Checking In: Hotel experts offer summer travel advice for home away from home

2013-07-07T00:00:00Z 2013-07-08T14:57:19Z Checking In: Hotel experts offer summer travel advice for home away from homeBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Judy Bard, of White Lodging and director of sales for Marriott Properties for the Chicago Southeast and Hammond, advises guests about selecting surroundings for events and overnight stays based on what she describes as "property personalities."

"Every hotel should have a distinct style and design to suit guests, while also offering all the amenities that come with a hotel brand, reputation and expectation," said Bard, who is based with the Marriott properties at 7740 Corinne Drive in Hammond, but also worked from 1990 to 2006 at the Hampton Inn at the Midway Airport hotel complex in Chicago.

As Bard reminds, with summer travel, come both opportunities and options, with lodging choices ranking as one of the most important investments of time and money.

Bard's previous hotel landscape, the Hampton Inn, is a special fond landmark fixture not only for Bard, but also White Lodging.

Tony Marco, who is now general manager of the Hampton Inn Midway, has been with the property for a year, and has been helping oversee renovations to the hotel space which first opened in 1990, making it the first structure to open in the complex, which now boasts nine hotels, all managed by White Lodging.

Dubbed Midway Hotel Center, in addition to Hampton Inn, the complex also includes a Marriott, a Courtyard, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Residence Inn, Holiday Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Sleep Inn.

Marco describes hotel philosophy as "something for everyone" when helping direct guests to overnight and extended stay options to please both practical needs and the pocketbook.

"When booking a hotel, what guests need to research is how a property provides all the comforts of home, with the conveniences of a stay when away from home," said Marco, whose property caters to many repeat business travelers.

"We've made our updates to the lobby first, based on what we were told by our guests, and the next phase starting soon will be the rooms."

One lobby feature Marco made sure was not changed is an array of floating model airplanes that hover in the raised ceiling area near the front desk.

"The model planes have been part of the hotel lobby decor since the very beginning and they are a conversation starter that guests now look for when they arrive for a stay," he said.

Across the parking lot at Marriott Chicago Midway, General Manager Erin Bertollini of Schererville is the familiar face who used to work as director of operations at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza in Merrillville.

His newly renovated property includes new design elements and special details included in every guest room, ranging from new carpeting to tiny individual mounted reading lamps on every bed headboard.

"Every guest has individual needs, and hotels offer accommodations that differ based on what's determined to be the repeat requests," Bertollini said.

"From a family vacation need or family reunion gathering booking rooms to a weddings and business conference, we build our reputation by meeting the needs of guests."

A free 24-hour shuttle service stops at all nine hotel properties and on-site dining options range from Starbucks and family dining fare to a sports bar and chain franchise favorite T.G.I.Fridays.

And ranking as a favorite of many guests is the unique one-of-a-kind specialty restaurant Dempsey's named for prize fighter Jack Dempsey. The restaurant walls are covered with memorabilia associated with the boxer, ranging from photos to newspaper front pages.

At the hotel's front entrance, one of the famed fiberglass Chicago cows on parade sports boxer gloves on the two front hooves, a black eye and boxer shorts.

"What guests love most, besides the food, is the way the boxing theme is played out, including the main dining room, which is built around an actual boxing ring right inside the restaurant," Bertollini said.

"We say it's a knock-out experience."

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