Connections Housing Partner Spotlight: Crystal Chism, Walt Disney World Swan, Dolphin & Swan Reserve

 

Connections Housing Partner Spotlight is a new series that shines a light on the incredible leaders we have the privilege to work with across the event and hospitality industry.



This month we're excited to talk to Crystal Chism, Senior Sales Executive, Pharmaceutical & NE, Walt Disney World Swan, Dolphin & Swan Reserve

Where’s Your Hometown? 
Lexington, KY

How Did You Get Your Start in Your Career?
I actually wanted to be a nurse, but during an internship, I passed out at every turn.  I went to college with an undeclared major and took a part-time job at a hotel and absolutely fell in love.  Hotels for me turned out to be “hospitals for well people” and enabled me the opportunity to be able to take care of people after all.  

What Attracted You to the Hotel Industry? 
I love interacting with people, creating experiences and knowing we never have the same day twice!

Fun Fact—Something That People Do Not Know About You?
I love to make pie…and my Tic-Tac Pie is famous for 40th birthday celebrations!

Walt Disney World Swan, Dolphin & Swan Reserve
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing hotel/resorts right now and how is the Swan & Dolphin addressing it?
True recovery for the hospitality industry can only happen when people find a comfort level to travel and meet again.  

I believe the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin set the bar for others to follow when they closed their doors to the public in early Summer 2020 to welcome one of the first “bubble concepts” during the pandemic with Major League Soccer (MLS).  

While many hotels were merely reading about the new clean and safety procedures, SwanDo was busy putting them in to action with a 1500-person group.  Working hand in hand with MLS enabled us to learn together what works and what doesn’t.  

I watched our entire team come together in a special way, still focused laser-like on creating memorable experiences for our guests while putting their safety first.  Comfort levels will return as more and more people are vaccinated also, but hotels, cruise lines, airlines and any entertainment venues will all need to continue to keep sight of their clean and safety practices from now on.  I’m so impressed with our industry and all that we have done to pave the way for this recovery.

As guests and groups start to come back, are you hearing feedback about specific hotel initiatives and/or health/safety protocols that are especially positive/that groups/guests really seem to like?

Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Food & Wine Event

One thing, specific to the operations at the Swan & Dolphin, that has been a huge “WOW” for folks happened with our amazing culinary team.  Each November, we host a huge and extremely popular Food and Wine Event.  As government restrictions were in play for much of 2020, we knew planning this would be a difficult feat.  

Instead of having our typical large event on one given weekend, we opted to do several small events each weekend in October and November.  These events grew from 50 to 75 and up to 180 people as we were able to increase attendance based on the local and federal guidelines.  

These events were creatively themed with food and beverage pairings that received absolute rave reviews.  The smaller, more intimate stage for these events are likely here to stay, even when we can get back to our standard practices.  

Outdoor space is also very popular right now as well, and the Swan & Dolphin certainly has that covered with the various locations surrounding Crescent Lake, Sand Beach, Grotto Pool and the poolside Cabana Bar & Grill.

It seems that events/meetings are starting to feel increasingly confident about hosting live events in Q3 and Q4 of 2021 and, of course, on into 2022.  Does that reflect what you’re seeing? Or are you already seeing meeting planning activity pick-up for certain properties/geographic and/or demographic groups?

Walt Disney World Swan, Dolphin and Swan Reserve Properties
It is so amazing to be busy again!  The RFP floodgates have opened and we couldn’t be more thankful!  The difficult part of this recovery will be finding availability for short-term opportunities.   

As 2020 and early 2021 group business shifted to later dates or perhaps other years, finding availability has and will continue to be our challenge.  

We are opening a brand new tower in Summer 2021 (The Swan Reserve) and are grateful for the additional inventory to help us fill demand.  That, along with our cross-sell with other Marriott International or Disney properties, will help us accommodate our clients.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the hospitality/hotel industry?

Aerial View of Walt Disney World Swan, Dolphin
My first General Manager told me 30 years ago to “do this job as though you will do it for free, and eventually you will be paid what you are worth.”

It’s a fun message and I think of it often, especially now that I am older and more seasoned than the 20-something year old he was speaking with back then.  He does make such a valid point…finding happiness in what we do is essential.  

To add to his message, I also believe that being a person others want to work with brings meaning not just to your job but to your life.  We should always conduct ourselves with integrity.  Business is earned through trust.  

It’s a big world but this industry is small and your reputation as a good person means something here.  Keep growing in a positive light.  There is so much you can do in this industry!  

To learn more about  the award-winning Walkt Disney World Swan, Walt Disney World Dolphin and Walt Disney world Swan Reserve, visit the website here.

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