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By Felicia Krieg
The new initiative is part of a partnership between the department and College Auxiliary Services, which operates the Valcour property. Part of the new classroom component includes hotel management software training. Several internship experiences, including ones in marketing and event management will also be created.
“The applied management aspects are very important for students to understand what’s necessary to manage them effectively,” said John Parmelee, restaurant and laboratory operations manager and lecturer at the department hotel, restaurant and tourism management. “The idea is basically that they need to get the hands-on experience so they can appreciate, understand and embrace the management components that are necessary (for hotel operation).”
The applied learning component will provide students with a similar experiential model to that of the student laboratory restaurant, Samuel D’s.
Beginning in the fall 2017 semester, students in the lodging operations class will train on OTA, an online travel agency system similar to Expedia and other internet platforms. Many hotels across the country use the virtual property management system, including Choice Hotels, which owns 10 hotel chains, including Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites and Quality Inn.
“We can access the Valcour technology right from the classroom,” Parmelee said. “Our students can log on and access a module that’s a replication of Valcour, the rooms and style of room, etc.”
Students will gain certifications in different OTA modules, which will go a long way to prepare them for their future careers, Parmelee said.
The new program will not only give students real-world experience, but increase guest use of the Valcour Inn and Boathouse, a scenic waterfront property attractive to tourists and locals alike.
Negotiations with Expedia are in the works, so the property can be listed on the site and travelers will be able to book their stay online. The inn operates year-round. Three of the nine guest rooms have a view of Lake Champlain facing Valcour Island.
“It’s for the guest who would be interested in a bed-and-breakfast, that type of property,” Parmelee said. “The idea is to allow students to see how a guest room is cleaned from a management perspective, to see how to operate the rooms division of the hotel.”
A lodging sustainability component will also be part of the learning experience.
“One of the things that would be a part of it would be examples of energy management and natural resource management,” Parmelee said.
In spring 2018, the department plans to add more opportunities for students as part of the initiative, with the creation of internships in marketing, social media, direct sales contacts and event management for the venue.
A summer internship would give a student the opportunity to be the resident innkeeper with responsibilities to include management of the day-to-day operation of the inn through the summer season, the busiest for the property.
While the inn provides lodging on a smaller scale than many hotel chains, students can gain the skills they will need to work at larger hotels and resorts after they graduate, Parmelee said.
“The functionality of what happens in a hotel can be gained from a small nine-room inn.”
In terms of lakefront access and grounds, the Valcour Inn and Boathouse is the only property of its kind in the immediate Plattsburgh area. The venue and location will provide students a chance to serve a specific kind of traveler.
A stay at Valcour is the perfect choice for tourists looking for a cultural, historical experience in an intimate setting off the beaten path, Parmelee said.
“There’s a market.”
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