Melinda Lane is a ‘GM to Watch’ at SpringHill Suites Panama City Beach

January 9, 2024 | Awards

Melinda Lane is a ‘GM to Watch’ at SpringHill Suites Panama City Beach

The longer she works in hospitality, the more Melinda Lane values the people-first culture of care.

“The experiences I’ve had in this industry have been so valuable,” says Lane, who is general manager of SpringHill Suites Panama City Beach. “I love spreading light and warmth and creating amazing experiences for people.”

While working in hotels over the past 16 years, Lane has built an impressive resume; indeed, she was recently recognized as one of Hotel Management magazine’s 2023 “GMs to Watch.”

The annual list honors 49 of the industry’s most dynamic general managers, selected from several hundred nominations.

Read “49 GMs to Watch: These Exceptional Leaders Are Stewards of Hospitality for All” in Hotel Management magazine.

Lane’s steady rise to her current position — leading one of OTO’s two beautiful hotels in Panama City Beach, Florida — is indicative of her drive and focus.

She got her start in the hotel industry back in 2007, when she applied for a job as a room attendant — and was hired as a guest service agent — at a Hampton Inn in Panama City Beach (located just 7 miles and across the lagoon from where she works today).

A quick learner, Lane earned a promotion to front office manager before the end of her first 90 days. She stayed the course and in 2013 was named general manager of Hilton Garden Inn in Panama City Beach — becoming the youngest GM in her company at the time.

Lane joined the OTO Development family in February 2022, leading the 200-room SpringHill Suites that comprises more than 10,000 square feet of meeting space, multiple F&B venues including Compass Kitchen + Bar, and a resort-style pool with a lazy river, all just steps from the Gulf of Mexico.

“There’s a foundation of freedom here to do what’s best for our guests and team members,” Lane says, noting her team’s focus on providing a guest experience that inspires return customers. “Everyone supports each other and wants to know ‘What Can We Do Better?’ which promotes an open exchange of ideas.”

Tripadvisor ranked Panama City Beach at No. 18 on its 2023 listing of “Top U.S. Beaches,” and the opportunity to manage a hotel in one of the nation’s favorite vacation destinations isn’t lost on Lane.

“I work hard and play hard, and Panama City Beach is an amazing place to reap that reward,” she says. “Our destination offers many other ecotourism opportunities, and we get great suggestions from guests who come to the area. It’s very fun to act on those suggestions and curate a list of favorites to pass on to family, friends, team members, and guests.”

The location also creates high expectations for guests. Lane is quick to point out that meeting —and surpassing — those expectations is a priority.

“Our phenomenal view does a lot of work for us. It sweeps people off their feet from the moment they step off the elevator,” Lane says. “From there, we have to keep it up, connect with our guests, make it better than they ever imagined.”

Lane grew up in Cadiz, Kentucky, where she graduated two years early from high school and wasted little time getting started on her career. She made the big move soon after, settling on the Gulf Coast — an area she was familiar with from vacations in her youth.

How has the insight and inspiration gained along the way formed Lane’s approach to her current role?

“Choose happy,” she says. “Treat others better than you expect to be treated. We create our culture. Do the right thing even when no one is looking and take great care of each other. We’re all in this together.”

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