Many innkeepers have found ways to open their properties in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring changes to many aspects of their business. We thought it would be helpful to interview some of them and share their insights on how they are managing their businesses in today’s climate. This is one in a series of feature articles on Post-COVID Re-Opening.

For this installment of the article series, in late July we interviewed Nancy Sullivan-Shener and Sam Shener, owners of the Lookout Point Lakeside Inn, located in Hot Springs, Arkansas and learned that they were able to see a significant business turnaround after the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

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When the Lookout Point Lakeside Inn officially reopened on May 21st, the property found itself with a high-level of bookings, experiencing a major turnaround after being closed for several months due to the pandemic.

Much of this success can be attributed to Lookout Point Lakeside Inn being located in a picturesque environment on Lake Hamilton, Arkansas, which is in driving distance from several major cities in Texas. The property owners also took extra steps to develop comprehensive COVID-19 protocols and cleaning strategies.

“When we announced our reopening plan in early May, we were inundated with guests calling us to both book rooms, and ask us about our COVID protocols,” said Nancy Sullivan-Shener. “The more questions we had, the better able we were at gathering information for helping us to shape these protocols.”

In addition, the property used its PMS system to send out emails to guests after they booked with a very dramatic subject-line to get guests to read more about their COVID protocols. 

“We are now at record occupancy, and many of these guests chose to stay with us because of the safety protocols in place,” Nancy added. “This has definitely become a marketing tool for us.”

When it comes to bringing their protocols to life, the property adheres to the AHLA Safe Stay guidelines, and they sanitize all of the fabric in the guest rooms. They have also shut down their dining room completely, and converted each guest room to have private dining – leading to a more streamlined workflow for staff.

 “We work equally hard to keep guests and staff safe,” said Sullivan-Shener. “We also converted dining to in-room only, and will keep it this way until there is a vaccine. Also, we are contactless when we deliver items such as wine to a guest room, where we leave the bottles on small tables outside of the guest rooms.”

Also, when guests check in and check out, no members of the cleaning staff enter their room, and rooms are only cleaned in between guest stays. Without the need to do daily room refreshes each day, the inn is able to further streamline the overall room cleaning workflow.

In terms of the future, Sullivan-Shener is hopeful that bookings will continue to be high, as many travelers continue to seek out drivable destinations.

“With our specific demographic within driving distance, we have a huge audience that we market to, and we have not needed to dial up our marketing,” she said. “Now we are even seeing people drive here from further away places like Chicago. All we can do is keep doing what we are doing, and we are at record-breaking bookings right now.”