We found five heartwarming stories of hotels and brands that are doing what they can to pay employees during this unprecedented time of economic downturn.
“The Hotel Monteleone has been in New Orleans for 135 years and we’ve got a steep tradition of doing the right thing,” says Kent Wasmuth, the property’s director of sales and marketing. He is, of course, referring to how the hotel management has reacted to COVID-19, which has put economic and emotional strains on businesses of all kinds, especially in the hospitality industry. It turns out this is hardly the first time the historic property has been forced to get off its feet.
In the Great Depression, Hotel Monteleone was the only hotel open and paying employees. Later, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Hotel Monteleone paid employees up to six months after the storm to get them back on their feet. “Being family-owned, you can do that kind of thing,” explains Wasmuth.
The hotel closed in March, but staff still go to the 557-room hotel once or twice a week, which gives them a chance to do a deep cleansing of the building—including all appliances, machinery, carpets, etc. The hotel is also changing the kitchen floor out.
“It keeps our operational employees busy. We’re right on Royal Street in the French Quarter and there’s no one out there,” he adds.
In these tough times, it is refreshing to know Hotel Monteleone is not alone in doing the right thing by hotels. Across the country, hoteliers are doing their best to pay employees while it is feasible.
With 335 employees in the hotel and 20 full-time employees at sister-property Bienville House Hotel nearby, 355 employees don’t have to worry if their paycheck is coming in.
“We’ve got employees who have been with us 45-50 years, and close to 35 staffers have been with us over 30 years. The Monteleone family treats us like family. The last thing people want to worry about is their jobs,” he says.
In February 2020, the Shandaken Inn was the newest luxury lodging to open in The Catskills of New York. It was the first project from The TLC Family of Camps and Inns. While it has temporarily shut its doors for the coronavirus crisis, owner Jay Jacobs is preserving the jobs of 85 employees, including camp counselors, innkeepers, chefs, housekeeping staff, management and administrative teams.
In a thoughtful note to all employees, he reassured, “...we will not be laying off any employees,” adding, “you need only worry about your health and that of your family and loved ones. Let me take care of the rest.”
Jacobs is a public figure in the New York state political arena in his roles of chairman of the New York State Democratic Committee and CEO of the TLC Family of Camps & Inns.
The Lodge at Edgewood Tahoe in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, is temporarily closed. However, the management of the luxury property understands how financially burdening a closure is for the local economy and is doing all it can to support its team members, including paying all active team members during its planned 30-day closure.
Additionally, executive chef Lonny Huot and his team have been donating all of the resort’s perishable food items to local charities such as Bread & Broth, a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization whose mission is to ease hunger in the Lake Tahoe South Shore.
It’s not just the privately owned hotels that are standing by their employees. Wynn Resorts is also retaining 13,000 employees during the coronavirus closures. Before Nevada’s governor even gave the order, the company’s CEO Matt Maddox was the first to close casino doors in Las Vegas. Maddox said to CNBC in an interview that he learned a lesson from the financial crisis in 2008: It pays off in the long run to retain employees, even if it costs the company in the short run.
“I can’t imagine going out [to] rehire and retrain 13,000 people. I’d rather keep the knowledge and experience that we have now in the service standards,” he said. It will be interesting to see what other brands and properties follow his lead.
MGM Resorts is also doing what they can for their staff. The company has “launched the MGM Resorts Employee Emergency Grant Fund with a $1 million pledge to support our employees facing financial hardship in the coming weeks and months,” said Stephanie Glanzer, CMP, chief sales officer and senior vice president at MGM Resorts International, in a statement.
The endowment was then matched with another $1 million by singer and MGM resident entertainer Bruno Mars, as well as a $2 million contribution from the Estate of Kirk Kerkorian, added Glanzer. On top of that, MGM Resorts has donated 400,000 meals to local food banks and charitable organizations to help with food insecurity.