Embracing staycations at Muskogee Inn

 

reading-on-lounge-chairRecovery from the recession that began in 2008 has sparked renewed interest in vacation travel. Hotel bookings at Muskogee Inn are up, and millions across the globe will enjoy vacations in the months to come. Many are still embracing staycations, in which families forgo expensive travel in favor of staying home. Plus, putting your money back into the local economy boosts your community.

Although discretionary spending is increasing, some individuals and families continue to take a conservative approach to their finances, and that approach extends to how they spend their time off.

Did you know that Muskogee Inn also offers a locals discount at various times of the year? Here are several other ways families can make their staycations enjoyable and memorable:

  1. Become a tourist in your hometown. Chances are you have never experienced the sights of your hometown the way a tourist might. Stay a weekend at Muskogee Inn and act like someone who is visiting Atmore for the first time. Seek out and visit points of history in the community, such as the train depot downtown or the Poarch Creek Indian Cultural Museum. You just might be surprised at what you can discover.
  2. ampitheater-seats-from-backSplurge on a show or sporting event. Attend an event you normally wouldn’t unless you were on vacation. Take the family to see the Mobile Bay Bears or Pensacola Blue Wahoos baseball teams play a home game. Treat yourself to concession stand snacks and a few souvenirs. During the summer, Wind Creek Atmore hosts a concert series at the amphitheater. Spend the night at Muskogee Inn after the concert to make it feel as if you were miles away from home.
  3. Look for hidden gems. Some local businesses might be willing to open up for “behind the scenes” tours if you ask. This can be a fun excursion for young children. Newspaper offices might host tours of their facilities. Even the bowling alley at Wind Creek Atmore can be fascinating to children. Ask management if they can see ball-return mechanisms or how equipment is stored. Or take time to do an activity at Magnolia Branch Wildlife Reserve that you normally don’t partake in.spaghetti3
  4. Dine out a few nights. Vacations often entail eating out. Use your staycation as the opportunity to dine at local restaurants, such as Creek Travel Plaza’s diner. Forget those diet plans for a day or two and savor that triple-scoop sundae on the diner’s menu.
  5. Read the newspapers. Chances are you can find a number of entertaining and low-cost activities sponsored by your town or other organizations close to home.
  6. Turn off electronics. Take a break from some of your devices during your staycation. By doing so, you will be less likely to fall into your daily habits and more likely to make the most of your time to rest and relax.

The History of Muskogee Inn

It’s 1985. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians were still celebrating their hard-fought victory as the only federally recognized Indian tribe in the state of Alabama, having only gained the designation the previous year. Now it was time to grow economically and sustain themselves as a people.

First up was to create a company specifically designed to manage, establish and run economic development for the Tribe. Creek Indian Enterprises (CIEDA) was born to do just that and would later add “Development Authority” to its name.

Next was to research and find profitable businesses that would provide stability and income for Tribal Members. That’s when the Tribe bought the Best Western hotel on Highway 21 in Atmore. CIEDA now had its very first business.Pillows, hotel, remodel

From national brand to local independent hotel

What’s in a name? Just like location … everything! Branding and location for hotels are the most important things behind customer service that will make a hotel successful.

In 1985, Best Western of Atmore was a profitable and highly sought after lodging establishment that just happened to be sitting directly at an interstate exit. With major roadways Interstate 65 and Highway 21 running through the town of Atmore, having a hotel at that intersection provides travelers with the first opportunity to stop and stay the night.

From either direction, travelers will clearly see the hotel. Drivers will learn to step on the gas as they pull into the parking lot, too. Muskogee Inn sits high up on a hill that has a steep winding road on both sides, kind of like a dual staircase where people can go up the left or the right side.

And with a national recognition of the Best Western name at the time, guests trusted the hotel brand. The change in ownership didn’t change the way people saw the hotel. Rooms were still booked, and guests were still happy with their experience.

cieda-logoHowever, CIEDA wanted customers to know the Poarch Band of Creek Indians owned and operated the hotel. So Best Western of Atmore was transformed to reflect the Native American ownership. Slowly, management began to incorporate Creek Indian elements into the inn. Decorations, such as wood carvings, paintings and archival photographs were strategically placed around the premises and on the walls. Guests staying there inquired from time to time about the Tribe, and the staff was more than happy to tell their stories. Customer service ramped up and friendly smiles were seen more often as the Southern charm of Atmore took over.

