A Destination With a Difference: Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Hagerstown

A Destination With a Difference
Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Hagerstown
by Joanna Brenner

Lata and Martin Milner are giving new meaning to the term "feng shui." With a $3.5 million renovation in store, the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Hagerstown is getting a complete makeover, designed to make customers feel they are going on a "destination with a difference."
Lata Milner, manager of sales and marketing at the hotel, and Martin Milner, her husband and general manager, purchased the hotel in October of last year and have been thinking outside the box ever since.
"When we walked in, it was such a mess," Lata said. "The Hotel was very run down."
The Milner's knew they would have quite a project on their hands when they bought the hotel, but they "try to make challenges fun," according to Lata. The renovations are expected to be complete in August, and there will be a grand opening in mid-September.
Aside from needing a new roof and hot water system, the Milner's also decided to make lots of detailed changes. There are currently 60 rooms open, but when the re-modeling is finished, there will be 144 double and king rooms open for business. Each room will now have wireless Internet access, and all accommodation will come with a complimentary continental breakfast. The old rooms were completely stripped and are being re-done with the works: new carpets, curtains, flat screen TVs and completely refurbished bathrooms. The rooms even come with coffeemakers and an ironing board and iron.
But it's not just the rooms that will be different. Lata's favorite transformation is the atrium, which is being converted into a tropical oasis, ideal for wedding receptions, graduation parties or anniversary celebrations. The new atrium is decorated with coconut palms, banana trees, frangipani trees, bamboo, anthiriums and exotic water features, and the heated pool is accompanied by the newly designed pool side bar, dubbed the "Buddha Bar" by the Milners. You can visit the atrium and have a drink any day of the week from 4.00pm to 7.00pm. And for those who like to stay in shape, the new fitness center will be open by spring.
There will be six unique suites themed in the elements of earth, wind and fire, including one signature suite called "The Emerald Suite." There will also be one junior suite with an M&M theme, Lata's favorite suite. The King executive business suite has its own attached executive boardroom.
There are also eight meeting spaces and a total of more than 27,000 square feet of flexible meeting space that can accommodate groups of as little as six people and up to 300 people.
"They have turned it around," said Karen Kanzler, Assistant General Manager of the hotel. "We're going to be the talk of the town."
Although the Milner family group owns a number of other hotels in the Baltimore area, hotel management was not always their specialty. Both natives of New Zealand, they lived and worked Papua New Guinea for 16 years and in Australia for seven years until they moved to the United States to be closer to family. Martin is an accountant, and Lata a lawyer. But when Lata learned she couldn't practice law in the states, their family convinced them to take on the Clarion project.
"They liked the fact that we would bring something different to the hotel, with our international work experience" Lata said.
Lata said they had gotten a lot of support from the Hagerstown community, and that people have really "taken them under their wing."
Lata worked as a legal advisor for such corporations as Coca Cola, BHP and Colgate Palmolive, but it's the social scene that really attracts Lata to the hotel business.
"The best part of running hotels is meeting people," Lata said. "Hotels are about hospitality." She said she loves being able to make people's "wish lists" come true.
Martin has experience in commerce, administration and real estate. He and Lata have been married for 32 years.
Front desk representative Sandy Wade has only been working at the hotel since May, and has already seen remarkable improvements.
"When I came in, the atrium wasn't complete, but that work in itself was amazing," Sandy said. "In the little time I've been here, there's been a lot of progress; more so than I would have imagined contractors could get done. It seems like every day when I pull into work, something's different; something's new. I really enjoy working here."
The customers and employees alike have noticed the extremely positive transformation of the hotel "A lot of the guests that stay here are repeat customers," said Russell Sutton, front desk representative. They've stayed here throughout the years, and they've seen major improvements."
Sutton started working at the hotel in February. He had previously worked at another hotel, but is now involved with more of the day-to-day business at the Clarion, as well as sales and marketing.
"When I met Martin and Lata, I just saw the passion," he continued. "They just sold me on the idea that the Hotel was going to be a destination with a difference. I was excited to come on board."
The hotel is located at 901 Dual Highway, Hagerstown, Maryland. For more information call 301-733-5100 or visit www.clarionhagerstown.com.