CRG hosts a tour of the Holiday Inn

JOHNSTOWN — The Fulton County Center for Regional Growth and community leaders got a behind the scenes look at the hotel business during a tour of the Holiday Inn.

Holiday Inn General Manager James Landrio led the CRG’s monthly business tour for elected officials around the hotel on June 29.

“This is not something that we do everyday,” Landrio said. “You’re going to see some dirty things, clean things, all kinds of things going on.”

The Holiday Inn opened on Jan. 3, 1967, undergoing seven major renovations during its 51 years in operation. The largest renovation came when the building became one of only four Holiday Inn locations to convert from an existing drive-up motel to an enclosed, interior hallway hotel.

According to Landrio, the Holiday Inn runs on a seasonal cycle, doing 90 percent of the hotel’s annual business from June to partway through September.

This year however, construction projects in the area, including on the new Dollar General distribution center in the town of Florida, have increased the number of guests staying at the hotel over the past three to four months over the typical volume.

“We’re running a little ahead of schedule where we are,” Landrio said. “We started our season about 10 days ago really ramping up for the summer.”

The hotel employs 60 full-time staff members year-round adding 25 to 30 additional employees for the summer. One factor that contributes to the number of year round staffers, is that linens are cleaned in-house.

“Some Holiday Inns send linen out, we actually used to send our linens out. We’ve been in the laundry business maybe about 30 years, but it’s more cost efficient to us to run our own laundry,” Landrio explained. “By doing our own linens we keep more people working.”

The hotel has 100 guest rooms and bed linens are replaced each day unless otherwise requested by the guest. The hotel invested in energy efficient washing machines that use less water in the past couple years. The machines have built in shock absorbers allowing the interior drum to float and spin faster resulting in materials that are closer to being dry when the cycle is complete.

“It’s kind of fascinating to watch these things spin, you think you’re getting ready to go on a 747 when they start spinning out,” Landrio said. “When the material comes out of the washer they’re just damp, they’re no longer soaked so it requires less drying time for us.”

Laundry was being done seven days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., but Landrio said the hotel would be adding another shift starting at 4 a.m. as of that weekend.

Another area bustling with activity for the hotel is the maintenance department which employs one year-round staff member to service all of the guest rooms, joined by seasonal employees during the summer.

“He is literally in every room,” Landrio said. “We’re very lucky to have him.”

Maintenance includes repairing nicks to furniture, replacing wallpaper that has been torn or soiled, repairing loose tile and fixing anything that needs fixing in guest rooms.

“Jim runs a real good operation here,” CRG President and CEO Ronald Peters said. “It’s a good group.”

Other forms of preventive maintenance are done in all guest rooms that Landrio said Holiday Inn requires be renovated every 10 years, with the hotel due for an upgrade next year as the rooms are currently nine-years-old.

“People do not understand what goes into keeping this place going,” Landrio said.

According to Landrio, Holiday Inn is currently working on design plans for the upcoming room renovations, with every product having to be approved by the chain. He noted that some guest room furnishing are replaced more frequently.

“Not everything has a 10-year cycle,” Landrio said. “We pride ourselves in trying to keep the hotel as clean as possible, we’re very strict, we spend a lot of money on trying to keep the hotel very clean.”

Bed linens and towels are inspected daily, with those that are no longer fit for hotel circulation offered to staff members or donated. The Holiday Inn recently donated about 1,200 pillows to an animal shelter that otherwise would have been discarded.

When the rooms are fully renovated, Landrio said furniture can be resold, however during the most recent remodel the hotel donated furniture from about 40 rooms to Nathan Littauer Hospital’s long-term care facility, something he said would likely be done again during the upcoming renovations.

“They loved it up there, they sent me pictures of long-term guests that like it. They’ve never had drawers for their guests and the furniture holds up pretty well,” Landrio said.

Keeping the hotel up to guest’s standards is a priority for Landrio and Holiday Inn.

“It’s all about what the guest is, I will tell you that Holiday Inn is one of the most expensive franchises to carry, we get inspected three times a year, we have to maintain a certain score on guest carding,” Landrio said. “We have to maintain a certain level of score to stay in this franchise. It’s very expensive, but it’s been very successful for us, we’ve been a Holiday Inn since the property opened.”

Landrio himself has been with the hotel for 45 years, starting as a dishwasher when he was 16.

“I’m proud of myself in being here so long, we are very, very concerned about how our customers talk about us and feel about us,” Landrio said. “In our business we don’t want to make one room nice, we want to make them all the same.”

“We spent lot of time trying to analyze what customers are looking for, we are very fortunate. The people that stay here are regular customers,” he added.

He pointed to suggestions from guests as being the key factor in determining what to offer in rooms, including what size the beds are, pillow options, microwaves, refrigerators, recently installed room safes, televisions that are being upgraded from 32 inches to 43 inches and quieter running Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner units that have been installed in some rooms with illuminated touchscreen displays that go blank a few minutes after use so the light won’t disturb guests.

“Believe it or not, everything that happens in this hotel has happened because a guest has told us about it,” Landrio said.

“It’s really eye opening to see what has to be done and how you have to maintain and operate on a 24 hour basis,” Peters said. “I think it was a fantastic tour, it gave everybody the opportunity to see how hotels are run from the behind the scenes view point.”

Looking towards the future, Landrio said the hope is to eventually clear an area behind the hotel for the addition of a walking trail at the pet friendly facility, introduce more on-site parking and expand with an additional free standing building on the L shaped property.

“We have a great owner group to keep the property going, a lot of the development, a lot of the changes that happened over the years is because we’ve had a very progressive owner group, which we’re very thankful for and we hope to carry their legacy to continue and we hope to be here for a good number of years,” Landrio said.

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