Calder Barnard: Keeping a Cool Head During Wildfire Season

The pandemic wasn’t the only catastrophe people have had to endure this year—natural disasters have also had a devastating impact in different parts of the United States, with tornados in the Midwest, hurricanes in the Southeast, and wildfires in the West. Calder Barnard, general manager at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Chico in Chico, Calif., had to contend with the latter, supporting families displaced by California wildfires in the midst of a global pandemic.

Barnard says that while he has been in the hospitality industry for 10 years, he had never faced any challenges like 2020.

While many hotels are trying to survive amidst historically low occupancies, Barnard notes that the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Chico has been about 95 percent full since the California wildfires began this summer. While the pandemic presented its own challenges, Barnard says that much of his property’s focus has been on helping families who had lost everything in the fires—many of whom have now been staying at the hotel for months. “We have actually had to turn guests away because we were at capacity. It’s heartbreaking to have to tell someone who lost their home that we don’t have a room,” he says. When the hotel was full, Barnard worked with other properties in the area to help people find accommodations.

Barnard says that throughout this difficult year, his team has bonded and he always knows that they will be there to support each other. “We’re here for each other when we’re having a rough day. It’s a really great feeling to work surrounded by people you care about who would do literally anything for you or a guest. It’s definitely kept us sane during this difficult time.”



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Isabel Vega is a LODGING Magazine Fall 2020 intern.