A place to $TAY

Hotels take different routes to serve travelers

By Mike Lewis
mlewis@crossroadsbizjournal.com

Photo by Mike Lewis
The new Home2 Suites by Hilton is slated to open soon near Hagerstown. It is part of Bowman Hospitality, an arm of the Bowman Group.
Photo by Mike Lewis
The Ramada Plaza Hotel near Hagerstown.
Photo by Mike Lewis
Kate Brown of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore speaks during a ceremony to launch a bachelor’s degree program in Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown.
Photo by Mike Lewis
The interior of the new Bavarian Brothers Brewing space, which has been added at the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

Travelers translate into dollars, and some organizations in the Crossroads Business Journal area are taking different routes to earn that business.

Among the highlights:

• The Ramada Plaza Hotel near Hagerstown received the annual “Best of Ramada” award, which recognizes the brand’s top performing hotels and their staffs.

• Bowman Hospitality, which owns the Ramada and other hotels, will soon open its fourth, a Home2 Suites by Hilton.

• The Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, W.Va., has added Bavarian Brothers Brewing to its resort operations.

• The University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, working with the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, has added a bachelor’s degree in hospitality and tourism management to its course of study.

‘Best of Ramada’

Al Sadler, director of operations for Bowman Hospitality, said it’s no secret why the hotel received the award.

“The majority of it is customer service,” Sadler said.

And that means having an exceptional staff.

“A lot of it is training and retraining and just being involved with your employees,” he said.

To be eligible for the award, hotels must demonstrate strong quality scores, outstanding guest reviews and an unwavering commitment to the Wyndham Rewards loyalty program and its members, according to the release

The Ramada Plaza Hotel is a 158-room hotel and offers complimentary breakfast, access to plenty of shopping and dining as well as an onsite restaurant- The Fireside Restaurant and Lounge. The hotel has 93 newly renovated guest rooms and nine newly renovated and meeting rooms.

The hotel is part of Bowman Hospitality, which also operates two other nearby hotels, a Holiday Inn Express and a Homewood Suites by Hilton.

Going up

A fourth Bowman hotel is slated to open in the area soon. It’s near the other three, in what the Bowman Group refers to as its “hospitality campus.”

The new hotel, a Home2 Suites by Hilton, will have 105 rooms, according to the building permit on file with Hagerstown city officials.

Before a groundbreaking ceremony in June, Dan Spedden, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the new hotel rooms will be a welcome addition.

“We’ve had 2,200 hotel rooms in our inventory for years, and what we’re seeing is occupancy is very high and rates are going up. And that’s a strong indicator that it’s time to expand, and I’m just glad to see that happening,” Spedden said at the time.

‘Bavarian brewing’

It took a few years of planning for the Bavarian Inn to add Bavarian Brothers Brewing to its traditional fine dining and resort amenities.

“We’ve been very, very careful to preserve and still offer what we’ve always had,” said Christian Asam, who runs the inn with his brother, David.

“We’re not your typical, four-wall hotel. … It’s a little taste of Europe done right,” he said.

That flair extends to the specialty beers brewed at the inn and the brew pub’s menu, which is sprinkled with German dishes.

So far, the brew pub has been well-received, Asam said.

“This translates into all kinds of business. … Brides come in here, and they love this space,” he said.

It also provides a change-of-pace for those who are staying at the resort for multiple days.

“It works across all gamuts,” Asam said.

At the heart of the European-style resort is its family-owned atmosphere, he said.

“If you come to the Bavarian Inn, you’re just going to interact with an Asam. People love that,” he said.

Managing the business

In helping launch USMH’s new major in hospitality and tourism management, Ernest P. Boger touted the economic impact of the hospitality business.

He pointed to lodging and food service and many other types of business that are part of the hospitality and tourism sector, as well as the businesses that serve them, If you take those together, he said, hospitality and tourism is the world’s largest industry.

“Most of us don’t think of it that way, because we don’t put it together,” said Boger, who chairs the department of hospitality and tourism management at University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

Some courses for the hospitality and tourism management major will be taught in a new hospitality center. A downtown Hagerstown building is being renovated to house that facility.

The renovations are expected to be finished this summer, and classes will begin in the fall, said Mark Halsey, USMH’s executive director.

The program prepares students for management positions in lodging establishments, restaurants, travel companies, attractions, food-service ventures, and meeting and convention businesses.

“Placement is strong for this industry, and that’s worldwide. … (It’s) the most portable profession one could have,” Boger said.