Midweek catch-up with SAHARA Las Vegas’ Michelle Sandoval

Midweek catch-up with SAHARA Las Vegas’ Michelle Sandoval

It’s that time of the week again so we caught up with Michelle Sandoval, VP hotel operations, SAHARA Las Vegas, who gave us her insights on recovering from the pandemic.

What’s your main goal for this year?

This year I’m looking forward to putting the last pieces back in place that were dismantled during the pandemic. I feel like we’ve been somewhat treading water since March 2020, and now with COVID restrictions finally relaxed, coupled with a revitalized international travel segment and a seemingly robust convention year, I’m super optimistic about being able to refocus the team on a more targeted approach to both service and revenue initiatives. Along with that, I am very focused on our team, their working conditions, and metal health – all things that were heavily impacted during the last three years as we navigated our operation through the perpetual challenges. It feels like we can breathe a little now, refocus and reenergize the team as we move forward.

What’s your favourite thing about working in the travel industry?

I love my piece of the travel industry in that we get to welcome guests from all over the world and many times we’re a part of their special occasion or event. If we do it right, we then also become part of the memories that are made. Of course, being in Las Vegas makes our job a lot more exciting, and although it sounds cliché, I honestly love being a part of the celebration and great guest experiences Vegas has become known for.

How do you like to spend your free time?

Any free time I have is spent with my family. My husband and our children are most important to me and whether it’s a long vacation or a movie night at home, they are it for me.

Have you managed to do any travelling since restrictions began to ease (domestic or international)? 

I’ve done some domestic travel over the last 18 months, mostly short trips close in proximity for family events. I found that prior to mid/end of 2021 protocols in most places were still so restrictive, so I chose to wait it out. Key West was an exception and by far my favorite post-pandemic trip, mostly because it appeared as if they came out of the pandemic unscathed with the operational challenges everyone else was faced with. Plenty of staff, all amenities offered, no restrictions with operating hours, etc. It honestly gave me the first glimpse of hope for the future of our industry. 

If you could invite three famous guests (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would you choose?

Interesting question! In no particular order, Drew Barrymore, Maria Shriver, and Rick Warren.

What’s something positive you’ve witnessed or experienced since the global pandemic hit?

For me, I was surprised and encouraged by the fortitude on display by the team of people I work with. We closed, as much of the world did, in early March assuming it would be over soon. Re-opening with heavy restrictions and a fraction of our traditional business volumes, we then kept believing we would start turning the corner soon. Soon turned into nearly three years later, and the in-between time was so tough. Whether it be the COVID restrictions, the shift in (lack of) business, the challenges with supply chains, and then ultimately an almost insurmountable lack of workforce to service the business that finally came back, we just kept pushing the rock uphill. Now, seemingly on the other side, I look back with such admiration and appreciation at the work that was done to steward our business through the pandemic and the collateral damage it brought with it. 

What’s your advice for others in the travel industry on coping with the global pandemic?

I found it helpful to stay focused, and keep my team focused on what we can do vs. what we can’t. Each year of this pandemic has brought new challenges different from the previous year’s challenges, and still uncharted territory in most cases. Being both flexible and patient with the process, with our employees, and with our customers helps with not focusing on the way things were done pre-pandemic and allows for dealing with the challenge in front of us. I noticed a lot of businesses got stuck and instead of flexing into their new environment, it was easier to say “no” or “due to the pandemic we no longer …”. It made for a stressful work environment and in most cases a terrible guest experience.

What book and/or TV show can you not get enough of lately?

“Glad You’re Here” by Walker Hayes & Craig Allen Cooper, and I just reread (actually re-listened, I’m more a fan of audio books) “Tuesdays with Morrie” every human should read this book! I’m late to the game, but currently watching “The Crown” & I’m loving the history and Queen Elizabeth’s back story.

Do you have any travel goals for 2022?

No lofty travel goals this year, I’m really looking forward to my family’s annual summer trip to Newport Beach, and we might squeeze in Nashville in the fall.

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