This summer, the hospitality industry is gearing up for pent-up demand from pandemic-weary travelers, so who better to provide insight into this essential element of Walworth County’s economy than Dave Sekeres, long-time general manager of Lake Lawn Resort. Dave is also chairperson of VISIT Lake Geneva, chairperson for Delavan’s tourism commission and on the board of directors for Walworth County Visitors Bureau and the Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association. Additionally, he has taught hospitality classes at Gateway Technical College and is the committee chair for their Hospitality Management Advisory Committee.
How has the Lake Lawn team pivoted during the pandemic to welcome guests safely?
A high level of safety and cleanliness have always been two key indicators of a successful restaurant, hotel or resort. Now during the pandemic, guests have taken notice of the increased safety measures taken. It starts with a strong education of the employees and awareness of how the virus could be transmitted. Strict mitigation efforts such as employee mask- wearing and social distancing is only the beginning. It involves finding clever ways to interact with guests without physically being close to them. This may include more personal calls, social media interaction or special, meaningful gifts and acknowledgments.
Will the hospitality industry operate differently going forward due to changes implemented in the last year?
As with most businesses, the ability to adapt with the times is a must. I think we can all agree that this pandemic has been incredibly difficult for most, even life altering for some, on both personal and professional levels. With that said, there are some aspects of change that can be perceived as positive. For years, the industry has pushed increased safety for room attendant staff or other positions who may enter guest rooms alone. The removal of daily stay-over service will most likely continue. Also, more flexibility with employees’ schedules when ill or with those who just have personal needs or struggles to attend to.
What’s the biggest challenge the lakes area faces as a tourist destination?
The biggest challenge is employment. Tourism is such a vital part of our local county economy and just like in many other heavy tourist areas the visitors in peak season greatly outnumber the available workforce. In fact, for some businesses the available workforce is a major constraint on continued growth. As large groups return, this is a great opportunity for employment. We will continue to face this challenge with increased awareness of the hospitality industry and career development in local schools and nearby areas.
How have guests’ expectations changed over the years?
Early on guests were satisfied with whatever service or choice you were offering. That has evolved over the years into managing the flexibility of guest wants and needs. This involves being open to making changes quickly to dining menu items for allergies or specific dietary needs or being flexible with meeting spaces to create a unique experience for groups. Creating an easier reservation experience with one point of contact for all your resort experiences, accommodates guests like never before.
In your 24 years at Lake Lawn, what do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
During my long tenure at Lake Lawn I’ve been proud of many things. One example is the creation of large events like Sky Circus on Ice, which showcases the resort and the beauty of the Delavan lakefront for thousands of visitors to the community. When an event such as that creates lasting family memories, it’s something the entire team feels proud of. More importantly, being the leader of a resort team in which you have created a culture of fun, laughter and love for each other is the greatest accomplishment.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
I love being part of this industry and being able to contribute to its growth on a state and local level. The development and mentoring of students and employees interested in hospitality is daily satisfaction. Seeing team members advance and grow in their career development is the greatest reward. Working with employees to find positive solutions to a challenge hopefully gives them the experience and confidence to be the next group of leaders for our community.