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Employees of Cleveland’s newest hotel enjoy their homecomings while catering to corporate events

By Holly Hammersmith  |  Photo by Jim Baron

The Westin Cleveland Downtown, which opened its doors just over a year ago, continues to gain notoriety as a high-profile event venue. The 23-story hotel boasts close to 500 guest rooms, more than 20,000 square feet of meeting space, and a sales team just as dedicated to the venue’s success as they are to the city’s exciting transformation.

More than a dozen sales team members help coordinate event and meeting space within the hotel, reaching out to prospects and responding to inquiries alike. They also partner closely with Destination Cleveland to work leads. Several members of this team, such as Kara Matovich, are originally from Northeast Ohio. They moved to other large metro cities throughout the country, only to be drawn back home at a later date, Karen Troyer, director of sales and marketing for the Westin, says.

Matovich grew up in North Royalton. She worked for five years in hotel sales in Washington before moving home in December 2014 to join the Westin team as a sales manager.

“I felt it was important for me to bring everything I had learned in Washington D.C. back to Cleveland and assist in introducing this luxury brand to the city,” she says. “I love the food and the passionate and loyal atmosphere that people from Cleveland have. It’s infectious.”

The Westin employs more than 300 full-time employees.

“I think that, if it was even two years ago, you wouldn’t have people outside of Cleveland wanting to come to Cleveland or come back to Cleveland,” Troyer says. “(With) the exposure we are getting on the global level, Cleveland is really becoming a city for meetings and events.”

One of Matovich’s coworkers, Derek Baker, is also a sales manager. This native of Bellevue, Ohio shares a similar story. He lived and worked in the Cleveland area for about 10 years before moving to Colorado. Prior to coming back to Cleveland a second time, he worked in sales at Marriott International and at the InterContinental Hotels Group.

“I returned to this amazing city after a four-year hiatus in April 2014,” Baker says. “I chose Northeast Ohio because I feel like my heart belongs here. I also have my entire family within an hour’s reach of where I live and work.”

When it opened its doors on May 14, 2014, the Westin was the first of its chain in the Cleveland area. Previously the closest Westin hotel was in Columbus, Troyer says.

“There was opportunity to introduce Starwood as a company into the market,” she says. “We do have significantly more guest rooms than most of the (other downtown) properties. We serve organizations that are looking to hold their conferences here, their annual meetings; groups that are coming and looking to secure 300 or 350 rooms per night.”

Corporate customers host events here and conduct sales training on the property. Families use the facility for large family reunion events and weddings take place here, too. The hotel’s ballroom alone can accommodate up to 850 people, Troyer says.

Event spaces feature state-of-the-art technology. An event manager on staff individually partners with each group using the facilities. The 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, which took place in Cleveland, was a “premier event” for the hotel, Troyer adds.

“We were thrilled to be a very strong partner on that event. The energy that surrounded that weeklong event was amazing,” she says. “The city just came alive for that event.”

Leisure travelers also frequent the hotel, which features “superfood menus” and a world-class workout facility.

“Westin is very focused on wellness,” Troyer says. “That’s a really big selling point for those travelers that are looking to take advantage of that whole aspect of well-being as part of their travel.”

All food and beverages are prepared in-house. The Westin partners with local vendors for linens, floral displays, transportation, and more, Troyer says. Esthetically speaking, guests are greeted by a 1,500-plus-piece commissioned art collection, which adorns the halls and meeting spaces of the hotel. Pieces feature all different mediums, from photography to sculpture and collage work.

Looking ahead, the Westin team is already preparing for the 2016 Republican National Convention, which will take place in Cleveland.

“We are so thrilled that Cleveland is hosting. We have a great relationship with the team members of the RNC,” Troyer says. “We have already welcomed their travelers throughout the decision-making process and now in the planning phase of the event. We are trying to ensure that everyone that attends the RNC leaves with a good impression of Cleveland. We want to make sure we are good ambassadors.”

Rooms have not been assigned to specific guests yet but have been blocked for the event, Troyer says.

“Because of our location, we are fully committed for the convention. We will definitely be at full event space and rooms are already blocked off,” she says. 

For more information: westincleveland.com

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