Rising Together After Covid by Connie Villeta and Interviewed by Al Gilbert

February 2019 - I’m in Hawaii and heard that flights are being canceled all over the US; and if we didn’t fly home right away, we may be stuck there. Stuck in Hawaii? Wouldn’t that be painful?!

We all know what happens next. COVID hits the world and impacts us all in different ways. COVID was not sparing anyone. No matter what age, race, or status, your life was about to change.

Two months after returning from Hawaii, I received news that our hotel was shutting its doors, and I was terminated. The news was devastating, shocking, and overall terrifying. Not only was I dealing with the uncertainty of life but now I had to worry about my

career, which had been something that had been my stability for many years. Given the current situation, I had to take a step back. Realizing things were out of my control, I dealt with the challenge the best way I knew how… I grabbed a glass of wine and wrote my “tackle list”: career, kids, expenses, and life.

Fast forward 11 months later, I am back on property and have found a new respect for other

departments, colleagues, and staff that you truly never got to work for hand in hand with. I learned how much work goes into setting up tables for a wedding event, putting a housekeeping cart together, the details of cleaning a room - and most of all, how a

collaborative team effort helps you make it through the day. I was back at work at what they called the “skeleton” team. Assisting in other departments that were short of staff, including the front desk. How fun it was to interact with guests again, to hear the words “May I check-in” were musical.

During my “Covid break” My kids and I were also able to spend time bonding through RV trips, I welcomed my 3 rd child during the toughest time to be at a hospital. I was also able to focus on my side business and even launched my 2nd business. Whenever I connected with an industry friend, it was much more than just work conversations, it was more personal, as our journeys resonated. All traditions and routines eventually change – the pandemic has proven that. It is true that optimists are at an advantage in life compared to pessimists. The way we choose to think positive or negative thoughts have a great impact on the outcome and is mirrored in everything we do. With this, I leave you with my life lesson: that the pandemic was and is the moment to stand to the challenge and make the best of the opportunity to rise together by lifting others.

Connie Villeta is a 15 year veteran of California's hospitality industry. She is the Director of Sales and Marketing at the El Prado Hotel - Palo Alto (formerly Garden Court Hotel). Most recently she was the Western Regional Sales Manager with Hilton Worldwide where she cross-sold for 20 hotels in the area and helped to maximize revenue for those properties. Prior, she was the Director of Business Travel Sales at the Crowne Plaza San Francisco Airport. She has also held director of sales positions for select-service brands including Larkspur and Hilton Garden Inn. She enjoys spending time with her family and is a successful small business owner.

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