Written by The Business Journal Staff
Sam Ramirez, General Manager,
Holiday Inn Fresno Airport
What we do:
Provide lodging and catering services to guests from all over
Some college business and hospitality courses
5-year-old son Nathan
How did you come to your position at the Holiday Inn Airport, Sam?
I’ve been very fortunate to have had some great opportunities in hospitality and when I moved back to the Valley, I made a point to expand my knowledge with opportunities that would prepare me for a job like this. When I started here over 3 years ago, the hotel was going through major changes and challenges. There were really great people here and I could see all the potential they had. That’s what really attracted me to this job, the challenge of it.
What sparked your interest in the hotel industry, Sam?
To be honest, I was going to school to be a teacher. While going to school on the Central Coast, I was golfing with some friends at a small golf course in Los Osos. I remember seeing a help wanted sign and thought if I worked there I could get some discounted golfing. I asked about a job and the pro in the shop said they had just hired someone but that they were hiring at the hotel they owned across the street too. I figured I could still get good golf deals so applied. What I didn’t know at the time is the pro I was talking to was the son of the owner of the resort. I started working the hotel and just fell in love with the people and service parts of the job. I was hooked very early on.
What amenities do you offer at the hotel, Sam?
Our hotel is a full-service hotel that offers 210 guest rooms, 9,500 square feet of catering space as well as a full service bar and café open 7 days a week. Our unique design with terraces surrounding our indoor pool gives us something not many hotels have.
How has business picked up at the hotel in the last year, Sam?
2013 was a record year for the hotel. Room revenue, outlets and catering all outperformed out budgeted expectations as well as historical averages for the last several years.
How much do you rely on TripAdvisor and other online review sites to help improve your services, Sam?
Tripadvisor and other review sites are critical to our success. Guests are savvy and 70% of all travelers will make a decision on where to stay based on a hotels rankings or guest reviews. We’ve learned to interact with them all, positive or negative. Although reviews are frequently only a small sample of the thousands of guests who stay with us, they are critical in measuring our performance. I have learned a great deal from our guests and although they might not always be comfortable contacting the management directly or want to avoid that, reviews give them an opportunity to express how they feel. I personally respond to all reviews to make sure guests know we hear them. I frequently ask them to contact me directly so we can get more information on their particular stay. We know we won’t always be perfect but in order to strive to be there we have to always improve. And the best way to do that is hear directly from the guest what they believe and feel. We use the information they provide to make real time changes to our policies and how our staff is trained. For our staff and hotel, this is a daily conversation.
What opportunities do you see as the new chair of the board for the Fresno/Clovis Convention and Visitors Bureau, Sam?
I think the challenges ahead are going to be renewing the TBID for funding. This will be a major focus over the next several months. Awareness is always an important factor. There are still many in the community and industry that isn’t entirely clear of the Bureau’s goals and what it is we do. Finally, I believe teaming up with other similar organizations, city governments and other partners is important to keep the market and businesses healthy. There are a lot of people in this area who are deeply passionate for the Fresno/Clovis area and all it has to offer. I’m looking forward to working with them.
Will the California’s minimum wage increase affect your operations in any way, Sam?
Our hotel, like many service industries, will definitely see a change with the minimum wage increase. However, for us this is a change to our books and our bottom line. For some of our staff it’s a change in lifestyle and we’re excited about it and embracing the changes.
Who have been your mentors and what did you learn from them, Sam?
I’ve had the opportunity to work with a great deal of people in my 12 years in this industry. I’ve always tried to make a point to learn something new each and every day. As a result I’ve learned what to do and not to do. I only have a few true mentors and more than anything they taught me to trust myself and not fear what I don’t know. They were some of the best teachers I’ve had in life. There will always be someone who knows more than I do and if I have the opportunity to learn from them, I’m the better for it.
What are your roots in the San Joaquin Valley, Sam?
I grew up in the Valley in the small town of Corcoran. After high school I moved to Sacramento and then San Luis Obispo. I was there for several years before I was presented with the chance to open a brand new hotel at the Tachi Palace in 2006. This was something I couldn’t pass up. My entire family is here in the Valley and although I miss SLO, the family and people I have here are what makes it special.
What do you like to do in your spare time, Sam?
My free time is spent with my son. Our whole world revolves around him so much that I sometimes wonder if I’m actually his assistant. I enjoy traveling and visiting new places where I’m always keeping an eye on what other hotels and markets are doing.