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Updated: July 8, 2024 On the Record

On the Record: Portland hotel executive says summer bookings are strong, but more last-minute

Photo / Jim Neuger Ginny Hussey, general manager of the Canopy by Hilton Portland Waterfront hotel, says that bookings are strong this summer albeit with more last-minute travel.

At the start of Maine’s summer tourism season, Mainebiz checked in with Ginny Hussey, general manager and “chief enthusiast” of the Canopy by Hilton Portland Waterfront, a 135-room boutique hotel opened by Fathom Cos. in June 2021 in the city’s Old Port.

Mainebiz: What attracted you to hospitality in the first place?

Ginny Hussey: The connection to people that this industry brings is what keeps me going. The connection I get from my team, our community partners and the guests is a win-win.

MB: What’s a typical workday like for you?

GH: While no day mirrors the next in this business, I find that most of my day is taken up with a variety of meetings. Simultaneously, I must remain available to what comes in the moment. There are constant pivots, so I always make sure my team knows I am available for whatever they need — answer a question, solve a problem, collaborate on a guest’s experience.

MB: How does the Canopy set itself apart in this crowded, competitive market?

GH: Canopy is a full-service, lifestyle boutique brand by Hilton with a focus on connecting guests with the neighborhood. Since opening, we’ve focused on building relationships in the Portland community and with local businesses. Through these relationships, we want to help provide these businesses with exposure to our guests, and what that does for us is create a unique layer within our guests’ experience.

An example of that is our Makers Market events or fitness classes. I believe these types of events add value and set us apart from our competitive set.

MB: How are bookings this summer compared to last year?

GH: Good! We can always rely on a strong summer but, year over year, that booking window just gets tighter. Travelers seem to be making plans at the last minute, often weather-dependent, which can always leave us worrying at first. But it’s summer in Maine; it fills in.

MB: Is business travel starting to come back?

GH: Not as strong as we’d like it to. However, those that have returned, we really focus on their business. We do that by building the relationship with those existing clients, showing our appreciation and seeing what further opportunity their business could bring us.

MB: You mentioned a goal of attracting more corporate groups. Can you elaborate?

GH: Over the last three years, we’ve gotten creative in promoting options for corporate groups that include utilizing our food and drink outlets like the Luna Rooftop Bar and Salt Yard Café & Bar as well as our meeting space. With corporate meetings, we like to show the bandwidth and flexibility we have throughout the hotel to capture that business and show the value in what the hotel offers.

MB: Where are leisure travelers coming from?

GH: We see travelers from all around the world, but primarily from states within driving distance to Maine. We still see first-timers to Maine from near and far and many guests book-ending their Maine vacation in Portland.

MB: What’s the hotel’s ‘retail wall’ all about?

GH: Our retail wall is in our main lobby, across from our front desk. We work with one local business each month and provide them with the space to sell their products. We’re excited to be working with Marin Skincare in July.

MB: During the slower months, what’s your strategy for staying busy?

GH: Our more traditional off-season is when we do different local promotions like $1 oysters in Luna or trivia in Salt Yard. We get creative with different events like movie nights, brunches or overnight stay packages, and connecting with our partners.

My favorite is our ‘Puppy Love’ event each February. The Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland brings a few puppies to snuggle up to, and we provide a donation check every February and June. We’ve donated over $50,000 to the organization since we’ve opened.

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