Story last updated at 10/2/2012 - 1:10 pm
Travel Channel's "Hotel Impossible" has made it to Alaska - working with the Glacier Bear Lodge in Yakutat.
"Hotel Impossible" selects hotels for its show based upon write-ins. But not every hotel that asks to be on the show will be featured - and being featured gives them the assistance of the show's host Anthony Melchiorri.
Melchiorri lives in New York and owns his own company apart from the show. The Travel Channel's biography on Melchiorri accolades him for his entrepreneurial skills.
"In the hospitality business for 20 years, Anthony Melchiorri has a proven track record of understanding a company's vision, its individual parts, and how to make those parts work together to complete the whole picture," it reads. "Knowing that attention to detail and making each part of the operation functional and strong are key to profitability, Melchiorri has developed and repositioned some of the finest and most high profile properties in the United States including the first Nickelodeon Hotel and Resort and the landmark Algonquin Hotel. He takes on clients in need of development or immediate repositioning, applies his experience and ability to assemble teams specializing in hotel management, and adds value for the owners and developers to ultimately increase their bottom line."
So, what brings a national show and a New York hotel guru to Yakutat?
"The selection process works as: somebody writes in and we look at it," Melchiorri said in a phone interview. "We see if there's a real need to come and save this hotel. I want to make sure there's a real need. We deemed this was a real need. There is some of the greatest fishing in the world here, but this hotel is losing money. This small community can't afford to lose this lodge."
Melchiorri's process is learning about the lodge and it's targeted customers. He then looks for the key issues the hotel is having - why it's at risk of shutting down, and then he works with the owners and staff to make changes needed to survive and thrive.
Melchiorri and the Travel Channel crew were filming in Yakutat from Sept. 25 through Sept. 28. - a short week to turn around a struggling lodge. The lodge was built in 1973 and hosts 31 beds. It's co-owned and managed by Pete Eades.
Melchiorri spent Tuesday fishing - and had an absolute blast on that excursion, even seeing a bear.
"I don't know what I'm doing yet," he said Tuesday afternoon of whether he had recommendations for improvements. "This is a real reality show. I spent a good part of my day doing a fishing trip so I can understand why people spend thousands of dollars, 10-14 hours on a plane to come and fish. Then I can be in a position to consult and direct the owners of this hotel."
And a fishing lodge in remote Alaska is definitely something new for him.
"This lodge, being in a remote location in Alaska, is atypical of what I've dealt with in the past," Melchiorri said. "I've dealt with hotels that are in major cities. It's not really different than any other hotel. Guests come to hotels for a reason. Here, people come for fishing. I've never been to a fishing lodge before. I'm trying to understand what a fisherman needs. They need a place to put their gear; a place for really good fish; cold beer and some food. So I'm trying to get in the head of a fisherman."
Melchiorri hinted at a few of the initial assessment.
"It's a lodge that is obviously in a very remote location, with some of the best fishing, and it's very, very basic," Melchiorri said. "Basic is fine, but it has to tell people its here." He said 80 percent of the lodge's business is returned business or referrals from prior customers. As those people return less often or get older, there aren't enough new customers to fill in the gap.
"They're not being able to fulfill what they're losing and they're still not full on some of the dates they should be full," Melchiorri said. "It's really not about the lodge, it's about the fishing experience. I went fishing for steelhead myself. I don't really need a great hotel, I just need a great experience with a comfortable hotel."
Eades said the lodge has seven owners, a full bar and kitchen and its outbuildings are the rooms.
"We offer river guides, have our own ocean boat," he said. "We process our own fish. We're pretty all inclusive here."
Eades couldn't say much about the work done with Melchiorri, but he believes it will be beneficial for the lodge.
"It was trying," he said. "It was a stressful week. I haven't had a week like that in a long time. Overall it will be very beneficial for the lodge, but it was a long week."
Eades said he would "absolutely" do it again.
"They really know what they're doing and they're going to benefit our lodge immensely," he said.
This was Melchiorri's first trip to Alaska. He said he now intends to come back regularly.
"Alaska is one cool place," he said.
To learn more about Glacier Bear Lodge's story and how "Hotel Impossible" - Yakutat style - will turn out, you'll have to tune into the program when it airs. The episode run date will be announced later, but the new season starts Dec. 3.