Adapting to Changing Times

    By Marina Dutton, General Manager, Balboa Bay Resort

    Such interesting times we are living in! –Katie Dunn, Marketing Manager, Balboa Bay Resort

    As the General Manager of Balboa Bay Resort, a luxury resort in Newport Beach California, I have been faced with meeting daily challenges that neither I, nor my hospitality colleagues have ever faced before. The goal is to create a fine balance between constantly monitoring the often-daily changes in CDC and county/state mandates while re-jiggering every department to adhere to the ever-fluctuating guidelines. But the biggest trick of all is to continue to deliver a luxury experience for our guests. Recognizing that they are eager to travel but possibly anxious regarding safety concerns, our team of hospitality specialists are here to offer kindness, solace, and respite. How do we do that? With an extra dose of empathy and understanding. Made even more difficult behind masks, shields, and plexi-glass, I am so proud of our team that delivers their warm welcome to every single guest.

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    Part of the new normal is for us to ensure guests are comfortable with our cleaning and safety standards. We ensure that every guest receives a detailed outline of our new protocols. Masks are mandated and offered for free to anyone that may have left theirs behind. Dining is now al fresco on our patio overlooking the spectacular Newport Harbor with complimentary blankets for the chillier nights. The food is just as delicious and can now be viewed from menus on mobile phones by scanning our cute octopus QR code. Aside from the guests’ satisfaction and safety, one of the most important strategies is to increase communication internally as this “new normal” and unprecedented time of constant change affects them as well as our guests. Some team members are struggling with the uncertainty and daily COVID-19 data that is a breeding ground for anxiety, topped off with some having to cope with childcare issues or perhaps friends or family that have contracted the virus. We are ensuring our staff know and follow all safety and cleanliness guidelines, have ample space for breaks and lunch (especially outdoors), and are able to share their thoughts with leadership.

    I put my team members/staff first by increasing daily stand-up meetings, visiting all departments to answer questions and allay fears. They need to know that we are looking out for their best interests. And if I am successful in conveying that sentiment, they in-turn will give 100% back to taking care of our guests.

    At some point in the hopefully not-to-distant future, we will be able to gather in groups once again with our friends and family to celebrate our missed milestones. While it may be corny, I believe that smooth waters never made a skilled sailor, and that when we are on the other side of this pandemic, we just may have learned a few critical skills along the way: empathy, creative problem solving, adapting to change, and the importance of human connection. We will get there and, perhaps, be better hoteliers because of it.

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