Holland property ranks among top five Marriott hotels
Initial success of Courtyard by Marriott in downtown is boosted by city redevelopment.
The performance of Holland’s third and newest downtown hotel has landed its general manager on a list of “30 GMs to Watch” and rocketed the location to the top echelon of Marriott hotels by guest satisfaction.
Grant Hirst, general manager of the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Holland, landed the GM role as the hotel was being built and has worked there since it opened in February 2016. The property is a franchise of Marriott International Inc. and is managed by Hudsonville-based Suburban Inns, for which Hirst has worked almost 12 years.
Since opening day of the hotel, Hirst said he has seen consistently high marks on guest satisfaction surveys.
“I’ve worked in different hotels, and this is the first where every guest who walks in the door, they’re already at a 10,” he said. “They want to be in Holland; we just have to keep them there and be the ambassadors for downtown Holland.”
Amid the redevelopment and new development ongoing in Holland for the past two years — including the $11-million Holland Civic Center project, along with residential and mixed-use developments including the Sperry’s Moviehouse — Hirst said it all came together at the right time.
“It’s pretty easy, being in downtown Holland. It’s a place everybody wants to come and wants to be. It makes my job easy,” he said.
Although the hotel does not disclose revenue or occupancy rates, Hirst said it is doing “fantastically” from a financial standpoint.
“We generally are blowing away our competitive set on a weekly and monthly basis, based on star data (online user reviews),” he said. “It took off like a shot out of a cannon.”
Based on customer surveys, the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Holland currently ranks fourth out of 1,016 Marriott properties for guest satisfaction, according to Bob Flavin, Suburban Inns corporate communications director.
Hirst said the data is a helpful tool for him, and he hopes to use it to propel the hotel to No. 1.
“(Guests) rank us in everything from condition of the property to cleanliness of the facility to quality of the staff to the food and beverage category,” he said. “We take a ton of data off (the ranking) on how we can improve.”
Jessica Babcock, Suburban Inns vice president of human resources, said Hirst’s natural leadership abilities and ability to mentor others are a big part of what is going right at the hotel. She nominated him to be considered for national trade publication Hotel Management’s “30 GMs to Watch” list, published this month.
“People want to be part of his team, which in turn creates an environment that thrives,” she said.
David Eisen, the magazine’s editor, said the list ranks hotel GMs “who are outstanding people who demonstrate commitment to their guests, their colleagues, their community and their industry.”
Hirst said he thinks part of the reason for the award is because of how well the hotel is performing, not just via guest feedback but also with its staff retention rate.
“We opened in February of 2016,” he said. “We’ve had a pretty low turnover and assembled a good team, most of whom are still with us since opening. In a market that has a 2 percent unemployment rate, which can lead to turnover, that’s pretty good.”
He also credits the city for much of the hotel’s momentum.
“Since we first announced the project, honestly, there’s a great group of people down here that want to see downtown Holland thrive,” he said. “They welcomed our project with open arms and wanted to see a nationally branded hotel downtown, and it made the project very smooth.”
Located between Macatawa Bank and the Raymond James building, the Courtyard hotel is about one block east of New Holland Brewing and the major restaurants and retail presence there, and is about a mile down Eighth Street from the rest of the development happening downtown.
The two other downtown hotels are CityFlats Holland and the Haworth Inn and Conference Center.
Hirst said all three typically hit peak season at Tulip Time and the high continues through Labor Day. In the shoulder season, people come in town for weddings or to get the offseason rates for vacation.
With several Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Holland, the Courtyard by Marriott also pulls in a lot of its revenue from business-related stays year-round.
“It’s a really good mix in this market,” he said. “Fortune 500 companies, they want to show Holland off. They put people to stay downtown in our hotel. We’re having a fantastic year. There’s no two ways about it.”