GCU Hotel ready for guests … and students
Editor’s note: Fourth in a series of progress reports on the construction of new facilities at Grand Canyon University.
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Brett Cortright is detail-oriented. That’s obviously a good trait for a general manager, but the new Grand Canyon University Hotel has his fingerprints all over it, right down to the fragrances of the shampoo and conditioner.
So it was Thursday morning that Cortright had any GCU employee coming near his office — including an intrepid reporter whose knowledge of fragrances matches his expertise in nuclear fission — smelling 12 different scents of lavender to find the perfect one.
Decisions like that one will become important this weekend when the hotel opens under the GCU banner. That will give the hotel staff about two weeks to prepare for what promises to be a quick ramp-up to Welcome Week, which begins Aug. 17 as students move into their campus residences and their parents need a place to stay while visiting.
The 152-room hotel will have 117 units available at opening and will keep increasing that number throughout August — out of necessity because, for example, there already are 122 reservations for the first night of Welcome Week. All that happened before Cortright set up the software that will advertise the hotel on the major travel websites. In one day earlier this month, the number of bookings jumped from 14 to 65.
And talk about affordable: Regular rooms are only $69 a night, suites just $74, and that includes free breakfast. The hotel reservation number is 1-84-HOTELGCU (1-844-683-5428).
“It will fill up fast,” Cortright said. “Our two main points are making people feel secure and providing good value. A lot of the people staying with us are going to be parents of GCU students, and we have a stake in the game to give them value. Most $69 rooms keep that price this time of year, but then it goes up 200 percent during peak periods. We’re planning to keep it about the same.”
The first guests will notice, well, a lot of purple (of course). Purple drapes in the rooms. Purple GCU shirts for sale in the lobby. Employees in purple GCU shirts. Two shades of purple on the lobby walls.
But they also will notice the nice touches Cortright has brought in to make the rooms comfortable — the bedding, lamps, pictures, coffeemaker, even the shower curtains all are first rate. New bathtubs are in the process of being installed in the rooms as well.
“The thing that is really cool about creating a hotel from scratch is that we don’t have any boundaries — no restrictions, no requirements — so it’s all about the guest,” said Cortright, who stayed at the hotel along with his family last weekend just to test it out.
Guests also will no doubt notice another helpful feature: the technology.
“The front desk will be working off Surface tablets, so everyone’s mobile,” Cortright said. “We’re going to have an over-the-top service element where, if we’ve already taken a credit card number from you during the registration process, the bellman will check you in – they’ll just take your luggage and take you straight to the room and they’ll just check you in.”
And whose idea was that? Not Cortright, for a change. One of his new employees came up with it. “That’s the kind of people we’ll have working here,” Cortright said.
The hotel, located off the Camelback Road exit from Interstate 17, is accessible only from GCU’s 27th Avenue guard station, which means security won’t be an issue. The lobby still is on the freeway side of the hotel for now, but a new lobby on the other side of the hotel is scheduled to be open in February. Ground also will be broken soon on a swimming pool and conference center.
Full-time employees will staff the front desk, and the ratio of full-timers to student workers will be about 50-50. For Cortright, one of his joys in his role was getting to meet those students — and one of his biggest challenges was choosing them.
“The caliber of students we have here is really incredible,” he said. “Interviewing the students has been an absolute pleasure. If I like one, I can’t call another one and interview them because I’ll like them, too. So I just have to stop at a certain point.
“If you’re going to see something repetitively, it’s going to be leader of a church group, director of summer camp — very prestigious things for 18- and 19-year-old kids. That’s one thing that we’re very lucky about.”
Those students also will be in the new hospitality program in the Colangelo College of Business, and Cortright is sensitive to the fact that they’re there to learn.
“I try to think of the student workers as halfway between an employee and a guest,” he said. “When they’re on campus, they’re the customer. Everything stops for the students here.”
It will stop for the guests at the GCU Hotel as well, and even Cortright has been amazed by the early response. About 90 percent of callers are booking a room.
“That’s a number that anyone in the hotel business would dream of having,” he said.
Maybe it’s all those purple-ish details, right down to the perfect scent of lavender. It’s got to be called Lope Lavender, right?
Contact Rick Vacek at 602-639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.