The Westgate Hotel is in for a bright future with Annie Fitzgerald at the helm as the new General Manager. To learn more about her experience and plans for what is next for the iconic hotel through 2020 and beyond, Giving Back Magazine sat down with her for a one on one interview.
Giving Back Magazine: What drew you to the hospitality industry?
Annie Fitzgerald: From a very young age, I would visit local hotels with my father (who was a health inspector) when he tested the chemicals in the pools. I was intrigued by the ambiance and how the front desk person was always standing there smiling. I still love the nostalgic smell of the coffee when you walk in and the chlorine at the pool, as well as watching the guests come and go. During college, I was a room attendant at one hotel and a custodian and shuttle driver at another. I juggled both jobs to learn the basics of the business. Eventually, I got the opportunity to be a front desk agent.
GB: What are the most important lessons you have learned?
AF: The unique needs of guests are most important. I learned to be flexible and enjoy the puzzle of understanding what would make them comfortable. I also learned that hospitality is opening my home and treating my guest as I would a family member.
GB: Who has been most influential to you?
AF: Early on, I worked for a manager who was tough but fair and taught me the value of spending time with employees and guests. Another manager taught me the importance of graciousness and making everyone feel important. My parents were also an important influence. They instilled in me the value of a hard day’s work done well. There was always something to do, which prepared me for the hospitality industry.
GB: What do you enjoy most about working at the Westgate Hotel?
AF: The team members! They are unique, talented, genuinely care for each other, and come together to ensure the guest experience meets the Westgate standard.
GB: What changes has your team made to adjust to the new norm?
AF: Many team members have learned various positions, standards have changed for guest rooms, and services have been adjusted. We have also had to learn to be empathetic to people are dealing with current health concerns. We look at these changes as an opportunity to learn and improve. For example, the addition of the Veranda has provided a unique ambiance for dining and changing the layout of the workout floor at AquaVie has helped to improve flow for circuit training.
GB: How will you continue to provide an exceptional guest experience?
AF: Our property always puts the guest experience first. Being transparent and sharing our story has been key to ensuring the limitations in front of us are an opportunity to gain trust and loyalty.
GB: Any words of wisdom for anyone following the same career path?
AF: Enjoy what you do! What separates a hotel stay from an experience are the employees. Be humble and willing to work from the ground up; it is essential to learn each position. Lastly, a full-service hotel is like a mini city, you get to be part of many small unique moments, so no two days are ever the same.