Yulisa Bueno, left, talks to coworker Derrick Armstrong during a shift at the Courtyard by Marriott Las Cruces at New Mexico State University. Bueno, a student in NMSU’s School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management, currently serves as the hotel’s bistro manager. (NMSU photo by Josh Bachman)
One of the top-rated Marriott hotels in the nation sits on the New Mexico State University campus and serves as a career-launching ground for many NMSU graduates and students.
Three years after opening, the Courtyard by Marriott Las Cruces at NMSU has become the No. 1 Courtyard property in New Mexico and now ranks among the top 1 percent of all Courtyard locations in the United States, according to guest service scores tabulated by Marriott.
Amy Miller, general manager of the Courtyard at NMSU, attributes the hotel’s success to her dedicated staff of 60, a group of workers that includes 10 or so current or former NMSU students at any given time.
“I didn’t realize we were almost among the top 15 hotels in the nation until late October,” Miller said. “So, we are working really hard to get into the top 10 by the end of the year.”
Miller said the hotel’s rankings, based entirely on feedback from guests, are impressive given that the property opened a few months before the coronavirus pandemic hit and continued to operate amid a challenging economic climate.
Even with the uncertainty of last year, Miller added, the hotel managed to strengthen its ties to NMSU’s School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management, housed in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
“We’re proud that even during this year-and-a-half of COVID-19, we were able to employ and pay internships to NMSU HRTM students,” Miller said.
Miller said the NMSU students employed by the hotel, either as interns or full-time employees, carry out a wide range of duties every day.
“I’m impressed with their background knowledge and understanding of the hotel and restaurant industry,” she said of her employees who went through the HRTM program, “and their understanding of customer service, brand standards, finances and budgets, costs, expenses, profits and so forth.”
HRTM Director Jean Hertzman said the hotel’s guest service ratings confirm the success of its partnership with the HRTM program.
“We nurture our students’ spirit of hospitality and the interpersonal and business skills needed throughout our curriculum and program activities,” Hertzman said. “We are proud that this carries into their work at the hotel and provides such wonderful service to its guests, many of whom also have ties to the NMSU community.”
Like Miller, current HRTM student Yulisa Bueno believes the hotel’s success is directly tied to staffers like herself and others who work in unison.
“It tells me that we have a strong team,” said Bueno, who has worked at the Courtyard for two years and currently serves as the hotel’s bistro manager.
Bueno added that working alongside her HRTM classmates makes for better overall teamwork – and helps increase customer satisfaction.
“Our guest service scores are pretty encouraging and make us feel good overall that we are doing what we can to keep this hotel going as efficiently as possible,” she said.
Kat Voelz, who graduated from the HRTM program in May, said the program helped prepare for her current job as the hotel’s sales coordinator.
“Learning sales is something that I’m excited to do because it is a little bit different,” said Voelz, who has worked at the hotel for nearly a year.
Voelz said she is confident the hotel will continue to receive high customer service scores.
“I think we’re going to continue to improve until we are the absolute best that we can be,” she said, “and then continue to improve past that.”
Fabian Esquivel, who graduated from the HRTM program in 2019, said working at the hotel during the pandemic was challenging but filled with valuable lessons. He said he saw the hotel go from full in its early days to nearly empty at the height of the pandemic and then bounce back.
“My biggest takeaway is not being afraid to take on those lessons and not being afraid to communicate,” said Esquivel, who now serves as the hotel’s assistant general manager. “My other big takeaway, and probably my favorite, is to keep looking forward.”
The Courtyard by Marriott Las Cruces at NMSU is part of a growing network of hotels in New Mexico managed by Total Management Systems, an Albuquerque company that entered into a partnership with NMSU to develop the hotel and help teach the next generation of hospitality leaders.
Miller said HRTM graduates who work for the company can participate in the TMS Leadership Program, which aims to help employees grow their careers with TMS.
“Total Management Systems welcomes HRTM graduates who want to advance their careers in other properties,” said Miller, who was recently promoted as an onboarding and Marriott peer adviser for the company.
Author: Carlos Andres Lopez