‘Are We There Yet?’: A Q&A With Omni Hotels CEO Peter Strebel

May 15, 2020 Updated: May 26, 2020

One of the many events that have been put on hold during this unusual time is the family vacation. Many families find themselves yearning for the day they can safely and confidently head out on an adventure together again.

When might that day come? Is it possible to take (and enjoy) a family vacation while heeding social distancing guidelines? I asked Omni Hotels CEO Peter Strebel for his perspective on what the future may hold for the hospitality industry and the family vacation. Here’s what he said.

The Epoch Times: The hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. What has been the greatest challenge for Omni Hotels during this time?

Peter Strebel: This global health crisis has uprooted the lives of so many working people in what feels like almost all areas of our economy. The travel industry, unfortunately, felt the punch almost immediately as stay-at-home orders were put in place, causing us, along with many other hotels, to close properties across the country.

This, of course, impacted so many of our associates, which has definitely been the greatest challenge for us at this time—our associates are the heart of our business so we’re working diligently to minimize the impact on them as best as we can.

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Omni Hotels CEO Peter Strebel. (Courtesy of Omni Hotels)

The Epoch Times: How is Omni preparing its properties to open back up?

Mr. Strebel: In addition to following CDC guidelines and local/federal mandates when re-opening, we’re also a part of the new “Stay Safe” initiative with the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) in an effort to standardize cleanliness across the industry and give guests peace of mind as travel begins to resume.

The initiative includes enhanced cleaning standards with cleaning products that have a greater concentration of bacteria-killing ingredients, reduced person-to-person contact with increased social distancing measures, and just an overall increase in transparency.

Additionally, we have launched the “Omni Safe & Clean” program. This is part of our larger Stay A Part campaign, which emphasizes that while we all do have to be more apart this year, with social distancing and masks between us, we believe it’s important to Stay A Part of things we care about most—community, hope, hospitality, progress, and more—to maintain a feeling of togetherness.

Stay A Part of Safety ensures that all of our associates will wear masks and gloves and will be subject to daily health screenings (including daily temperature checks). We’ll have additional staff scheduled for increased cleaning and bell carts will be disinfected after each use. In our common areas, furniture will be repositioned to allow for social distancing and high-touch areas will be cleaned and disinfected every hour. Room service/housekeeping will deliver items to guests without contact. Elevated disinfecting will take place after each guest’s stay, as well. The full details are on our website.

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Poolscape, Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa. (Courtesy of Omni Hotels)

The Epoch Times: When do you see your hotels welcoming guests back?

Mr. Strebel: Our re-opening procedures will look different all across the country, as local and state governments continue to re-evaluate and update protocols in place.

The decision of re-opening a property will not only be based on if it’s allowed in the area, but if we feel confident that we can meet the level of safety needed to protect our guests and associates at the specific location—following guidelines from the CDC and local governments.

With the above in mind, we have reopening dates for several hotels this month: Omni Jacksonville Hotel (May 11); Omni Amelia Island Resort, Omni Atlanta Hotel at The Battery, Omni Austin Hotel Downtown, Omni Bedford Springs Resort, and Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort (May 15); and Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa, Omni Fort Worth Hotel, Omni Frisco Hotel, Omni Interlocken Hotel, Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate, Omni La Mansiòn del Rio, Mokara Hotel & Spa, Omni Scottsdale Resort at Montelucia, and Omni Tucson National Resort (May 21).

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Omni Bedford Springs Resort. (Courtesy of Omni Hotels)

The Epoch Times: What do you think it will take for travelers to feel comfortable enough to travel again?

Mr. Strebel: The entire idea behind the “Stay Safe” initiative is to provide an overarching, multi-brand standard to guarantee a level of protection for guests. This way, when travelers do feel comfortable taking trips again, they can have some ease that hotels have been working diligently, together, the past couple of months, updating procedures and protocols to provide more safety and sanitation.

Travelers’ comfort levels will also likely rely heavily on slowing the spread of the virus, understandably, which is why all of the additional protocols put in place are so essential.

The Epoch Times: Many families are thinking about whether they might be able to enjoy traveling this summer. With the future so uncertain, what advice would you give to those considering a vacation?

Mr. Strebel: When families start thinking about traveling again, I would advise them to first, listen to their local government, and second, read about the new procedures put in place by the hotel they want to visit—typically on the brand’s website.

With Omni, we own and operate all of our hotels. I am personally confident in our entire family of associates’ ability to welcome you safely back at our hotels across North America, with the personalized service you’ve always known and trusted.

The Epoch Times: I’ve enjoyed a number of stays at Omni resorts with my family. From valet to bell services to in-room special touches and the various resort amenities, the personal attention is what stands out most in my mind. How does Omni plan to adapt such points of personal service in the age of social distancing?

Mr. Strebel: We know things are different now, and while there will be new procedures and protocols in place in all of these areas, the level of service from us will not change—it will just be provided in the safest way possible.

The Epoch Times: There’s a lot of talk about a “new normal.” What do you think the “new normal” of family travel, in particular, will look like?

Mr. Stebel: When we begin traveling again, safety is the top priority, so social distancing and sanitation efforts are going to make things look and feel differently than they did even just two months ago.

With that said, we’re also all craving togetherness after all of this time apart, so trips with family and friends might feel even more special and memorable than they were before.

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