8 Questions With… Courtney Denman, Area Director of Corporate and Leisure Travel, Viceroy Hotels of Washington DC

Washington, DC is one of our favorite cities in the world. Historical sites, amazing museums, an incredible food scene, fantastic hotels…DC really does have it all!  It’s a popular pick for meeting and event planners because of these reasons. A favorite hotel in our nation’s capital that we often book for group travel is the Viceroy Washington DC. It’s in a great neighborhood, on a quiet residential block, but at the end of the block are many great restaurants and shops. And just a few blocks away is the equally cool Hotel Zena that’s also great for meeting and group travel. Our dear friend and partner, Suzanne Goldberg from The Art of Hospitality introduced us to this month’s 8 questions subject, who is our trusted partner at both hotels. Let us introduce you…

CIRE: Hi Courtney! Our team knows (and loves) you from all your help on our DC groups and business/vacation travelers, but won’t you please say hello to our loyal readers?

COURTNEY: Hi! My name is Courtney, and I work for the Viceroy Hotels of Washington DC (Viceroy DC & Hotel Zena) as the Area Director of Corporate and Leisure Travel. I have worked with CIRE in several capacities in both leisure and corporate, but most recently with their clients in the film production industry.

CIRE: It’s true! We have several clients who are in the advertising industry and also production companies. It’s always fun to support travel for their creative teams and talent for various photo and film shoots in the entertainment business.  How did you get into the hospitality industry?

COURTNEY: I sort of “fell into” hotels. I graduated college with a job offer from a major sports team in DC, but the company went through a hiring freeze and delayed my start date. After several months of waiting, a friend of my mom’s said I should think about working in hotels! At that time, I had no concept of what “working for a hotel” was outside of checking people in and housekeeping. But after nearly draining my bank account waiting for the other job to open up, I decided to apply for a front desk job at a Marriott in DC. I got the job, and on my very first day of training, the sports team called me, saying they were ready for me to start. I had already committed to the hotel, so I decided to pass and continue my time with Marriott. I haven’t looked back since, and it was the best decision I could have made!

CIRE: We agree! We’re so happy you’re with Team Viceroy in DC! What’s unique about working for Viceroy Hotels?

COURTNEY: I think what sets Viceroy apart is that we are a small company that truly helps all the hotels within its brand. I speak with most of my counterparts in other cities on at least a weekly basis. I have spent enough time with them that I could likely roll out their hotel spiel along with my own. We all help one another with things we may need in our separate markets. I can use them as a sounding board for ideas I may have that I need help nailing down, and can ask them for help with things I may not know. It is really great having not only your own central team within the walls of your hotel but also a broader sense of support within the brand itself!

CIRE: A strong and supportive team is a great thing and makes coming to work fun.  What do you love most about your role?

COURTNEY: I LOVE the partnerships piece of my job. When people outside of our industry ask me what I do for a living, I often say that I get paid to make friends! I have worked for several different hotels and different brands in different neighborhoods in the city, but I have been blessed to take many of my clients with me throughout all of those changes. My favorite part of my job is making my clients look good to their clients. If I can make you look like a rockstar, then I consider that a job well done.

CIRE: Thank you for taking great care of our entertainment industry and vacation clients and for making us look good!  You’ve worked all around DC, but where are you from originally?

COURTNEY: The DC area is actually my home! I spent most of my childhood in the southern Maryland suburbs of the city, with a few years outside of this area (being an Air Force brat) in Japan, Virginia, and Nebraska. One thing I don’t think people know about Washington, DC is that it is much more than just monuments and museums. DC has a rich history in jazz, with several pivotal jazz musicians being DC natives (Billie Eckstein, Duke Ellington, Billy Taylor).

My favorite restaurant in DC right now is a new STARR Group restaurant called El Presidente. I am certain my colleagues and loved ones are tired of hearing me talk about it! It is Mexico City inspired cuisine, which I had not realized was different from any other Mexican cuisine. I love Mexican food, so I naturally went to check it out when it opened, and I have been probably a dozen times since. It makes me even more excited to visit Mexico City, which is a location that has been on my radar for a while.

CIRE: When you’re not hitting the best jazz clubs in DC or eating delicious Mexican food, where have you been traveling recently?

COURTNEY: My most recent vacation was to El Salvador. We chose this destination because 1) I love a beach, and 2) Because we enjoy going to places that have not yet hit their “tourism peak.” I love modern things and elevated experiences, but sometimes, I enjoy going places off the beaten path. We had an amazing time while there because we got a little bit of everything. We spent half of our trip in the La Libertad/Surf City area. While there, we did lots of R&R at our beachfront resort. El Salvador has amazing black sand beaches, and I also learned it is one of the top surfing destinations in the world. We were able to drive to the mountains and ride ATVs up and through the Ataco village. We did some coffee tastings, which, if you are a coffee lover, El Salvador was probably one of the top two coffees I have ever had, with Vietnam being number one. We climbed the Santa Ana Volcano, which, as someone who enjoys hiking, was one of the toughest I have ever done and most rewarding. We spent the second half of the trip in the capital city of San Salvador. While there, we spent a lot of time exploring and visiting the historic landmarks, and they have a TON of shopping. I think our hotel was within two blocks of three or four malls. We were there for eight days and still didn’t get a chance to do all the things we wanted to do. The people were friendly, and every single place we went, the food was fantastic! I can’t wait to go back.

CIRE: Wow!  Sounds like an amazing trip!  (Adding El Salvador to our list…)  What’s your all-time favorite vacation destination?

COURTNEY: This is so hard because I love so many places for different reasons. I would say my favorite place I have traveled to so far was Cuba. Sadly, I only spent a short time there because I went on a cruise, but the two days I did get to experience it were amazing. There are few places in this world that are truly stuck in time. I loved seeing all the old cars and the architecture that, by law, could never be changed from its original design.

CIRE: We 100% agree.  Cuba is amazing!  In all your world travels, any learnings or advice you can share?

COURTNEY: I think my biggest tip is making sure you have a vacation day at home after vacation. Nothing is worse than spending ten days in paradise just to go straight back to work the next day when you get home. You need that day to mentally prepare to enter back into reality!

CIRE: THIS!  It is so worth having that bonus day when you get home.  If only to catch up on sleep and do some laundry.  Thanks for the advice, and thanks for chatting with us, Courtney!  See you next time we’re in DC!

CIRE Travel is a full-service travel agency headquartered in New York, NY.  Our expert corporate travel planners, honeymoon travel agents, and luxury travel planners support clients across the country and around the world.

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