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AFSVC teams hit road in search of 2019’s best lodging operations

Air Force Services Center evaluation team members pose for a photo before beginning their visits to the seven installations in the running for this year's Innkeeper Awards. (U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)

Air Force Services Center evaluation team members pose for a photo before beginning their visits to the seven installations in the running for this year's Innkeeper Awards. (U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)

Air Force Services Center Lodging Management Specialist Daran Steele leads a discussion on Innkeeper Award evaluations in a final meeting before teams began their base visits. Seven installations -- three large and four small -- are in the running for this year's Innkeeper Awards. (U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)

Air Force Services Center Lodging Management Specialist Daran Steele leads a discussion on Innkeeper Award evaluations in a final meeting before teams began their base visits. Seven installations -- three large and four small -- are in the running for this year's Innkeeper Awards. (U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)

Air Force Services Center Lodging Management Specialist Daran Steele leads a discussion on Innkeeper Award evaluations in a final meeting before teams began their base visits. Seven installations -- three large and four small -- are in the running for this year's Innkeeper Awards. (U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)

Air Force Services Center Lodging Management Specialist Daran Steele leads a discussion on Innkeeper Award evaluations in a final meeting before teams began their base visits. Seven installations -- three large and four small -- are in the running for this year's Innkeeper Awards. (U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)

Lodging and hospitality experts from the Air Force Services Center are on the road for the next few weeks in search of the best Air Force Inns in the enterprise.

Of 88 installations, the teams are visiting three large and four small lodging operations to determine the 2019 Innkeeper Award winners.

Large operations are those with more than 285 rooms. The rest are classified as small operations.

The process to determine the best large and small inns in the Air Force began several months ago when installations submitted nominations to AFSVC. Installations were evaluated in several areas, to include accomplishments, financials and customer comment cards. The best packages were then chosen and announced.

The seven installations selected are:

Large – Hurlburt Field, Florida; Travis AFB, California; and Osan AB, Korea

Small – Kunsan AB, Korea; Spangdahlem AB, Germany; Moody AFB, Georgia; and Youngstown ARB, Ohio

Although much can be gathered from award nomination packages, in-person visits are vital to the process of identifying the best of the best, said Daran Steele, AFSVC lodging management specialist.

“Some things you can only discover by physically going to an installation, like team cohesion,” Steele said. “You’ve got to see the actual impact of what the lodging team is doing.”

While visiting installations, evaluation teams will look at current financials, cleanliness and the organization. They’ll also talk to customers – patrons staying in Air Force Inns, internal customers who often use lodging for events, in addition to squadron and installation leaders.

“It helps a lot to determine how well they are operating, not just numbers, not just things presented in award packages,” said Wilma Hall, AFSVC lodging operations branch chief and a large installation evaluation team member.

Another important factor, often only recognized by installation visits, is innovation, Hall said.

“Because most award packages are closely matched when it comes to quality service and adhering to standards, being innovative is a way for one Air Force Inns team to set themselves apart from the others,” Hall said, “so we look for innovation and give credit for it.”

Both Hall and Steele agreed that all Air Force Inns teams – who host more than 50 million visitors a year – are doing great things and providing great service.

“But (with the Innkeeper Award) two get to shine brighter than anyone else,” Steele said.

The two, four-person evaluation teams began their evaluation July 15 and return to San Antonio near the end of the month. From there, they’ll compile their findings and submit them to AFSVC leadership for review. AFSVC Commander Col. Donna Turner is expected to announce Innkeeper Award winners in the fall.

In addition to looking for the best Air Force Inns operation, the evaluation teams will recognize one lodging team member, military or civilian, as a Traveler Award recipient. The award honors the person who best exemplifies the highest standards of professionalism, attitude, customer service and job knowledge at each installation. Of the seven to be recognized, there will be two overall winners selected; one from each category – large and small operations.

“(Award programs like Innkeeper) are important to instill pride in managers and employees, and to bring out the best in people,” said Steele, who was a member of the winning 2011 Innkeeper Award team at Dover AFB, Delaware. “Seeing the team really come together was magical and really pumped up the staff and gave everyone a push to continue to do our best for our guests.”

Winners of both the Innkeeper Award and Traveler Award will be recognized at the annual Air Force Lodging Managers Leadership Training in November at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.