The recently opened Omni Louisville added more than 600 guestrooms to the hotel market in Louisville, Kentucky, which is something GM Scott Stuckey said will be a big benefit, given the city’s exploding tourism around the Bourbon Trail.
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky—Managing a large-scale, new-build hotel project through construction and opening is a tough challenge in its own right, but for Omni Louisville GM Scott Stuckey, that challenge had a whole new dimension to it.
Three weeks before he moved to Louisville to take the GM position of the hotel, which was only about halfway through construction at that point, Stuckey suffered a stroke, losing the ability to speak and a lot of movement abilities.
But he persevered through that period and emerged strong, healthy and ready to take on leadership of the 612-room Omni Louisville and its nearly 400 employees.
“I’ve made health a priority for our entire Omni Louisville team,” Stuckey said. “Now that we’re open, I host a weekly morning run for our hotel guests. Compared to rebuilding my health, opening a new hotel is a piece of cake—enjoyed in moderation, of course!”
The Omni spirit runs strong in Stuckey, who first joined the company in 2005 as GM of the Omni Jacksonville in Florida. He racked up awards in subsequent Omni GM positions, including roles as GM of Omni Bedford Springs Resort in Pennsylvania, and GM and MD of Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center.
“I briefly left the Omni brand to move to Chicago, but when the opportunity presented itself, it was easy to convince me to return to Omni to open the Louisville hotel,” he said. “Opening a new property is a new and fascinating challenge, and I couldn’t wait to get started. Louisville felt like home already.”
The 30-story downtown Louisville hotel opened in early March following what Stuckey called “a really fast construction” of just over two years. The hotel is owned by parent company Omni Hotels & Resorts, and the $300-million ground-up development was done in partnership with Louisville city officials. The property features 70,000 square feet of meeting and event space, a full-service spa and fitness center, rooftop pool deck, several restaurants, a speakeasy/bowling alley, a 20,000-square-foot market and food hall, 225 apartments and yes—a bourbon tasting room.
The property’s design incorporate nods to its surroundings, from bourbon-colored carpets and artwork, to copper elements reminiscent of bourbon stills and truss details that invoke the city’s Ohio River bridges.
“Every Omni property is infused with the spirit of the city it serves, and Omni Louisville is no exception,” Stuckey said. “It’s a beautiful building and local residents have turned out in droves to visit. It really feels like Louisville’s new front door and it’s incredible to view guests’ first impressions.”
The Louisville draw
While tourist traffic to Louisville is steady—thanks to the city’s horse-racing and bourbon culture—the Omni was designed to be a large group hotel, and that presented some challenges.
“One of the challenges we faced was that Louisville’s convention center was set to undergo a massive renovation at the same time we were under construction,” Stuckey said.
Louisville’s convention center is slated to open later this summer.
“We believed we would still have great bookings despite not having a conference center online right away, and we were right,” he added.
Stuckey said the hotel has booked more than 4,000 roomnights since opening, and has more than 150,000 roomnights confirmed for future group meetings. The hotel’s size will make the city more attractive to larger conventions, he said.
Local traffic has been a pleasant surprise for Stuckey, who said the majority of those 4,000 roomnights booked since opening have been from locals checking out the hotel for a staycation.
“People here in Louisville and the surrounding region are so excited about this property, and they’re showing up over and over, bringing their friends and making it a local destination,” he said.
Stuckey said the hotel is mirroring its ramp-up to that of the Omni Nashville.
“Omni Nashville opened in 2013 with 10 citywide conventions and by 2014 the number of conventions jumped to 34,” he said. “Within a year of opening, Omni Nashville was operating at its 2018 projected occupancy rates.
“We fully expect Omni Louisville to create a similar ripple effect in Louisville, which means more business and bookings for everyone, not just our property.”
Staffing was another challenge for such a large property, but Stuckey said the enthusiasm generated by applicants made the process enjoyable.
“I had never hired an entire team at once before, so I was a bit concerned about finding the right talent as well as enough staff,” he said. “We had a three-day job fair in January, and we planned to hire about 350 people. We were ecstatic when 1,000 people showed up for interviews. … People not only were excited to see the property, to visit and tell their friends, but they were eager to work here, too. That enthusiasm made onboarding and training a relative breeze.”
Training for a brand-new hotel was another challenge, but Stuckey said having the ability to do it without the hotel open yet was an “unusual luxury.”
“It created a special kind of camaraderie—everyone felt that they were part of something special and it made training go very smoothly,” he said.
Now that the hotel has been open for more than a month, Stuckey said, “It’s been a joy to watch our team embrace the spirit of Omni service and welcome guests to the property.”
“Every employee on the Omni team is empowered to do whatever they feel is necessary to ensure our guests have an outstanding experience,” he said. “I make sure that all our team members see me putting that principle into practice. We have a wonderful feedback loop happening now, because our guests are thrilled with their visits, and their appreciation trickles back to our staff.”
Above all, Stuckey said he loves the story the hotel—and its employees—has to tell in the city.
“I was all in,” he said. “I could tell that Louisville was just the kind of vibrant, warm and evolving city that is poised to attract new travelers, and the city has a great story to tell. Plus, I developed a taste for bourbon, which is a major element in our hotel’s design and a huge component of Louisville’s story.”
Editor’s note: Omni Hotels & Resorts paid for travel expenses and accommodations. Complete editorial control was at the discretion of the Hotel News Now editorial team; Omni had no influence on the coverage provided.