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Making It in Big Sky: The Wilson Hotel

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Mandy Hotovy, general manager of The Wilson Hotel, reports that the Marriott-branded hotel plans to hire 15 more employees, on top of their current 30 employees, in expectation for a busy winter season ahead. PHOTO COURTESY OF MANDY HOTOVY

Q&A with Mandy Hotovy

Bridgewater, New Hampshire native Mandy Hotovy graduated from the University of Southern Maine majoring in business management with a minor in accounting. She first came out West after accepting a job opportunity in Vail, Colorado in 2010 to work for the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort.

After successfully launching SpringHill Suites by Marriott Bozeman as an Assistant General Manager, Hotovy was offered the position of General Manager of The Wilson Hotel in December of 2018 and hasn’t looked back since.

Despite a demanding work schedule, Hotovy still manages to escape and enjoy the easy access to skiing and fishing that Big Sky provides. Read on to find out more about what drew her to the hospitality industry in the first place, what sets The Wilson Hotel apart, and the hardest aspects of opening and operating hotels.

Explore Big Sky: Can you tell me a little bit more about how you got involved in the hospitality industry?

Mandy Hotovy: I remember when I was young that my favorite part of a trip was staying in the hotels and pretending to work at the desk. Sounds silly, however that memory stuck with me and I ended up applying to work at the Portland Harbor Hotel when I was in college. My first position was working at the front desk and I’ve always loved interacting with guests and hearing about their experience. I’d have to say that I was hooked on the industry following that first job.

EBS: You’ve been involved with opening two new hotels in less than two years. What is that process like?

M.H.: In the beginning, it’s really all about getting your systems in place, training materials, collateral, operating equipment, licenses and all the necessities in order to run a day-to-day operation. Now, the fun part begins two to three months out when you finally get to put your fearless team together. At that point, we all have an integral role in bringing the hotel to life and it’s a huge sense of accomplishment for everyone when those doors open on day one.

EBS: How were the occupancy rates at The Wilson when you opened this summer? How are they now that we are in the middle of shoulder season?

M.H.: It was exciting to reach over 80 percent [occupancy] our second month open. Right now, we are focusing on creating awareness for the hotel and attracting groups during the shoulder season as leisure travel is not as high volume.

EBS: What’s the best piece of business advice that you’ve received?

M.H.: Treat others as you expect to be treated. Respect goes a long way and communication is the number one factor for a successful team and business

EBS:How many employees does The Wilson currently employ? Where do they live?

M.H.: We currently have a total of 30 employees and will be looking to increase to 45 over the winter season. The majority live in our employee housing near Town Center and a few commute from the canyon or from Bozeman.

EBS:Marriott International is the third largest hotel chain in the world. What is distinctive about their approach to hospitality? What sets your brand apart?

M.H.: With Marriott they have created multiple distinctive brands to fit each of our guest’s needs when travelling for business or pleasure. They really do pride themselves on putting people first along with their associates. Now our Residence Inn model positions itself to the “Maximizer” traveler, who is always on the go and wants their stay to have the comforts of home, upscale amenities and a social environment to fit their lifestyle. Our location says it all and provides these features and activities for our guests to take advantage of. It’s the perfect brand for Big Sky visitors.

EBS:What percentage of your guests would you estimate visit Yellowstone National Park

M.H.:  I would say it’s around 80 percent of our guests in the summertime.

EBS: Who is the most memorable guest that you’ve had stay so far? Why?

M.H.: There are many memorable guests, however one couple comes to mind. They stayed with us right when we opened as her husband was recovering from surgery. It was always a pleasure to sit with them each morning and to see how the recovery process was coming along. They stayed with us for about a month and a half and they truly became a part of The Wilson family. 

EBS: Do you have a “typical” day at work? A routine?

M.H.: Each day brings on new and exciting challenges. I would say I go in to work and first thing is to make my rounds to each department. I usually have a set plan/routine following those interactions, however within a few hours that always changes. 

EBS: What is your favorite hotel that you ever stayed at and why?

M.H.: I really enjoy the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Kissimmee, Florida. It’s unique all around with glass ceilings in the middle of the hotel, cobblestone streets throughout and each section has a set theme and restaurant to go along with it.

EBS: What is the hardest part of running a hotel?

M.H.: Really making sure you find the time to work on your own projects as you do get pulled in multiple directions each day. The other difficult part is always making sure that your employees feel inspired and that we provide all the training necessary for them to grow within this career if so desired.

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