Meetings + Events
The power of gathering people
The power of gathering people
by Laura Bickle
Each week we will spotlight how venues, planners, hotels and suppliers are reopening and reimagining their businesses. This week, we spoke to Leah Leslie, director of sales & marketing at the JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka in Muskoka Lakes, Ontario.
What preparations were made to reopen your doors?
There was a great deal of planning and asking ourselves questions such as “What will this look like? What path will the guest take? How do we make this easy for them and deliver a luxury experience while keeping everyone safe?”
Especially at a resort, there are things to consider that do not necessarily come up at all in an urban hotel. We installed signage indoors and outdoors, came up with protocols for pool chair assignments, bicycle sanitizing, canoe and paddle cleaning and rotation, kids’ crafts and spa services. Hand sanitizing stations were installed throughout the resort.
Guest rooms were stripped of all items that are not necessary and are not used on a regular basis, such as decorative pillows. All rooms have kitchenettes, so we removed salad bowls, pots and pans and coffee packets. If the guest needs any of these items, they simply call and we will bring it to them.
The biggest project was developing a training plan for all our associates and making a specific plan for each operating department. Once the curriculum was in place, everyone had to receive the training and it is ongoing. An employee health-check protocol was introduced and everyone must be screened before beginning their shift. Finding the right masks, with so many people working outdoors in the heat and in the kitchen, was a challenge too.
What was the first day like?
The first day was very quiet with only a handful of guests. When JW Marriott Muskoka opened on May 29, sleeping rooms and the beach were the only available services. Our first guest through the door said, “I just want to look at four different walls for a change!” We were fortunate to have time to open slowly, one area at a time. This gave our team a chance to get used to the new way of doing things and to adjust to our guests’ needs.
What is different in terms of your services?
Now that almost everything is open (just waiting for good news on indoor restaurants), the main change is in the number of people who can use a particular area of the resort at one time. We miss having live entertainment in the evenings but we’re hopeful that it will be possible to offer this again before summer is over.
What have you learned since opening?
We have learned that it is more important than ever, especially for people who live and work in urban environments, to get closer to nature. We all need the rejuvenation that comes with wide open spaces, spectacular scenery, peace and quiet. But we still want to have fun and to be around other people, even if we must be separated from one another and wear masks.
What has the reaction been?
Guests are very understanding. Guests and associates alike are alarmed at the amount of waste that is produced with such a high focus on take-out dining and room delivery meals. The resort purchases compostable containers for takeout but these containers still look and feel like plastic. Our next goal is to find ways to reduce waste for takeout dining.
Have you had any small meetings or events?
We look forward to hosting a few small meetings in July and August.
What do planners need to know about your meeting and event offerings?
We all know how productive a face-to-face conference can be, versus a Zoom meeting. We look forward to getting back to our core business and welcoming groups back to JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka soon. In preparation for this, new floor plans have been done to allow for physical distancing in meetings. We have the ability, internet capacity and expertise to partner with our customers on a style of conference where some participants attend in person and those who are not able to do so, connect using technology.
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