A Branson resort has announced the completion of an $8.2 million property renovation.

Westgate Branson Lakes Resorts announced on Jan. 26 that they have completed an extensive overhaul of not only their 152 guest villas but also updates to their lobby and marketplace, resort fitness center, sales preview gallery, pool and more.

“It’s been a long road, but we got a lot done,” said Westgate Resorts Chief Operating Officer Mark Waltrip. “We had planned to do this over phases, but with the COVID situation, it presented a unique opportunity to come in and do it all at once.

“The renovations started about a year ago and we wrapped them up this past fall and it was a complete gut renovation of the entire Branson Lakes’ property. To call this a renovation is an injustice, it’s actually a complete overhaul; the look, the feel of the entire resort has been dramatically changed. We had it pretty kind of traditional – you would probably call it a dated look – and now we’ve evolved to a very posh, high-end, I would call it a seaside, New England, upscale, resort feel. There was nothing left untouched.”

In addition to their renovation, according to Waltrip, Westgate has gone above and beyond to outline their health and safety protocols that they have and continue to abide by for their vendors, guests and staff at their website, WestgateCARES.

“This isn’t ‘do I shut down my economy’ or ‘do I open everything up recklessly’,” said Waltrip. “It’s really about maintaining the right procedures; most like a restaurant or a bar has health department procedures they have to adhere to, we took that same attitude towards every business, including construction, fitness centers, our restaurants, our hotels, our spas and we just overlaid them with very strict procedures that we held everyone accountable to and it worked out. We’ve had very low incidents of COVID amongst our team members as compared to the local communities where we operate.”

Waltrip also highlighted some of the struggles they faced throughout their renovation and how even in a time of a global pandemic, they were able to keep things running and keep more people employed.

“We didn’t have a problem hiring people. We were able to keep a lot of people employed,” said Waltrip. “We self performed a lot of the work ourselves, a majority of it. The real challenge was our suppliers, because we have factories across the country (and) in places like Mexico. We used to buy a lot of products from overseas and that became extremely difficult. So the real challenge was the logistics of acquiring the product and getting it there on time. Fortunately, our purchasing team did an excellent job of overcoming that hurdle. But what would probably be our No.1 challenge was that we would get a call that’d say that the stone factory was shut down for two weeks because of a COVID outbreak, so of course that would impact our schedule.”

Waltrip was even able to add some words of wisdom regarding how the business community can come together to help beat COVID once and for all.

“We are all in this together. Westgate could do everything correctly to keep our team members safe, but if other businesses are not doing the same, our team members will go home, go to the grocery store and they will catch the virus, or your team members will spread the virus. We’ve got to quit this nonsense of politicizing this situation. This is not a red versus blue situation, it’s a right versus wrong.

“The things that absolutely work are wearing the proper masks, not cloth masks, but the proper masks. No.2, it’s social distancing. No.3, it’s avoiding group gatherings and unventilated or poorly ventilated spaces. If you do those three things and apply our cleaning procedure we could all work through this. But as long as we continue to let politicians convince us that we either have to shut down or we have to recklessly open without proper guidance, we’re going to have this problem for quite a while.”

Waltrip further highlighted how Westgate’s COVID procedures, which have helped guests feel safe and comfortable, have even led to record numbers at some of their locations across the country.

“We can work through this, but the business community has to come together, and we need to adopt a set of operating principles that we could all operate by,” said Waltrip. “I know it’s tough. People don’t like being told how to run their business, but we have proven at Westgate across the country that our guests have come back in record numbers.

“We are, in some resorts, even exceeding last year’s occupancy numbers because we make the guests feel comfortable. They don’t just want to be safe, they want to be comfortable. If you provide them that platform, they will come. But if they show up and they see your team member not wearing the proper PPE or not keeping tables clean, they may stay just one time, but they’re not coming back and they’ll tell their friends and family, and that’s a lesson we’ve learned. Do the right thing, take care of your team members, take care of your guests and they will reward you with their business. It’s that simple.”

According to Waltrip, Westgate is proud to be a part of the Branson community for almost 20 years and looks forward to continuing to be a part of the community ‘forever going forward’.

The Westgate Branson Lakes Resort, according to Waltrip, is just a small piece of more $200 million worth of improvements that Westgate has completed in the last 18 months to all of their resorts across the country.

Visit westgateresorts.com/cares for information.

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