What Locals Love, Tourists Will Love, with Jill Ramiel

Episode 278

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Jill Ramiel was born in Flushing, Queens, New York, and attended the State University of New York at Binghamton. While pursuing her master’s degree at the University of Washington, she met Ken Alper, a fellow East Coast native and master’s degree recipient.

The couple moved to Juneau, Alaska, in 1997 and bought the historic Messerschmidt Building. Originally built in 1898 as a bakery, the Historic Messerschmidt building in downtown Juneau now houses the Silverbow Inn Hotel & Suites. Jill and Ken have been renovating and expanding it ever since.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Jill Ramiel about her role as a small business owner in the tourism industry and why she is adamant that collaboration is essential in creating a unique local experience that visitors also love. She shares how she delights and surprises her guests by seeking meaningful and authentic partnerships and describes her plans for the Silverbow Inn Hotel & Suites as we move into the post-pandemic travel and tourism era.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How small businesses can foster a sense of community and bring people together to share ideas
  • Jill’s creative collaborations with local partners, including a wonderful muralist, and why her guests appreciate her partnerships with the artisans of Juneau
  • Why being inexperienced in the travel and tourism sector allowed Jill to look at things from a different angle
  • How budget constraints make you more creative in your thinking
  • Jill reflects on the last two years and how her business moved forward during that time
  • How the Silverbow Inn Hotel & Suites is enhancing their customer experience with technology
  • The expansion of the inn and why Jill thinks visitors will love the refurbishments
  • Why unique local experiences start with the locals, not the tourists

Networking for Success

Putting the time into researching to solve problems creatively is essential when you’re on a tight budget. And even when you’re not, there are so many reasons why keeping an open mind and relishing the opportunity to make creative decisions is important. Jill Ramiel joins us on the podcast this week to share her journey from architecture student in New York to hotelier in Juneau, Alaska.

She describes why it’s such a pleasure to work with skilled, passionate people, grow her network, and be inspired by all the talented people around her. Small business owners are a significant part of the tourism ecosystem, and it’s fascinating how destinations can work with them to really display what is special and unique about an area.

Technological Advances

So many people and destinations have been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Jill shares how her boutique hotel, the Silver Bow Inn, has made pivotal, impactful positive changes over the last two years.

She reveals that her superpower is persistence and highlights how she and her team worked together to find the solution to keeping the business afloat and relevant when the situation was changing so rapidly. Jill and Nicole discuss some of the technical innovations that allowed the inn to operate in a ‘hands-off’ fashion, including the doorknobs that you could unlock using your cell phone number and self-check-in systems — and some of the glitches that Jill had to deal with!

Keeping Downtown Areas Alive

When people are all working hard individually, it can be easy for them to become siloed in their own businesses. But when your destination relies on all of the small businesses in the area it’s immensely valuable to step outside your own operations and collaborate with others. Jill notes that a good downtown is a curated downtown and that the onus was on the businesses in the downtown zone of Juneau to ensure it was an attractive place to visit — not only for tourists but for locals too. As she says, “if the locals love it, tourists will love it too.”

Visitors will be drawn to a unique local experience, and the most effective way to build that experience is to collaborate with others.


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