Hirschowitz, Global Head of Media & Communications for The International Luxury Hotel Association
17 February 2021
3 min read
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Staying safe and following the CDC and WHO guidelines, along with those of the CIty of Chicago and State of Illinois, have allowed the Kimpton Gray to stay open and still tap into their creativity.

Can you tell us about your decision to stay open during the pandemic. What was your strategy?
Our decision to stay open was really about keeping our doors open for both our guests and our employees. Safety has always been and remains our highest tactic. Throughout the pandemic, we have continued to monitor developments and follow guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), the City of Chicago, and the State of Illinois. To help safeguard health and best serve our guests, we’ve made necessary modifications to amenities and services and continue to innovate new offerings that are not only compliant with social distancing guidelines but also offer guests a memorable stay experience.

How have you made it work from both the guest’s perspective and your bottom line?
We have followed CDC recommendations and the City of Chicago guidelines to safely and successfully extend our Gray experience. Of course, the pandemic has impacted our occupancy levels which are a fraction of what they have been historically. Along with this, we unfortunately have had to modify our once robust teams. We eagerly look forward to better days ahead and rebuilding. While things may look a little different, the heart of our guest journey is intact and true to our guests.

What creative initiatives have been the most successful?
The Gray has an incredibly ingenious team that cares sincerely about the services we extend to each of our guests. Not only are our packages thoughtful and in theme with current trends, the team also created a Concierge Cocktail Series — a rotation of hand-crafted bottled cocktails that honors the employees who have been keeping the Kimpton Gray doors open during the pandemic and gives back to the community with a charity component. We are also now offering Gray @ Home gift boxes for our guests to live the Gray lifestyle from the comfort of home. It includes savings on a future stay, letting our guests know we are ready to welcome them when they are ready to travel.

What is your outlook for 2021?
While we understand that come January 1 there will not be a magic “switch,” we are cautiously optimistic for 2021. The Gray team is incredibly innovative, and we are hopeful that our new initiatives will offer guests a restorative retreat during unsettling times. We are very much looking forward to better days ahead and are hopeful to return to our standard operations in the latter half of the year.

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