This week, Cory Falter of the InnSync Show sat down with Damon Strickland, the new General Manager of the Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center. Not only has Damon been in hospitality for the past 14 years with Crestline Hotels & Resorts, but he is also a fellow Hokie.
As a Virginia native and graduate of Virginia Tech, Damon truly understands our love of this amazing community and we’re thrilled he is on board.
Cory asked Damon about his new role at the Inn, and he shared some great stories about his experience in hospitality and what it takes to be a successful hospitality manager.
Interview with Damon Strickland, General Manager at The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and where you’re from?
I’m originally from the Commonwealth of Virginia, born and raised in Chesapeake and now returning to my second home of Blacksburg, Virginia.
I have been with Crestline Hotels & Resorts for the past 14 years, working at a variety of properties all over the East Coast, and I am honored to have recently been appointed as GM here at The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center, located on Virginia Tech’s campus.
Can you share a little bit more about what the Virginia is for Lovers slogan is all about?
It’s for anybody, a lover of just about anything, no matter where you’re at in the Commonwealth, you have access to just a wealth of activities and things to do.
Whether you’re on the East Coast, at the ocean, on the West Coast in the mountains there’s something for any sort of lover of all things to participate in.
Virginia itself is just mapped out so nicely, you know, in the United States where you can have the beach and ocean fun, you can drive a few hours inland and start to get to the beautiful rolling hills, lakes, streams, creeks, fishing, and mountains. Everything nature has to offer. And, if you need some city life, you can head to Richmond and get all the city life you need!
It’s one of the reasons I love to call Virginia home.
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Why did you decide to pursue a career in hospitality?
I am a proud graduate of Virginia Tech. I studied in the hospitality and tourism management program here at the university.
Much like many of the folks heading off to college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. While I was here, I just had a couple of different jobs in Blacksburg.
One of them was at a hotel locally here in Blacksburg and met some really great friends. While I was enjoying that job, got to know the business side of it in the industry a little bit better, and soon discovered that there was a course of study that I could immerse myself into and actually get a degree within a field that I felt that I was pretty good at, at the time and was enjoying the work.
So I just kind of focused my concentration more on hospitality and it’s been a fantastic career.
What’s something that your coworkers would be surprised to know about you?
I’m about two months into my assignment here and just getting to know a lot of the coworkers now. They would probably be surprised to know I’ve got a lot of tattoos!
What is one of the most challenging aspects of being General Manager at The Inn?
I would have to say, in a post-COVID world and coming out of the pandemic, demand has certainly increased over that time period and expectations are still pretty strong as far as the experience goes. So trying to match our capabilities and abilities with the guest’s expectations can always be a challenge.
And, that’s certainly one we’re up for here at The Inn.
Luckily, we have a strong team with a powerful mission to ensure a great guest experience.
What’s the most bizarre or craziest moment of your career?
Probably the most bizarre, the craziest thing would be a big nothing!
I was working night audit back in 1999 in New Orleans, Louisiana, when, there was this big fear about rolling over from 99 to the year 2000, and all of the computer systems were just going haywire because people felt like they were going to read data information as if it was 1900 as opposed to the year 2000.
So there was a lot of doom and gloom.
But nothing really materialized and nothing happened. The party went on.
You know, so I was sitting there kind of expecting, something big to happen. While I was the night auditor at a 1300 room property and nothing happened. So it was a little disappointing that nothing happened.
That was a bizarre experience. All that build-up, then nothing.
What’s the most unique thing a guest has either requested or done at one of your hotels?
When I was working in New Orleans, we hosted many celebrities, and with that came a lot of requests. One of our guests was putting on a show at the Superdome and was staying with us.
They had obviously the best suite in the house. But they needed more…. we had to take the next best suite in the house and basically convert it into a closet.
So a huge suite just for their closet!
We had to remove all the furniture and they had all these different specifications for the type of space and how they needed it laid out. They were there for only a week, but they needed extra space.
So we converted a guest suite into a walk-in closet.
That was definitely the most unique guest request.
What is a small takeaway you can leave us with today?
First off, I like surrounding myself with great, smart people that know what they’re doing, so they can fill in all the holes of the things that I don’t know.
My takeaway is this….
Allow people the freedom to do their job and do the job that they’ve been asked to do in a creative manner, without too many restraints on their ability to be creative.
At the end of the day, if we accomplished the mission that we’re all set out to accomplish as a team, how we get there and how we go about doing that differently is less important than actually accomplishing the mission.
Thank you Damon for taking the time to chat!
Damon Strickland is a passionate leader with diverse experience across many sectors of the hospitality industry. Portfolio includes luxury resorts, city and boutique hotels, along with extended stay, conference center and university projects with brands such as Hyatt, Hilton, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott and Ritz-Carlton. Skilled expertise in project openings, conversions and new builds creating training programs and operational efficiencies for optimum results.
Follow Damon on LinkedIn.