News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters lodger receives national award

For a number of years, FivePine Lodge has received some kind of national award from Tripadvisor, but this year they hit it out of the park. They were named number three in the country for the Travelers’ Choice Awards Best of the Best title. Numbers one and two were in San Diego and New York City.

The award celebrates the highest level of excellence in travel based on a high volume of above-and-beyond reviews and opinions from the Tripadvisor community over a 12-month period. Out of their eight million listings, fewer than 1 percent achieve this milestone.

FivePine’s first award came only a few years after opening with being named Best Place for Romance locally by Bend Living. Past Travelers’ Choice Awards and ranking have included 2014 number five in Luxury Hotel, 2018 number 16 in Hotel Service, 2019 number 20 for Romantic Hotels, and 2020 number five for Best Service and number four for Romantic Hotel.

The housekeeping staff has received a passel of Best of Housekeeping Four Diamond awards from AAA Oregon, which are all proudly displayed in the housekeeping headquarters where Isabel is the head housekeeper.

This reporter was able to tag along to the weekly housekeeping staff meeting to meet the people who help keep the lodging clean, tidy, and looking new. At the housekeeping meetings there is two-way dialog between the management team and housekeeping employees, some conducted in Spanish. Staff hiring anniversaries and birthdays are recognized. One of the employees had a birthday that day and everyone sang Happy Birthday to her.

One of the housekeepers, Glenda, shared, “I am 67 years old and have been working for 55 years. This is the best company I’ve ever worked for.”

Bev Garcia, lodge manager, who has been with FivePine for seven years, reported, “ Guests think the lodge is brand new,” despite approaching two decades of serving the traveling public. Greg Willitts, lodge general manager, refers to Bev as the Wizard of Oz.

Dan Nason, facilities manager, has been with FivePine since construction began and is credited with the pristine appearance of all the facilities, right down to the wooden floors throughout that show no wear.

Willitts said they walk the property regularly making sure everything is as intended — green grass, clear pond, pine needles swept, paint in good condition, nothing broken.

“We manage FivePine side-to-side, not from the top down. Our philosophy is ‘everything needs to be great, not just good.’ We are always making innovations and continued improvement,” said Willitts.

Nason said, “We change about 150 things a year in response to guest comments.”

And guest comments are seen by all departments. By the time Willitts receives the comment cards within two weeks of having been written, he said there are numerous written notes on them from staff about changes made and issues addressed, no matter how minor.

After each guest’s stay, notes are entered into their computer record for their next visit – things they requested or liked, down to the names of their pets and children. This is all done to enhance their stays in the future. Garcia also records data on a computer spreadsheet about guests’ comments – down to two people mentioning that their eggs were hard to peel. All the data is reviewed at monthly manager meetings.

Amanda Pierce, who is the events director, has worked at the lodge since 2008. She was busy last week preparing for a weekend involving a lumber company that was bringing their employees for a relaxing weekend of fun. They had reserved all but two cabins. FivePine hosts 50 to 60 conferences a year, keeping Pierce hopping.

Amongst the managers, seven years is the newest hire. In housekeeping, the majority of employees have been there three years. There are reasons for the high retention rate. Housekeeper Melinda said she loves her job because of the appreciation she receives for her work, from staff and guests.

Every year there are numerous events planned for the entire staff. There is a large catered Christmas party for staff and their families. They have a fiesta barbecue complete with a salsa contest, which Willitts won once. Everyone goes to a Bend Elks baseball game together. Garcia said if they are having a hectic day, someone will order pizza or provide popsicles for everyone. When there is work to do and more hands are needed, people jump in and help. All employees receive paid vacation. If they work a minimum of 20 hours a week, they receive a monthly bonus.

When this year’s Best of the Best Award was announced, the staff all replied, “Next year we’re number one!” Someone left a note on the lodge Facebook page, “You should be #1!”

Willitts, along with his parents Bill and Zoe, have created a special property of which they, their staff, and Sisters can be justifiably proud. The attention to detail is evident throughout the property, from the plush robes available in each room, to breakfasts complete with mimosas brought to the guests in their rooms. The 36 cabins have fireplaces, huge walk-in showers and soaking tubs, luxurious linens, and free bicycles are available to the guests. There are also eight rooms located in the lodge.

Wood cabinetry crafted and installed by Amish carpenters from the Midwest, who ride the train to Oregon when work needs to be done, is utilized throughout the property to enhance the lodge feeling.

Since the award was announced on Tripadvisor, the lodge has been receiving phone calls from the east coast, Texas, California – not the usual areas from which their clientele come which are mainly Oregon, Washington, and California.


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