And the hotel has seen a steady profit since being bought by the Tribe. Every year, the hotel has enjoyed many full bookings during peak months. Family reunions and construction workers bring in the most guests, usually during the summer. The concert series at Wind Creek Atmore has rooms at Muskogee Inn booked up as well, and Pow Wow also brings an influx of guests to town. Muskogee Inn has repeatedly been fully booked for the week leading up to Pow Wow in November.

The faces of Muskogee Inn

General Manager Rochel Martin, who is a Tribal Member spouse, is one of only four original employees left over from the Best Western days.rochel-and-mary

“I’m very blessed to be here and running this wonderful hotel,” Martin said. “I have seen firsthand how the Tribe takes care of its people and the Atmore community as a whole. And to be the ‘inaugural’ business so to speak for Creek Indian Enterprises Development Authority is a high accolade for me and for this hotel.”

The other employees who still work at Muskogee Inn are Angel Caraway, Brenda Jay and Gracie Barnes. Martin said there are currently 23 employees on staff at the hotel. One is a Tribal Member, one is a Tribal Member spouse and one is a First Generation Member.

“The hospitality industry is a very rewarding career,” Martin said. “And representing the Tribe makes it that much more enjoyable. I come to work every day with pride of being in the Poarch Band of Creek Indians family.”

Time lapse of transformation

Keeping up with the times in the hotel industry isn’t as easy as it might seem. Trends change quickly, and Muskogee Inn is no different. By being the first economic business trusted to CIEDA, Muskogee Inn had a lot to prove.

The year 1989 was the cusp of the Internet age. The World Wide Web was introduced and changed how people communicated and learned new information. It took about five years for most businesses in the world to catch on and start using the Internet to their advantage. The Best Western brand of hotels offered its first online listings in 1995. But things really started improving in 2009 when the hotel changed names. A new logo and name provided the perfect opportunity for rebranding, especially online. In 2015, Muskogee Inn, installed new phone systems and Internet structure as well.

As the Internet age continued to grow in popularity, Muskogee Inn followed suit. Online bookings began to take hold across the country so the hotel started adding its listings to sites, such as Expedia, Booking.com, Priceline and many others.

Muskogee Inn launched its own website, muskogeeinn.com, and also started a Facebook page, facebook.com/MuskogeeInn, and Twitter account, twitter.com/MuskogeeInn.fb

Social media began to skyrocket as numerous other platforms arose to compete with Facebook and Twitter. Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr … gone were the days where a hotel could just answer phones as guests booked rooms and made plans. Now it’s like the 24-hour news cycle: constant. However, Muskogee Inn did more than just transform with technology. Guests wanted a luxurious feel for a budget price. So Muskogee Inn got to work upgrading its grounds and entire campus.

The huge outdoor pool has always been a tremendous draw for travelers staying at Muskogee Inn. But again, outdoor trends began to change. So Muskogee Inn built two decks for patrons to host social gatherings and just hang out and relax. Gazebos were added to the pool area for guests to get out of the sun and eat or talk in the shade.

More guests began to spend extra time at the pool and have more cookouts. The landscaping looked fresher and added an enhanced appeal to the surroundings. And it wasn’t just the outside that got a facelift.

Historical photos from Creek Indian archives were framed and placed along hallways in the buildings. A new logo featuring the Poarch Band of Creek Indians symbol debuted on signs. And in 2014, a remodel began to update furniture, bedding, decorations, carpet, etc. But Muskogee Inn’s makeover doesn’t stop there.

Recently, a security wall with Muskogee Inn’s name and logo was built along the front rail, giving even more depth to the grand entrance. And when the Tribe built its first casino just down the street from Muskogee Inn, the hotel promoted a free shuttle service to and from the entertainment district at Wind Creek Atmore, courtesy of Wind Creek. Guests can call the front desk at Muskogee Inn any time they want to use the shuttle.shuttle van

In October 2016, the van Muskogee Inn uses also got a makeover. Gone is the plain white paint with the hotel name written on the side in plain letters. Muskogee Inn decided to have the entire van wrapped with professional artwork to depict the remodel and remake of the whole hotel. The van matches Muskogee Inn’s branded gold coloring and shows the rooms and amenities along the side and back of the vehicle, much like a tour bus showcases advertising on the sides.

The hotel also has started the Muskogee Inn Club, where guests and locals can sign up for a monthly newsletter and get discounts and offers specially tailored to them. Muskogee Inn also offers locals a discount to stay during various times of the year. And with the addition of Wind Creek Atmore, Muskogee Inn has partnered with the casino to give a free play with every booking a guest makes at Muskogee Inn.

