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.
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.
However, 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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
Hospitality is a competitive industry. Guest reviews often dictate where a traveler will stay, and the effects of online reviews can make or break a hotel chain. Having a good reputation and getting rave reviews are assets no hotel can afford to lose.
Customer service is key to any business, and here at Muskogee Inn, it’s no different. We strive to provide our guests with the best experience while they are away from home, and we embrace consumers’ opinions in the form of online reviews.
Muskogee Inn ranks at the top of good reviews from various websites, such as Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Yelp and more.
Here are a few statistics about rave reviews for hotels and the role it plays on bookings:
- 50 percent of consumers will not book a hotel that doesn’t have reviews
- According to hotelnewsnow.com, higher reviews result in more bookings 3.9 times more than negative or no reviews
- Guests read 6-12 reviews before deciding where to stay
Travel decisions generally begin with choosing the best hotel at or near a destination. That is why choosing a good hotel is such an important, albeit stressful, decision to make.
Seasoned travelers always start with a budget in mind and what amenities they can and can’t live without. But how do you choose whether to stay at a chain-branded hotel or at an independent, local lodging establishment, such as the Muskogee Inn (MI) in Atmore, Ala.?
Data compiled in June by STR.com shows 31 percent of the 4,957,714 total rooms in the U.S. hotel system fall into the independent segment of the market. Last year, independents saw its strongest gain in performance metrics. Muskogee Inn was right in there, boasting of booked-out rooms for big events, such as concerts, Pow Wow, Williams Station Day and more.
Online reviews for best hotel
According to a recent survey by PhoCusWright, customers turn to TripAdvisor or a relevant review website on a regular basis. The study says 80 percent base their hotel decisions on reviews from other customers.
Muskogee Inn has a high review rate on TripAdvisor, being rated a four out of five. On Yelp.com, the hotel is rated 4.5 out of five. Seeing these types of reviews and reading the experiences from reviewers allows first-time customers to see what they are getting when they choose MI over a chain establishment.
A friendly staff and a clean, updated room go a long way in making a guest feel comfortable and happy.
Proximity is another reason travelers might choose an independent hotel over a chain hotel. The location of Muskogee Inn is perfect — immediately off Interstate 65 at exit 57, Muskogee Inn is only an eighth of a mile from the entertainment district at Wind Creek Atmore. There also are restaurants adjacent and across the street. Some choose to walk instead of drive for food or fun.
The local feel
However, consumer preferences have changed with the economy. Many people are choosing independent hotels to get a local experience from their trip. According to innroad.com, by trading well recognized brands for local lodging, guests hope to enhance their stay with unique and memorable experiences that large chains cannot provide.
This is Muskogee Inn’s niche. Owned and operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Muskogee Inn honors the Tribe’s history at every turn. They chose the name Muskogee to reflect the original name of the Tribe. The walls and hallways are adorned with historic photos provided by the Office of Archives and Records Management.
Best hotel for the budget conscious
Just about everyone is looking for a deal these days, especially when it comes to travel lodging. Some people do have brand loyalty when it comes to hotels because they know what to expect, but when it comes down to saving 50 percent or more on a hotel room, many might choose a lesser known hotel solely on the price.
Muskogee Inn has very competitive rates compared to its competitors, saving consumers on average 30 to 50 percent per night. That frees up the budget for people to have more to spend in the local destination of their choice. By choosing an independent budget hotel over a budget hotel with a national brand, you might be able to afford that extra meal or outfit you wanted.
Keep these facts in mind next time you are deciding on which hotel to book.
Shine your boots and dust off your cowboy hat — The Band Perry will be performing at 8 p.m. Sept. 18 at the amphitheater at Wind Creek Atmore! The concert was rescheduled from the originial date in August.
Tickets went on sale June 29 at ticketmaster.com.
Siblings Kimberly, Reid and Neil Perry are from Mobile, Ala., so it’s almost like a homecoming show for the band, who debuted in 2010. With a perfect blend of harmony, the trio layers vocals like you have never heard before.
Their hit songs “If I Die Young,” “Better Dig Two,” “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely” and “Chainsaw,” among many others, might sound a bit like a heavy topic, but don’t let that fool you. The group has said they pull energy from bands such as Queen and other rockers, all the while staying true to their country roots. Their songs have meaning and a purpose and are “all about real life.”
The band recently announced they have something big to share in the next couple of weeks, so keep your eyes and ears open so you don’t miss what they have planned. In the meantime, be sure to purchase your tickets for the Atmore show before they are sold out.
More concert announcements
In addition to The Band Perry, as previously announced, Big & Rich with Cowboy Troy will be performing at 9 p.m. July 25 at the amphitheater. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at ticketmaster.com, by phone at 800-745-3000 or at Essentials inside Wind Creek Casino and Hotel in Atmore.
If you like loud, boisterous, rockin’ country music with a few ballads thrown in for good measure, then this unlikely duo will knock your socks off!
New look at Muskogee Inn
Need a place to stay for Big & Rich or The Band Perry concerts that are coming up soon? Look no further than Muskogee Inn, which is conveniently just an eighth of a mile from the amphitheater at Wind Creek, directly off Interstate 65 at exit 57. Take the free shuttle from Muskogee Inn and save yourself the headache of finding a good parking place.
Check out recently remodeled rooms, which boast of fresh bedding, drapes, new carpet and paint, plus updated furniture and amenities.
Guest also get a free play at Wind Creek with every stay! So after the concerts, you can play at the casino and wind down from the excitement of the show.
Muskogee Inn is a budget friendly hotel, so you always stay for less and play more. Make your reservations today!