Written by The Business Journal Staff
Deanne Edwards, General Manager
Holiday Inn Fresno Downtown Convention Center
What we do:
Full Service hotel with 197 guest rooms, 15,000 square feet of banquet space, restaurant and bar
Married 27 years this month to Doug Edwards. Daughters: Alex Edwards and Morgan Edwards
How did you come to your position with the Holiday Inn Fresno Downtown-Convention Center, Deanne?
My husband and I joke that I jumped from a perfectly great airplane when I took this position. I had been the general manager of the Springhill Suites by Marriott in Madera. I worked for a fantastic management company and the hotel’s owners were wonderful to work for. But, I had always wanted to manage a full-service hotel. I answered an advertisement for this position on a career website. When I interviewed with Expotel Hospitality the entire team made me believe we could do something special with this hotel. I am excited about the possibilities with this property, especially now that there is new focus on reviving the Downtown area.
Describe the reception you’ve seen since opening ZEST California Grill & Bar inside the hotel last month, Deanne?
The opening of ZEST has come at a time when the mayor is focusing on the Downtown area with the Fulton Mall project. There are several restaurants that have opened recently and this is very exciting for Downtown. The reception has been wonderful and we have been strongly supported by our friends at the courthouse and the Fresno County Office of Education located next door.
What kinds of improvements have been made at the Holiday Inn since it came under new management last April? Anything else on the horizon, Deanne?
This property was first built in 1966. Although most of the building was renovated in 2009, the major systems continue to be upgraded. The rooms are receiving individual cooling units as we speak, which will give guests the ability to better control the temperature in their rooms. The public space and meeting rooms will receive new heating/cooling systems as well. The domestic hot water system will also be upgraded with a tankless system to be installed very soon. All products being installed are energy efficient and friendly to the environment. The investments being made this year demonstrate our commitment to guest satisfaction.
How has online and mobile booking changed the way hotels are operated, Deanne?
Significantly! Each online booking site markets to their base customers differently. Most are based on discounts being offered to the guests, some are review based and others focus on travel points earned. It is our job to market our hotel through each of these travel sites. The goal is to sell all 197 rooms each day through all available channels.
What do you find are the most effective marketing strategies for the Holiday Inn? What kind of role has social media played, Deanne?
Call me crazy, but I still find value in the “cold call” and the “hand shake.” We have found that simply looking someone in the eye and asking for their business is very powerful. This is the approach we have used to regain several corporate accounts in the area. For accounts based out of town, it is important to return their calls or emails promptly and deliver what you promise. Selling this beautiful property should not be any more difficult than that!
As far as ZEST, we have marketed our opening to the Downtown businesses and residents. The Downtown Fresno Partnership has been tremendously helpful in getting the word out. We have also learned more about Twitter, Facebook and Instagram than we ever imagined. Chef Bryan Fetzer does a great job posting our daily specials on Twitter and Facebook daily. We have a core group of followers that will call if we haven’t put the menu items up by 11 a.m. every day.
How much do you rely on TripAdvisor and other online review sites to help improve your services, Deanne?
I believe that TripAdvisor offers a tremendous value to the guest. I use it myself when booking a trip to a new city. I read every guest comment and online review. Some guests are accurate and sincere about the comments they make and I value those opinions very much. We act on every service that can be improved. Some things are out of our control like a fire alarm going off in the middle of the night. You can tell when a guest is just looking for a discount or something free. That’s an unfortunate part of the online review process.
What three things are you most passionate about, Deanne?
I am passionate about my family, my staff, and our three baby doggies, Chloe, TJ and Phoebe.
How did you get involved the hospitality industry, Deanne?
In 1997 I answered an advertisement in The Fresno Bee for convention sales manager at the Holiday Inn Centre Plaza (now the Radisson). It is amazing how each day is different from the next in a busy hotel, all depending on the group in-house. I was immediately hooked! I enjoyed working alongside the Fresno Convention and Visitors Bureau to bring new business to Fresno. I remember the teamwork it took to bring the large events in, each hotel working together to meet the needs of each group. I recall going on tours of this hotel when it used to be a Hilton. I was always in love with the view from the Skyroom, as are many people who travel back to our property. They have fond memories of events held in our Skyroom clear back to the mid ‘60s when this property was built.
What are your roots in the San Joaquin Valley, Deanne?
My husband Doug and I both grew up in Modesto, where we first met and were married. Within the first year of our marriage, Doug was transferred to Clovis where we started our family. My husband’s career in the mortgage industry brought many opportunities to advance his career in other cities. We worked hard to keep our two daughters in the Fresno/Clovis community. My daughters are both just as passionate about this area. Our oldest daughter Alex will be relocating back to town this month after her career took her to Northern California for the past five years. Morgan is a Fresno State student and Miss Fresno County 2012. She was just crowned Miss Clovis 2014 on April 22nd. She will represent Clovis at the Miss California Pageant in June, but she is just as excited about attending the 100th anniversary of the Clovis Rodeo as Miss Clovis.
What do you like to do in your spare time, Deanne?
We own a small cabin at Shaver Lake. My husband and I enjoy relaxing there on the weekends, when possible.