After $35M renovation, hotel seeks to connect with community

The Bricton Team, a Chicago region-primarily based lodge progress and management corporation, embarked on its to start with undertaking in Texas in 2019 when it bought a approximately 30-12 months-aged Vacation Inn close to the airport and closed it with plans to completely transform it into a new resort.

In April, the 11-tale building reopened as the Marriott San Antonio Airport — after the enterprise put in $25 million on renovations and just after the COVID-19 pandemic set building on pause for 10 months.

It now capabilities a spacious foyer with swanky home furnishings and generous amounts of sunlight and colorful artwork, as well as a cocktail bar with a wall of home windows that can be retracted at the touch of a button to permit in the breeze from an outdoor swimming pool.

The lodge also features a new fitness center and coffee store, refurbished visitor rooms and a VIP lounge reserved for frequent company of Marriott accommodations. The visitor rooms on the building’s 2nd flooring have been replaced with conference house. The lodge now offers 15,000 square ft of meeting area, which includes two ballrooms.

“This was all gutted, totally gutted, down to studs. Partitions ended up taken out. The ceiling was taken out,” reported Mark Vilagi, the hotel’s general supervisor. “To me, this foyer encounter rivals any of the motels in the downtown industry that I can don’t forget.”

Vilagi bought his start in the hospitality sector as a 20-yr-aged parking cars and trucks at a River Walk resort. Just after working his way up through management positions at several community inns, he joined Bricton in January 2020 to guide the Marriott San Antonio Airport. He is chair-elect of the San Antonio Lodge and Lodging Association, a community team that advocates for the business.

The hotel not too long ago launched a collaboration with SAY Sí, a neighborhood arts nonprofit focused on small children and young teens, in which it will screen higher college students’ artwork, including a mural in its out of doors terrace.

Vilagi a short while ago sat to examine the hotel’s record, the industry’s ongoing staffing difficulties, and the hotel’s overall performance considering that it reopened. The next has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: Did you set out to have a vocation in the hospitality sector?

A: No. I got the first work. I ended up having a passion to serve, and went on from there. At the Hotel and Lodging Association, we actually are seeking to aid convey that educational factor to the universities that have hospitality programs — to fully grasp that you don’t really have to have a diploma to get in this organization to be productive. You just have to want to be able to do what you gotta do to be thriving. It is a sacrifice. It is extensive several hours. It is tricky do the job. But for some of us, it is been incredibly satisfying.

(The association) has what is termed “adopt a college.” Now that we’re open up, … my up coming concentrate on is to locate a faculty to adopt, and then find all those graduating seniors that want to contemplate a position in the hospitality discipline.

Q: What pitch would you make to learners?

A: Each working day is an exciting day. Each and every day it’s some thing distinctive. You identify it, I have observed it, no matter if it be fantastic or lousy, suitable? But at the close of the day, it is constantly been enjoyment for me. I have been able to increase a occupation and do the job as a result of all diverse features of a resort. I do not believe people really know that, particularly in a entire-provider (lodge), you’ve got all these distinctive departments you operate in. You have a front office environment, you have accounting. You have housekeeping. You have culinary. You have an celebration group. You have a banquet group. You have an engineering workforce. All these teams with each other make the lodge operate.

Q: How previous is this lodge?

A: The lodge was built in ’81. In ’84, they included on what was identified as the North Tower. It was mainly 90 rooms they additional on. That set them about 400 rooms, and 400 rooms in this market place is form of a difficult quantity of rooms to have, simply because you need a good deal of demand from customers.

Q: Was that element of the motive Bricton changed the second-ground visitor rooms with meeting room?

A: Yeah, I imagine so. I imply, being a hotelier and becoming from San Antonio, you really don’t have a massive selection of hotel rooms in this current market. It receives tricky to fill up that quite a few rooms persistently. It’s great to have it when that peak time hits, but you want to persistently fill up that resort, maximize your income.

Q: Did you bring in your employees associates from other hotels, or are they new to the sector?

A: My govt committee all had hotel experience. We collectively have around 450 yrs of resort working experience, which is excellent. To me, that was important, due to the fact from my practical experience, new inns normally have a great deal of turnover, primarily in the initial 6 months. I preferred to try to reduce that as considerably as attainable and develop better retention. By selecting leaders that have solid knowledge in the current market, I experience they also have powerful practical experience with their associates and can generate a far better work atmosphere, superior retention.

