Santa Barbara hotelier Tom Patton to lead state lodging association
Tom Patton, the general manager of the Ramada by Wyndham Santa Barbara, is looking forward to leading the nation’s largest association of hotels.
Mr. Patton has been elected the 2022 board chair of the California Hotel and Lodging Association.
“It’s my great honor to represent Santa Barbara at the state level,” Mr. Patton told the News-Press. “Both in good times and bad, hospitality is an amazing industry.”
Mr. Patton has more than 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry. Around 20 of those years have been spent at the Ramada by Wyndham Santa Barbara.
According to Mr. Patton, this is the first time a Santa Barbara hotelier has served as chair in around 15-20 years.
Throughout his years managing hotels, Mr. Patton has braved through 9/11, the recession of 2007-08 and now COVID-19, all of which heavily affected tourism — though the pandemic proved to be remarkably more difficult than he could have expected.
“I don’t think any of us were prepared for the pandemic,” Mr. Patton said. “Fortunately in hospitality, you have to be flexible when you’re working with the general public.”
Unsurprisingly, the hospitality industry suffered greatly because of the pandemic. The Santa Barbara hotelier said, as general manager, his associates looked to him for guidance, but, “This was a time when we didn’t have any answers.”
While he did not always have answers, Mr. Patton did explain there were days where he would go into work to strip sheets and clean, doing anything to turn rooms over after being heavily understaffed.
Mr. Patton also said, in the wake of lessened commerce, the Ramada provided free or heavily reduced rooms for nurses, doctors and emergency medical responders.
Despite the uncertainty and inevitable financial toll, Mr. Patton said Santa Barbara positioned itself to keep their tourism alive.
A member of Visit Santa Barbara’s board of directors, Mr. Patton explained how the marketing group promoted tourism while prioritizing safety.
“Visit Santa Barbara kept promoting our outdoor attractions throughout COVID when other destinations went dark,” Mr. Patton told the News-Press. “There was a steady stream of tourists, and we never got overrun. We were perceived as one of the destinations that was safe.”
Mr. Patton also thanked the Californian Hotel and Lodging Association for its preparedness and quick reaction to the pandemic.
“They were one of the first organizations in the states with a cohesive plan,” said Mr. Patton. “They put together a whole program for hotels to follow to indicate to the public that we were open and we were safe.”
Now as chair for the largest hotel and lodging association in the U.S., Mr. Patton wishes to revitalize the damaged industry as the general public resumes travel.
His first beast to tackle: the labor shortage.
“I’m committed to making sure we’re doing everything we can to make our industry as desirable as possible,” Mr. Patton told the News-Press. “It doesn’t matter if you’re college educated or fresh out of high school, you can go as far as you want in this industry if you’re motivated and passionate about people.”