Every night during the summer, tourists bed down in Cody hotels. As those guests head out the next morning, the hidden machinery of housekeeping kicks into gear. Recently, the housekeeping excellence of three Cody hotels was recognized by AAA.
The Buffalo Bill Village, Holiday Inn and Best Western Premier Ivy made the list of cleanest hotels in Wyoming in a July report from AAA.
“People who work in housekeeping are some of the least appreciated but most important people in the tourism industry,” said Ted Blair, CEO of Blair Hotels, which owns two of the hotels awarded. “It’s pretty hard to run a hotel without clean rooms.”
An average morning in housekeeping starts at 8 a.m., coordinating with the departure of bus tours early in the morning.
“We see 600 motor coaches in the summer,” said Holiday Inn general manager James Blair. “The buses typically leave around 6:30-7 a.m., so there’s plenty for them to get started on.”
In addition to the cleaning crews working the Blairs’ traditional hotels, another group also sets to work on the cabins at Buffalo Bill Village.
“We have 83 cabins,” said village GM Quintin Blair. “They range in size from just smaller than a hotel room up to a two-room.”
Close to 50 people work in housekeeping between the three hotels the Blairs own.
On the way to the west strip are the Best Western Premier Ivy and Sunset Inn, both owned by Bill Garlow. Christopher Parsons is the general manager at the Ivy.
“We have about 50 people working housekeeping during the summer,” Parsons said. “They serve the 70 rooms at the Ivy and the 120 at the Sunset Inn.”
As rooms empty throughout the morning, laundry facilities also kick into gear. One central laundry serves all the hotels the Blairs own; the Buffalo Bill Village, Holiday Inn and Comfort Inn. The Best Westerns each have their own laundries.
At the Holiday Inn, the eight-person laundry staff works on two shifts, starting at 8 a.m., operating five industrial washers, six dryers and folding stations for all the hotels’ laundry. The washers are capable of processing 120 pounds of laundry every hour. The linens are sorted by type and hotel they came from.
With the laundry and rooms being cleaned, the hours 8 a.m.-3 p.m. are the busiest at all the hotels. As rooms are cleaned, they are inspected. All of this has to be accomplished before the next wave of guests starts coming around 3 p.m.
In preparation for months when they fill over 90 percent of their rooms most nights, hotels ramp up employment. Work campers, locals, students and visa workers are all part of the summer crew for Blair Hotels.
“We’ve got everyone from 16-year-olds working room prep to people in their 60s.” James said.
The Blair hotels typically see 50-80 percent of their seasonal help return for the next year. Consistent leadership is also critical in maximizing efficiency. The executive housekeepers at the Buffalo Bill Village, Ron and Michelle Halpin, have been there for 18 seasons. Holiday Inn executive housekeeper Missy Medlen has been there for eight.
The Best Westerns also rely on local and travelling help. Almost all of their international help is recruited in Jamaica, and the hotel often has people return for following years.
“We try and give them all a common goal,” said Ivy head housekeeper Renee Nash. “That helps people build a team environment. We really try to push for guest satisfaction.”
Nash noted personal touches left in the rooms such as origami towel animals and notes from housekeepers as a good way to connect with patrons.
“We try and do something a little extra,” she said.
The tourism season in Cody lasts about six months for area hotels, at the end of which they release their summer staff and settle in for the winter months. The change is dramatic.
“During the winter we’ll have days where we don’t even do laundry because there isn’t enough to be worth it,” James said.
No matter how slow it gets in the winter, the hotel cleaning industry in Cody is a big part of the summer tourism economy. Wherever they come from, the housekeepers help drive the engine of the local economy.
In the case of the AAA award, that behind-the-scenes work got noticed. When she heard about it from Garlow, Nash read the award to the cleaning staff at the Best Western.
“They cheered like we won the Super Bowl,” she said.