Insight; New York Hospitality Professionals - This Week: Isaac Pacheco
“Insight; New York Hospitality Professionals”, a weekly interview series with professionals from the MICE industry in New York.
These are uncertain times for our industry – yet we believe that now is the moment to bring our industry closer together by strengthening our ties and relationships on a more human level.
It is for this reason that Shackman Associates is undertaking a series of interviews with other New York hospitality professionals to learn how they are managing during this time.
In today’s episode; New York Hospitality Professionals Karen Shackman, President and CEO of Shackman Associates interviews Isaac Pacheco, Director of Sales at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
Karen: Hello Isaac, so nice to catch up with you. For those who may not know you, please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what is happening with you and your team at the moment.
Isaac: Thank you Karen. My name is Isaac Pacheco Director of Sales at The National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
Most of us are still working remotely, I personally work from my apartment in Astoria Queens, I bought a small desk and set up a satellite office in my living room. I continue working office hours 9:00am - 5:00pm but only 4 days a week.
Karen: It is good to know that you are still working. What is your current situation now that New York has opened in Phase 4?
Isaac: I am very excited to see businesses and some tourist attractions welcoming back customers and visitors in general. We were very fortunate to be able to reopen the Memorial on July 4th following all the State and CDC safety guidelines and recommendations and now we are just waiting for the government to give us the OK for the Museum to reopen again.
Karen: Yes, it was good news for us all when the Memorial reopened. It is such an important icon in the city. And we are all waiting to hear updates on the opening of the museums. The city is not the same without our museums open. How are you managing your time now in this “revised normal”?
Isaac: Working from home, hosting meetings on Microsoft Teams and Zoom, practicing social distancing and wearing a mask when outside in public, having my dog on my lap while working and cooking all 3 meals at home have become my new norm these days.
Karen: What a great way to destress while working from home. So many people seem to have embraced or discovered their culinary skills in the past few months. And I am sure your dog is delighted to have you home. It will certainly be a big readjustment when you return to the office. How do you keep in contact with your team and the industry as a whole? It is obviously a new situation for so many of us.
Isaac: We use Microsoft Team to host weekly meetings as well as phone calls, FaceTime and texts. We also set up at least once a month some fun happy hours, trivia games, etc just to stay connected and support each other during these difficult times.
I have also attended and participated in multiple webinars hosted by industry organizations and reseller’s partners. I have been following trends from European attractions after reopening and it’s fascinating to learn how creative and innovative their reopening campaigns are to attract and interact with local visitors. It’s very important to communicate to your community and local residents about all the efforts and best practices you are doing to keep place clean and safe to welcome back visitors.
Karen: That is true. Communication on all levels is key, and it is truly becoming more important to share accurate information while updating everybody on the strides being made to provide a safe environment for all visitors. I am sure it is eye-opening to compare notes with other countries that may be ahead of us in the opening process. There is a lot to learn and it is great that you are following all of that. In the meantime, and until we reopen, what have you found to be essential to maintain your sanity during this time.?
Support from my husband
Good classical music
An app called “Calm”
Karen: Three really good grounding elements. I actually have not heard of “Calm” and will definitely look into it as an option to what I have been using. How are you using the app?
Isaac: I have been using “Calm” to help me relax, meditate and focus on myself and my wellbeing.
Other than that, after I’m done with work, every day I take long walks with my dog to Astoria Park and I also do home workouts at least 3 times a week… it’s important for me to stay active and eat balanced meals and I have been enjoying cooking all meals at home. Making sourdough bread has been very therapeutic for me.
Karen: If you are cooking 3 meals a day every day, and making sourdough bread, I am very impressed! It seems that bread-making equipment sold out rapidly on Amazon during the past few months - so many people are making bread these days. Are you reading or watching anything worth recommending?
Isaac: I started reading “Sleeping Beauties” from Stephen King, I know it is not a happy book, but I love thrillers and it keeps me entertained.
I have also been keeping myself entertained watching “Mrs. America”, “What we do in the Shadows”, “House of Flowers” and “The Mandalorian”.
Karen: Your range of interest is definitely varied! What is the first thing you want to do, or place you want to go once travel restrictions have eased?
Isaac: The first thing I want to do is to have a family reunion in Punta Cana DR at my brother’s house. My parents were supposed to be here in May to spend the summer with me here in NY.
Karen: This pandemic is certainly keeping families apart for way too long. We are all so hoping to be back in a situation where gatherings are possible again – sooner rather than later! Is the September 11 Museum still dealing with cancelations or rebooking for 2020?
Isaac: Yes, we are still dealing with a few cancellations and rebooking specially from groups. Group business is currently suspended to help stop the spread of COVID-19 per State guidelines and CDC recommendations.
Karen: It has been a very interesting “pivot” to see how many museums are making their exhibits available for viewing online. What is The Memorial doing in this respect?
Isaac: We want to give the option to everyone to experience The Memorial from the comfort and safety of their own home. We just launched a new Interactive option - Live Memorial Virtual Tours - packed with a lot of really good information, very educational and entertaining. And since it’s a live tour, you have the option to interact with the tour guide and ask questions. We are also offering this option for private groups and programs.
Karen: What a great idea. This is really interesting information for us to have. Any thoughts about how the 9/11 Museum will be set up going forward?
Isaac: We are still working on it, but rest assured that we will continue offering unforgettable experiences to all our visitors.
Karen: I imagine you are developing new protocols for social distancing and health and safety measures?
Isaac: Absolutely, we follow very closely the State and CDC safety guidelines about social distancing, face covering and hand sanitation. The pools’ parapets have received a new, clear topcoat treatment (all wax has been stripped) which will protect them and allows regular disinfecting by fogging, as well as UV light. Free-standing sanitation stations are available throughout the entire Memorial Plaza as well as contactless credit card transactions and check - in procedures.
Karen: What can clients expect regarding your pricing structure moving forward and how flexible are you regarding booked/postponed tours, and, hopefully, new bookings?
Isaac: We are currently working on prices, rates and probably new offerings and packages. The tour and travel industry is now requiring more flexible cancellations policies in an effort to regrow visitation and alleviate the concerns of the consumers regarding travel plan interruptions, therefore, we have made some changes to our cancellations policies allowing visitors and clients to cancel their bookings up to 24 hours prior their visit.
Karen: That is good news, and I am sure, much appreciated by all group organizers and visitors. How are you positioned for reopening, when the city allows for this? What are the priorities you are focusing on in order to get back to business.?
Isaac: We have been working on our reopening plans since the day after we closed, and there’s no doubt that our first and most important priority is the safety of our visitors and frontline staff. The 9/11 Memorial is committed to following CDC and NYS Department of Health recommendations and adhering to local, state, and federal guidelines on reopening.
Karen: I am so proud of what all our colleagues in the industry are doing to develop health and safety protocols, and I do hope that will provide a sense of confidence for travelers to our great city going forward. We look forward to hearing more from you when a decision has been reached for the next phase in reopening. Anything else you would like to share?
Isaac: Our institution has developed incredible strengths which move nearly every person who comes to the site. Millions of people come here every year and we welcome everyone from every background to participate in our mission of commemoration, education and inspiration.
I want to extend an invitation to every New Yorker, every American and every person in the world to come and support our incredible mission. Visiting the September 11 Memorial and Museum is something that everyone should do. It is important to remember that we can come together and overcome adversity - especially during the difficult times we are going through right now.
Bringing people together safely is on the things we do best.