Hospitality looks different in eye of a pandemic

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  • Fredericksburg Inn and Suites on South Washington Street is experiencing changes in the way people travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. Travelers are staying closer to home and meeting in smaller groups. – Standard-Radio Post/Madalyn Watson
    Fredericksburg Inn and Suites on South Washington Street is experiencing changes in the way people travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. Travelers are staying closer to home and meeting in smaller groups. – Standard-Radio Post/Madalyn Watson
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Fredericksburg Inn and Suites, 201 S. Washington St., adapted to the unpredictable coronavirus pandemic as they continue to house travelers.

General Manager Frank Seddon started as a groundskeeper and painter for a family-owned hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona.

With about 35 years working in the hospitality industry, Seddon moved to Fredericksburg last July.

“I love this hotel,” Seddon said. “I love this area. This is probably one of the best changes I’ve ever made.”

Seddon said one of the biggest challenges in hospitality today is that people are not traveling or coming together in groups.

“Where people have stopped traveling by plane to other areas, people have been driving to Fredericksburg,” Seddon said. “That has kept our business pretty strong and it’s allowed us to keep people working.”

             People are refraining from traveling long distances, so instead, most guests are taking road trips from other parts of Texas or neighboring states like Louisiana, Seddon said.

Seddon said people continue to book reservations for holidays, but as soon as COVID-19 numbers start to spike, they cancel their reservations.

“It’s been a roller coaster ride for the last year,” Seddon said.

Cancellation policies at Fredericksburg Inn and Suites are more lenient with people who cancel for coronavirus-related reasons.

“For the most part, on weekends, all of our rooms are sold out which brings in the challenges of offering breakfast and keeping everyone socially distanced in the process of eating breakfast,” Seddon said.

Some of the smaller changes the hotel has made include accelerated sanitizing, a barrier at the front desk and a shift in the way they serve breakfast.

“We used to have a hot breakfast buffet which we can’t provide anymore,” Seddon said. “We do have individual hot items that we have a server give our guests, but they’re all pre-packaged.”

In the past, Seddon said, they served breakfast in the Sunday house, but with social distancing, only three people could eat safely there.

Breakfast is served in the conference area when it is available and that way about 20 people eat at once.

“A lot of the hotels here don’t have a meeting space so they don’t have that option,” Seddon said.

Unfortunately, by operating at 50 percent capacity, they are unable to accommodate larger groups that normally utilize the conference rooms.

“A lot of our contracts are based on per person contracts,” Seddon said. “So, as we reduce our capacity in our rooms, we’re also reducing the amount of income and revenue the hotel is able to generate.”

Seddon said its an internal struggle between wanting people to stay at the hotel and wanting them to stay home if it feels unsafe to travel.

“On all of our doors we have posted signage from the City of Fredericksburg and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding mask wearing and it falls on the employees to become police officers for those guidelines,” Seddon said.

Even though most guests respect the signs, Seddon said they have had to confront some guests who refuse to wear masks in the lobby.

“It makes it a lot easier when our guests accept the fact that they have to wear a mask to come in and do business with us,” Seddon said.