Much more is in store for this independent hotel. Trends change and guests look for the best deals available with the best accommodations. Muskogee Inn is a big player in the hospitality industry and a big winner for the Tribe.

Tips for staying healthy while traveling

Traveling can sometimes wreak havoc on your healthy lifestyle, but it doesn’t have to ruin all your hard work. Staying healthy while traveling is important. Sure, it’s OK to have a day to totally goof off but don’t let being on vacation or away from home on business be your excuse to jump ship on your healthy habits.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you travel:

 

  1. kitchen, hotel suiteBook a room with a kitchen. Staying in a suite like Muskogee Inn has available will afford you the leisure of staying on course with your eating habits. Go grocery shopping once you arrive in town, or pack a cooler with food to prepare once you get settled in your room. That way, you aren’t stuck eating out for every meal, which can tempt you to eat unhealthy.bed pillows
  2. Don’t skimp on the sleep. A lack of sleep can lead to various other problems and cause you to forgo your healthy habits. Always being on the go with no room for downtime can leave you feeling irritable by the end of your trip, even if you had fun the whole time you were away. The best way to stay fit is to keep to your sleeping schedule, even if that means you go to bed and wake up a few hours earlier/later. Your body will know when you have had enough for one day.
  3. Don’t abandon your exercise routine. You might think that all that walking you will doing while on vacation can replace your 30-60 minutes of vigorous exercise you usually do, but don’t rely on that alone. pool, swimming, healthyAnd you don’t need an exercise facility on site either. Book a hotel with a large swimming pool. A 130-pound person swimming freestyle for one hour will burn590 calories swimming fast and about 413 calories swimming slower. Muskogee Inn’s outdoor pool is cool and refreshing, and swimming laps every morning or evening could be just the thing you need to wake up or unwind.
  4. hotel staff, staff, employees, desk clerkStick to what works. Being on vacation or traveling for business is a great way to experience new foods and cultures, but you know what your body needs to keep healthy. If you don’t normally eat hamburgers or pizza, then don’t chow down on one when you are kicking back in your room. Ask the hotel staff where the best local place is to find something healthy. Muskogee Inn’s staff is always ready to give suggestions to guests looking for something new.

Hospitality at its best

Hospitality at its best

Hospitality at its best

Hospitality at its best: Muskogee Inn’s Assistant Manager Angel Caraway is a natural-born caretaker. Day in and day out, Caraway, who is a Tribal member, sees a countless number of guests check in and out of the hotel. And she makes it a point to stop and talk, even if it’s just a few words.

“One of best parts of working at Muskogee Inn is all the new and different people you meet,” she said. “In talking to some of our guests throughout the years, you hear a lot of interesting stories, and you can’t help but stop and take a minute to listen.”

This October will be Caraway’s 18th year at the hotel, and she said she’s incredibly proud to be a part of its history.

“Many people don’t realize that Muskogee Inn was the very first business purchased by the Tribe and entrusted to CIEDA (Creek Indian Enterprises Development Authority),” Caraway said. “It was bought in 1986 and has seen a few changes over the years, including our recent remodel and updating of the rooms.”

Hospitality

As assistant manager, Caraway oversees about 20 employees. Her day-to-day operations vary, she said, but it’s always something new every day.

“I absolutely love it,” Caraway said. “We are like family here, and one thing is for sure, this place holds a lot of great memories. I have had the opportunity to work with some awesome people throughout my 18 years and have met some great folks from all over the world; you really never know who is going to walk through the door next. I guess you say hospitality is in my blood.”

Caraway said the hotel sees a lot of traffic from industry workers who come in for various jobs.

“I love when the hotel fills up with companies that are here for any given time,” she said. “They always have a story to tell, and I enjoy learning about their backgrounds and where they live. It’s just really neat to see so many different people and get to know them and make them feel at home.”

She said things really get interesting and start picking up once summertime hits and families start traveling. A lot of family reunions and weddings take place in the summer, too, as well as concert season at Wind Creek Atmore. When days get busy, Caraway doesn’t miss a beat. She said it’s because she has fun at work.

“I’m not saying I haven’t had some very challenging days, but I love my job. I have cleaned my share of rooms and made many beds in my time here and won’t hesitate to get out and help in any way I can to make our guests have the best stay possible and keep them coming back.”

