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.