Q: Is it even now difficult to find staff members?

A: I feel it’s extremely challenging for all of us. I consider it is gotten far better in a perception that submit-COVID, correct up the chute, they were being however having rewards from the authorities, so no person wished to perform. As soon as that went away, slowly but certainly, it’s been coming again. And which is been great. I say we have been fortunate. I have virtually 100 workers. At first, if I was a total resort, I’d have maybe 120. So that 100 correct now is terrific. Now, it is a issue of just keep teaching them, maintain retaining them and maintain our guests content.

Q: What do you do to entice employees?

A: We have used all avenues. We can submit careers on, and that’ll translate to Indeed. There’s Craigslist, there’s flyer application, what ever we can do to get out there and get obvious — word of mouth, chamber meetings, association meetings. You know, we’re all vying for the same thing. How several resorts do you have just on this aspect (of Loop 410)? You acquired from Pear Tree to Drury to Drury Plaza, Vacation Inn Specific. The record just retains on going. On the other aspect, you have a different six lodges. So we’re all trying to do the exact same issue. Then it results in being much more of guaranteeing that your pay is aggressive for the marketplace. And what type of benefits do you give as a firm? Do you have any indicator-up bonuses, referral bonuses, things like that.

Q: How do you experience about the state of the hospitality industry?

A: From a labor regular, it is been challenging, but I think it is having greater out there. It’s excellent for the associates for the reason that you see an enhance in wages during every thing, not just hospitality. From a vacation component, I’m just thrilled because in San Antonio, and Texas, you wouldn’t assume we’re heading by way of COVID at occasions. People were being however traveling, however acquiring out. Compared with other states and other marketplaces, we’re accomplishing truly very well. Our hotel’s just opened up, so we’re commencing to see our occupancies mature with word of mouth. So we’re psyched. We know we’re likely to have some strong final results right here.

Q: You are content with the demand from customers so much?

A: I assume every person needs a minor little bit a lot more, but I will say that on Memorial Day weekend, we hit about 85 % occupancy, which is great. So we know it is there. We know it is coming.

Q: Do you know what portion of your visitors are enterprise travelers as opposed to visitors?

A: We are mainly a enterprise touring lodge during the 7 days. We kind of have two levels. The Monday-by way of-Thursday is far more of the company traveler phase, and then Friday and Saturday will come the household-leisure travel stage, checking out on Sunday. Now, do you get some leisures during the week? Of study course you do. Do you get some business on the weekends? Positive you do. But predominantly, all through the week, it is our company traveler, which is excellent to see that piece coming back again — especially the corporate factor, since in the hospitality area, the a single spot that has been the hardest to occur back has been your corporate area because they’ve uncovered to get the job done from property. They’ve uncovered how to use Zoom. They’ve learned to use (details technological know-how) as opposed to vacation.

Q: What about inns in the airport area compared to in other areas, this sort of as downtown? How do their performances compare?

A: I really don’t have the thorough metrics on that. Downtown will normally fare a minimal little bit much better simply because it is downtown. But what we observed put up-COVID was, until finally the team dynamics began coming back, they only fared far better in the weekends and they ended up dying for the duration of the 7 days to get enterprise in. Whereas with us, we had been sort of faring far better during, due to the fact men and women can remain below and not pay out the $50 a evening for parking. And the accessibility you have from this area to downtown, to La Cantera, to the Rim, to (Six Flags) Fiesta Texas, it’s a very easy location. And to feel you can get back and inside of five minutes, you’re back again at the airport.

Q: Inform me about your partnership with Say Sí.

A: In the lodge enterprise, neighborhood outreach is important. We normally want to support the neighborhood. In unique lodges I have had, we have done it diverse strategies. Marriott is a huge supporter of the Children’s Miracle Network.

For us, we wished to go to yet another degree, and Say Sí was a little something we believed was really cool because it can enable promote the artwork of the little ones. We have some spots that we’re gonna designate the place we’re heading to set their artwork up in the building.

Q: Why is group outreach significant for a lodge?

A: You know, we’re not just here to provide attendees we want to be equipped to be a staple for our group and let them know that we care. We’re heading to create the careers. We’re likely to assist neighborhood outreach initiatives and then consider treatment of our friends who arrive in. We want to be very good ambassadors to anyone. We want them to feel like they are essential to us.