The hospitality industry, in one way or another, has been a part of each one of our lives for several generations. Whether we go out of town on a business trip, go out for dinner to a restaurant or go out for a drink to the pub, we are surrounded by friendly caretakers who are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to meet all our needs at that time. Such is the spirit of hospitality.
For Denise Maiatico of Meyer Jabara Hotels, the hospitality industry has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. With the goal of creating nothing but the best experiences for her guests, Denise is a revered professional in the industry with expertise in identifying and developing the next generation of hospitality heroes, creating memorable experiences for guests as well as delivering breakthrough financial return for property owners.
At the Forefront of the Hospitality Industry
The story of Meyer Jabara Hotels begins in 1977 with the purchase of the Holiday Inn in Danbury, CT. Since then and for more than 40 years, CEO Richard Jabara and Chairman William Meyer have been expanding their hotel portfolio throughout the United States.
Today, all Meyer Jabara properties are known to design and deliver unique destination experiences for their guests which differentiate the hotel within its respective community and provide added-value beyond typical brand hotels. Both owners believe in and nurture a very unusual company culture known as “The Journey” – a combination of strategic leadership tools and behavioural principles that focus each associate on delivering exceptional and memorable experiences for their guests.
Denise states, “at Meyer Jabara hotels we understand that flawless operations are foundational to what we call the “Hospitality pyramid”, however the real joy for guest and associates is found in the ability to create heart connections and partnerships which can be found at the peak of the pyramid; that’s the goal of our company to consistently deliver operational excellence and strive to earn loyalty through heart connections.”
At present, Meyer Jabara Hotels owns and operates a diverse portfolio of 20 branded and boutique hotels with more than 4,300 rooms in 10 states across America. The hotels range in size from 38 rooms to 500 rooms and are operated under licenses from Marriott, Hilton, Holiday Inn, Choice and Hyatt.
“I believe that the behaviours of hospitality in practice are the one thing that can truly change the world. Every smile, every “good morning” and every “I hope to see you again soon” is a step in the right direction to making the world a kinder and more welcoming place,”
Denise started her professional hospitality journey more than 20 years ago after graduating from the Indiana University of PA in 1991 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications. Soon after graduating, Denise found her place with Meyer Jabara hotels, starting in food & beverage and working her way into the position of regional sales director for 5 different properties.
Seeing her people-centric attitude and flair for organizational development, Denise was soon promoted to General Manager of the Courtyard Marriott Lehigh Valley where she launched the 138-room hotel and became a trusted hospitality provider with intense loyalty. She then took on the challenge of opening the state-of-the-art 124 room Hyatt Place Bethlehem, successfully positioning the property as the new hotel in historic Bethlehem.
“I am driven by the realization that hospitality represents not only my profession, but my personal passion. For many people they have a work life and a separate personal life. For me, I am blessed to have one congruent life. I know that my work advances my personal mission and I am truly where I am meant to be / doing the work I am meant to do.”
Today, Denise stands tall, leading teams of hospitality specialists, as the Regional VP of Lehigh Valley Properties as well as the General Manager at the MJ Hotels – Delta by Marriott where she remains determined to differentiate the Meyer Jabara Hotels of the Lehigh Valley as the place to GO! “I believe that the behaviours of hospitality in practice are the one thing that can truly change the world. Every smile, every “good morning” and every “I hope to see you again soon” is a step in the right direction to making the world a kinder and more welcoming place,” smiles she.
Teaching and Uplifting
Denise has received numerous sales and leadership awards from various community organizations, Meyer Jabara Hotels and the brands of Marriott, Hyatt and Holiday Inn. Presently, she sits on various boards and volunteers in the community. Denise believes in a holistic approach towards her associates, empowering them to be the best version of themselves.
“I have learned that having corporate policies, practices and principles are essential, however our organizations are made up of individuals and there isn’t a one-size fits all to address everyone’s needs,” says Denise. She prefers to nurture a culture where her teammates recognize their individual strengths and make their own unique contributions. “Lifting up others as we coach through challenges is essential to maintaining morale.”
As a female figurehead, Denise has witnessed how so many women have become top-notch hospitality icons over the course of the years, surpassing the traditional benchmarks by leaps and bounds. Seeing these women take a hammer to the glass ceiling of the hospitality industry makes Denise grateful to be a part of the progress. “I do believe we (women) need to continue to drive passionately toward equality. There are still many meetings where most chairs at the executive table are occupied by men; as women we need to continue to be a valuable voice in the industry.”
Apart from being General Manager of various properties over the years as well as standing Vice President, Denise is also an acclaimed Adjunct Professor of Hospitality at Northampton Community College. She says, “Not only do I love being in the classroom which forces me to stay sharp, and study everything about hospitality from history to current events, but I get to really know the students and identify those that I know have the unique qualities we look for at Meyer Jabara Hotels.” In her 9 years as adjunct professor, she has hired 62 students from this program.
Adapt, Innovate, Evolve
It would be fair to say that digital technology, like other industries, has found its way in the hospitality industry as well. But the fact still remains that without human touch and personal connections, the hospitality experience remains incomplete. “The really cool thing about technology is that by expediting the processes, we can carve out more time for the joy that comes from human conversations,” says Denise. While some travellers may prefer a completely automated experience, most of them, Denise adds, will go out of their way to engage in conversation with the staff either to ask for recommendations about the area or just to have a friendly conversation.
In recent times, when the Covid pandemic shook the world, the hospitality industry was one of the worst hit of all. In the aftermath of it all, despite all the technologies in place, the people of hospitality don’t have the option to “work-from-home”. At the property level, responsibilities such as: cleaning rooms, greeting guests, delivering meals and executing enhanced cleaning protocols cannot happen via zoom. While many other industries have been able to migrate to remote work and remain productive, Denise says, “we have been able to re-define roles and incorporate flexible schedules, however have struggled with the “remote work” requirement many job-seekers are demanding.”
A Hotelier’s Story
Recently Denise published her first book – Hospitality and the Holy Spirit – A hotelier’s stories and perspective on what the Bible tells us about taking care of people. “This book started as a series of essays that connected my personal hospitality experiences to the traditional hospitality lessons found in the Bible; for example, instead of loaves and fishes we attempted to feed the less fortunate in our community on Christmas Eve with what seemed like too few resources; miracles and biblical hospitality lessons are all around us and abundant in my personal life. These became chapters in a book and I was fortunate that a publisher shared my desire to tell the stories,” smiles Denise.
Through her book, her actions and her initiatives, Denise remains driven and committed to creating the best life experiences for her associates and her guests. Ultimately, for Denise it is all about making the world a better, friendlier and kinder place – “that is my mission and my ministry.”