To make its August opening date after the original opening was pushed back, the JW Marriott, Anaheim Resort had to bring back employees who were laid off or furloughed and focus on COVID-19-related training.
ANAHEIM, California—Opening the doors to the JW Marriott, Anaheim Resort for the first time on 19 August took a lot of planning and staff training, according GM Nusrat Mirza.
In an interview as part of HNN’s Q&A with a GM series, Mirza said the JW Marriott, Anaheim Resort was prepared to open in March, but made the decision not to on 14 March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To make it to its August opening date, Mirza said the hotel had to bring back those associates who were laid off or furloughed on a few weeks’ notice.
After bringing people back, he said the hotel had to focus on training “in the new world” on keeping guests and employees safe.
Q: Your hotel just opened on 19 August—can you talk about some of the obstacles you’ve faced and had to overcome to make it to that opening date?
A: “(19 August) was our opening day after a lot of thought processes and thinking and evaluating the demand, everything, we have looked into that, and we made the decision to (open on 19 August), we really confirmed it on 1 August.
“One of the first things we had to do right away was connect with all our staff, those who were laid off or were furloughed. And just going back a little bit, back in March … we were ready to open (the hotel). We made the decision on (14 March) that we would not open the hotel. We had hired almost 160 employees, and they had gone through … some very intense training.”
“(One obstacle when deciding to open in August) was how to get back our people, those who were trained, and how to get them fully trained, especially not necessarily (trained in) hospitality, but have them fully trained under COVID protocols, which is the most important thing today.
“(Bringing) people back to work has really been our goal. We started calling people early (in August), giving them notice that (the hotel was opening). … Everyone we called were the most excited to hear that they were getting their job back.”
Q: With Disneyland being temporarily closed and corporate meetings being almost nonexistent, what type of business have you received at the hotel in the first few weeks of being open?
A: “What we’re learning is, people are making decisions, literally, they get up in the morning and they’re making decisions on where to take their children (and) can have fun and feel safe. Typically, our business used to be a business or leisure traveler (would plan) their vacation, some cases months, some cases weeks (ahead), now people are making these decisions the same day. What we’ve found in week one (of being open), local driving, those who can drive in, I can’t even tell you how many people I’ve met … who live in south Orange County … (drive-to business), that is our business until we get all of the meetings and conferences and business comes in.
“We also happened to have a small five-people, eight-people meeting (booked) the same day literally the second day our hotel was open. Somebody called us and they wanted to have a meeting for five people for today.”
Q: The design of your hotel is focused on the local farming culture that was once present in Anaheim—can you talk more about that?
A: “The inspiration of the design, in Anaheim, in Orange County for years and long before anything happened here was all farm. We had the orange groves. We had the strawberry fields … the design inspiration comes from the point that inside we have varying (colors). We have a lot of different textures of the wood inside.
“The designer was inspired by what was happening before in Orange County and the Anaheim area and took all that with the color tones, with the textures and so on. For instance, when you walk into the lobby of the hotel, you will immediately see and feel … this beautiful steel statue (of a lady planting) a seed in the ground and little flowers are blooming.”