Truly a blessing

Caraway said she started out working in a few restaurants and fast food places before beginning her career at the hotel.

“I just decided to stop by to put in an application, and the manager at the time hired me on the spot,” Caraway said with a smile. “I started out in housekeeping, moved to laundry, room inspector, worked front desk and also have helped in maintenance if they needed a hand. Then I moved to administrative assistant in 2008. In 2009, the assistant manager job opened up, and I applied for it and got it.”

Caraway is very humble talking about her career.

“I don’t say I started at the bottom and worked my way up because I believe all the different departments here are equal. It takes team work. Everyone here is important. It takes a lot of hard work and team work to keep this place going, and I have to say we really have a terrific crew here. I’m proud of all of them for their hard work. I’m truly blessed to be part of the Muskogee Inn team.”

How to be comfortable at any hotel

It’s been said time and again that there’s nothing like a good night’s sleep in your own bed. So when you travel, odds are you might find yourself uncomfortable or unable to sleep well for various reasons. The comforts of home are left behind, and you have to rely on the amenities of the hotel where you plan to stay. If you don’t come prepared, you could spend all night tossing and turning and becoming frustrated. But don’t fret — Muskogee Inn has put together a quick checklist of how to be comfortable at any hotel.

8 ways to be comfortable at any hotel

  1. Bring your own bed pillows. There are numerous studies out there about how having the right type of pillow for your sleeping style is essential for sleepbed pillowsing well. According to an article in the Telegraph UK, not only is the elevation and firmness of your head support important, but so is matching the right type of pillow to your sleeping style.
    Some hotel pillows are flat while others are extra fluffy. Both styles might hinder your sleep if you aren’t used to sleeping on those kinds of pillows. So save yourself a night of insomnia and pack your bed pillows.
  2. Bring your own blankets. Same idea as with pillows — some hotel rooms might leave you shivering at night with inadequate blankets. You don’t have to bring the heaviest blanket from your house, but just having a throw cover will add warmth to your room and make you feel at home.
  3. Talk with hotel staff about specific accommodations. More often than not, guests will become irate and write bad reviews because something about the hotel room was not to their liking. But many of those people didn’t bother to ask the staff for extra pillows, towels, coffee, soap, etc. comfortable at any hotelHad they just inquired about getting a ground level room, they might not have complained about a lack of elevators. Or maybe they should have asked to be on a floor with no children if the noise was bothersome. Simply asking nicely could have solved a minor problem. Don’t hesitate to engage with hotel workers. They want your stay to be comfortable, so let them help you.
  4. Request a new room if the bed is too soft or too firm. Don’t be afraid to ask the hotel staff for a different room if you get to yours and realize the bed is uncomfortable. Smaller mattresses often are firmer, so if you prefer firmness, ask for a full or queen room.
  5. Block out noise by using earplugs or requesting an end unit away from traffic. The most common pet peeve of many hotel stays is noise. Whether it be from too-thin walls or from road and hallway traffic, you can eliminate some or all of the commotion by having earplugs handy. Another way to enjoy the quiet is to get a room in the back at the end of a hallway. The corner units tend to create a small cocoon and you will only have one neighbor instead of two on either side.
  6. Stick to your bedtime routine. When you are traveling, it’s easy to get in the habit routine, hotel, comfortableof not being in a habit. I mean, that’s the reason for a vacation, right? To not have to do every day things? However, when it comes to going to bed, routine is exactly what you need. If you usually read before bed, then bring a book. Tune in to that TV show or listen to your regular ambience music app on your phone. Whatever it is you normally do, do it. Your body will recognize the habit and sleep will come naturally.
  7. Be smart and read reviews. There’s nothing worse than finding a great room rate and then getting to the hotel to find things are not what you expected. You do a quick online search and see a plethora of bad reviews across multiple sites for your choice hotel. When you book online, take the time to read TripAdvisor, Yelp or other reputable reviewing sites to make sure you get the best hotel stay possible. Also consider that just because one person had a complaint doesn’t mean that’s the norm for that hotel. Call the hotel and inquire about your concerns before booking the room. Then you will know you made the right choice.suitcase
  8. Unpack your suitcase. Even if you are just staying for one night, putting your clothes away in the chest drawers or hanging them in the closet will make it feel like you are home. Everything has a place at your house, so why not in a hotel room? Put your toiletries on the bathroom counter instead of leaving them in your travel case. In might seem like extra work, but you will realize, even if unconscious about it, that you don’t feel like a guest, you feel at home.