Having begun his hospitality career in housekeeping, Focus Hospitality Management‘s newly appointed VP of business development and asset management Chris Stanley knows first-hand that hotel room cleanliness was a priority for guests long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Stanley shared with LODGING his path from housekeeping to his current position, in which he is tasked with growing the hotel management company’s portfolio. One thing he makes clear is just how closely related those positions have become. “The cleanliness and appearance of the room has exponentially grown in importance to the guest experience and their likelihood of returning. The focus for the immediate future will be on the quality of our housekeeping services.”
How has your career path in hospitality unfolded?
I began my career in housekeeping and spent the first 10 years in various leadership roles in property operations with Westin Hotels & Resorts prior to its acquisition by Starwood. My first exposure to development came when I was given the opportunity to be a part of the opening team for the Westin Tokyo; that experience changed my career goals. From that point forward, I focused on advancing my career within hotel development. During my tenure with Starwood, I simplified and managed our new-build development process, effectively reducing the time from contract execution to property opening by 23 percent. I also lead the development of our hotel prototype program and was integral in the development and launch of our first extended-stay brand, Element by Westin. I have continued in development, growing the respective portfolios and brand footprints during my career.
How has the pandemic impacted how you approach your job?
The pandemic has forced the hotel industry to make significant changes in how we do business, but we continue to grow and adapt. Instead of being on the road traveling 80 percent of the year, I am spending 80 percent of the day on my phone. We are more reliant than ever on technology, including video meetings and virtual industry conferences. The importance of social media and digital communications has skyrocketed.
What are some of your goals for the rest of 2020 in your new position?
Focus is a leading hotel management company with extensive experience in managing full- and select-service brands. My primary goal for the balance of 2020 and moving forward is the growth of the Focus portfolio. Focus has invested in its infrastructure, and we have the ability and are positioned expand our reach throughout the United States. I am joining a professional leadership team that is focused on its responsibilities to its partners, investors, employees, and guests.
How has the pandemic affected management companies?
The pandemic has most of all refocused management companies on the fundamentals of operations, providing our guests with clean and safe accommodations and providing a return to our owners and investors. The economic slowdown in the hotel industry has further emphasized the need for management to continually focus on both revenue management and expense control. Guests today are looking for the same things they were looking for in a hotel last year; however, the order of importance in what they are looking for has changed. While the guest is still looking for a unique experience and a convenient location, the significance of housekeeping to the overall success of a hotel is more critical than ever, and ensuring that we have the right people, training, and practices in place is a part of that. Where hotels previously focused heavily on the front desk experience, much of that has been automated and made virtual.
What do you like most about being in the hotel industry, even with the challenges it faces now?
The hotel industry is always challenging and never boring. I have confidence that it will recover and that it will grow and evolve to meet the new challenges presented in our ever-changing world. The “how” we do it will continue to change; however, the basic premise of accommodation and guest service will remain.