PRESIDENT, DORA HOSPITALITY GROUP
Q: How did your family enter the hospitality industry?
A: Great story here. My grandpa was a carpenter in Vincennes IN. In 1958 he bought a show horse stable and converted 19 horse stalls into 19 guest rooms for the Covered Wagon Lodge. A few years later INDOT came through town and bought his property to put an exit off the state road. He was able to leverage that sale into another property purchase and built the first Holiday Inn in Indiana in the early 19060s. He kept going in Indianapolis, South Bend, and Fort Wayne and built several hotels with his younger brother Jim Dora Sr. Unfortunately he passed away young and my dad started his own company in the hospitality world with his first hotel, also a Holiday Inn, in Anderson, IN. He worked for 40 years and developed dozens of hotels throughout the Midwest. After college, I stated working with my dad. Im happy to be a 3rd generation hotelier here in Indiana.
Q: How has your career evolved?
A: I started working with my dad in the early 2000s. At first I traveled to and worked at all of our hotels for several years. I’ve been leading the company as President since 2015. My career has had to evolve and change with the ever changing Hospitality industry. Hotel Parent Companies like Hilton and Marriott are constantly updating policies and standards for their existing brands as well as releasing new brands to cater to specific niche markets. It takes a nimble company with a great team to keep up with all of those changes. Additionally, outside of the hotel companies, we are constantly talking with our team members to keep up with the needs of our employees. The job market is not the same as it was for my grandpa or my dad. The needs of employees today have changed dramatically and we are constantly looking at ways we can improve to meet those needs.
We are proud to be a small Indiana company. We like being small and knowing we are able to be nimble and adjust to changing dynamics much faster than some big company that is located outside of Indiana.
Q: What do you enjoy about the Hamilton County hospitality industry?
A: I use a phrase all the time when talking with hotel leaders and peers outside of Indiana. Hoosier Hospitality. It isn’t as well known as the term “Southern Hospitality” but I fully believe it is just as important and applicable. The people in Indiana are amazing and even more so here in Hamilton County. I live here and work here. I love the work/life balance that is available here. Its important for me to promote that as it is what will keep the Hospitality industry growing here in Hamilton County. I need to take care of my employees and they will take care of our guests. We have a very diverse demand base for our hotels. There are business headquarters here that bring in lots of business clients. There is also amazing leisure demand with lots of great concert opportunities, sporting events, and repeating annual special events that help bring in travelers to Hamilton County on weekends.
Q: How has the hospitality industry, specifically Dora Hospitality, coped with recovery post-pandemic?
A: The hospitality industry in the Midwest has been slower to recover than some of the other areas of the country. However, we are making up for lost time! The one and only reason Dora Hospitality was able to weather the pandemic storm was the people that make up the company. We tried our best to take care of our people during the pandemic and even more so during the recovery from the pandemic. We were bullish on a recovery happening this year and we have been proven right. To help all of our hotels out with the increased demands of travelers we started a hiring charge last year and we havent stopped since. We noticed that burnout was a big challenge and we don’t want to lose good people because of the additional stress of the recovery. We are constantly looking to add more people to each hotel. We have also been able to adjust pay to match the market and are looking at adding more perks like a 401(k) plan, improving healthcare coverage, and adapting work schedules to meet the needs of the employees’ families.
Q: How do you see the Hamilton County tourism industry changing?
A: Tourism is an ever-evolving organism. As soon as you think you have your arms wrapped around it, there will be a shift in the dynamics and everything will change. What I love about Hamilton County Tourism is the people that make up the core. We all want the same thing. We want to take care of incoming guests to our area and do such a good job that they will want to come back again. As long as we can remember that and be flexible in how we deliver it we can always make sure we will adapt with changing dynamics.
Q: What are some of the challenges your team is working to overcome? Have you found solutions?
A: One of the biggest challenges we face at all of our hotels is keeping up with all the new technology people want to have at their fingertips. Whether it is digital check-in, Bluetooth enabled locks, Smart TVs with streaming, cryptocurrency, massive highspeed internet capabilities, robot room service delivery, etc… it can be challenging incorporating all of that into a franchise hotel and then training and educating your people to use it and help guests to use it. We embrace that challenge and want to succeed in delivering that experience for our guests but at the same time we see a huge gap being created by all of that technology in terms of the human interaction so commonly overlooked at hotels. The trouble with technology is that a lot of time it tries to remove the human connection and ‘touch points’ that my teams are trying to get back. We know that our employees are the backbone of our company and all of us at Dora are in this industry to serve our customers. We strive to increase those small interactions between staff and guests so that if there is an issue the guests have, we can address it before they leave. It’s a big task and one we have to work on daily but we are embracing the challenge!
Q: What do you enjoy most about the hospitality industry?
A: There is never a time when I have stopped learning about the industry. Coming out of college, I used to think, “if I do these things, I will have ‘made it’.” The longer I am in it, the more I realize there is always so much more to learn about myself and the world of Hospitality. There is always another project to chase, another goal to accomplish, a class to take, etc. I’ve also come to realize that I enjoy the chase more than I ever thought I would!