Conferences have been suspended. Catering has been cancelled. Meetings, gatherings and business travel are a distant memory. A great deal has changed since mid-March as our global community has banded together to combat the spread of COVID-19. While our operations have changed greatly, our commitment to serving our guests, clients and others has not wavered.
Leah Brown, senior sales manager, individual business travel, at the Luskin Conference Center has been working from her home office, connecting with clients through email and social media and reminding them that “we’re all in this together, and together we will get through this.”
She is looking forward to the day when it will be safe for people to be face-to-face with one another again. The current situation is one that reinforced her appreciation for her industry, the Luskin Conference Center and UCLA.
“I’ve worked in the private sector and I see a lot of my friends losing their jobs due to hotel closures and lay-offs,” said Brown. “I am very thankful and blessed that I am still employed. I am very committed to finding new business partners for Luskin and getting the word out about us, our services and how we can help with future needs. I look at it like opening a new property and making sure that we are ready to serve our new partners when we open.”
She believes that a disciplined and planned day, just like you would have in the office, is critical to successfully working remotely. Maintaining standard work hours, finding a comfortable work space and remembering to take breaks are also critical to a wonderful workday. “I think it’s important to schedule a time, even if it’s only 10-15 minutes, to step out, ‘smell the roses,’ clear your mind and find some peace and quiet.”
Brown is also taking advantage of webinars to keep informed of the current state of the hospitality industry and reading a new book on personal development. “I think there has to be a balance between personal and professional development to help me be successful in my role at LCC.”
Like Brown, Gloria Estrada Guerrero, the LCC’s catering sales manager, is also working from home and checking in with clients via email and phone to see how they’re doing. “It’s not a typical sales call,” said Estrada Guerrero. “It’s more like ‘how are you doing?’, the same way you would ask family members… I think, as clients and partners, we all are so much closer having gone through this together.”
Working from home has been productive, she said, adding that she is finding herself quite focused during the day. Estrada Guerrero is also home-schooling her two young sons, ages 7 and 9, which means that staying organized and on-schedule is imperative.
So is maintaining a sense of humor.
“I have come to the conclusion that I would not have been a good teacher,” she said, adding that remote learning has had some unexpected outcomes… My youngest son has been watching YouTube life hack videos and has made it his mission to destroy everything in our home to make life hacks!”
The Luskin Conference Center is one of two conference centers that UCLA owns, operates and manages. The second one, the UCLA Lake Arrowhead Conference Center, is located high in the San Bernardino Mountains about 90 miles east of Los Angeles.
The team at the Lake Arrowhead Conference Center is also finding new ways to work remotely and maintain momentum as conferences, meetings, events, and other programs have been canceled in response to COVID-19.
Cassiopeia Figueroa, director of marketing and sales for the Lake Arrowhead property, is connecting with clients in both a professional and personal capacity via email and Zoom calls from her living room, and checking in regularly with the entire UCLA Hospitality team now more than ever.
“I love that now we are all doing Zoom calls together so we can learn from each other and align our efforts as a team,” said Figueroa. “I have found that I am inspired and thinking of new ideas every day to help the team through exchanging information and learning about new prospecting tools, trainings and reporting tools, and potential new booking systems.”
Figueroa has also been attending complimentary trainings and webinars, something she really enjoys.
“Many have been focused on bringing back the business after COVID-19, what clients are looking for in the new climate of post COVID-19 and what we are looking at to be the ‘new normal’ for our industry.”
In addition to seeing more employers exploring the advantages of having employees telecommute (at least some part of the work week) and companies looking to book conferences within driving distance (as opposed to requiring airline travel), Figueroa thinks in-person events will be appreciated more than ever in the future.
“We all crave the face-to-face interaction with our co-workers,” she said. “While the meetings and conferences may be smaller in size, I can see them happening more often — just with a smaller group of people than before.”