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SPOTLIGHT ON Matt Barba, Vice President of Operations, Charlestowne Hotels

By Sharon Hirschowitz, Global Head of Media & Communications for The International Luxury Hotel Association
25 August 2021
3 min read
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The Spectator Hotel

Matt talks about how guests are craving a return to normalcy while feeling confident their hotel is doing everything they can to keep them safe.

How has guest experience evolved as we emerge out of the pandemic?
Matt BarbaThe experience has evolved because of two seismic events. First, there are the experiences that changed as a direct result of the pandemic itself and the changed public mindset. Then, there are the experience modifications that occurred because of the pandemic aftershock and the industry-wide labor shortage. The lines between the two have become blurred.

A positive evolution we’ve witnessed is that our guests now see how hotels prioritize hygiene, health and safety in a more tangible way. Our hotels have never been cleaner, and the hospitality community has never been closer.

Due to the pandemic, we’ve unfortunately noticed a diminished value perception and less engagement with our guests. For instance:

  • Daily stay over service has been modified and is likely to stay for some segments of product
  • We’ve modified turndown services, which has altered what we provide or how its presented
  • Contactless everything
  • Disposable and one-time use guest supplies
  • Modified/shortened outlet hours
  • Self-parking instead of valet
  • Later check-in times to account for room sanitation and more robust inspections
  • Unprecedented room rates
Harbour View Inn

What are your guests asking for and how have you responded?
Our guests are craving a return to normalcy. They want everything to feel as it did before, while knowing we are doing our part to keep them safe. We’ve responded by making sure the strict cleanliness and hygiene protocols that were in place during the early part of the pandemic have remained a part of our daily routine – and will stay permanently. We’re also remaining nimble and flexible and have stopped doing things that no longer make sense to do.

How have F&B operations changed and what behaviors are here to stay?
Hotel food and beverage experienced some seismic changes. For instance:

  • The proliferation of carry-out and delivery from hotel outlets, which has not waned.
  • The continued use of contactless solutions – QR codes, digital payment tools etc.
  • We’ve seen a rise in In-room dining and in-room services
  • Efficiencies and modified operations due to labor shortages will remain beyond the crisis
  • Hotels will continue to move towards pre-packaged and grab and go, especially for breakfast
The Spectator Hotel Lobby

How important has leadership been to navigate through difficult times?
It is the difference between the businesses that are thriving and surviving versus those who are not. Employees, even in times of general stability, seek to feel safe and secure in the workplace. They want an environment of trust and cooperation. Layer in a challenging time or global pandemic and the need for leadership to take charge and guide their team through navigating what’s ahead is exponentially greater than ever before.

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