The Moab Resort in Utah
The Moab Resort
Photo: WorldMark by Wyndham

Bats Welcome Here

How one BCI member hotel shares the wonders of bats
By Jill Robbins
The concept of a bat-forward hotel is uncommon. One property located near Arches National Park in Utah has made the property a haven for bats and launched a bat education program to benefit guests and local wildlife.
wooden bat boxes
Bat boxes on the Moab property
Photo: Esa Paltanen
Although the more than a dozen species of bats that call Moab home play an essential role in the area’s ecosystem, they initially weren’t welcomed as part of the landscape at The Moab Resort, WorldMark Associate. However, the resort’s maintenance manager, the late John Thomas, set out to change that.

When the property opened in 2022, guests’ responses to the occasional discovery of a bat roosting outside their room were mixed. It was common for guests to react with alarm and to ask staff to remove or even kill the bats.

Assistant General Manager Shanda Kelstrup, who lived at the property when she first came on board in May 2022, reported finding a bat outside her door on her first day. “I told John Thomas about the bat at my door, and he educated me,” she says. “He said the bats were here to fulfill their purpose: eat mosquitoes.”

bat icon
The property built 10 bat boxes and installed lighting that minimizes bat disturbance. Guests can also enjoy reading bat fact cards in their rooms, bat coloring sheets for kids, and copies of Stellaluna, which are available to borrow.
Kelstrup said that making bats a part of the resort’s story was Thomas’ pet project. Instead of getting rid of the bats or shooing them away, he talked to the staff about the positive aspects of the bats’ presence. This facilitated a management initiative to make the property welcoming to bats and ensure guests weren’t alarmed by the animals’ presence. “We said, ‘Let’s teach people about how amazing these creatures are and come up with a plan,’” Kelstrup says.

The plan included becoming a BCI member. The resort’s membership is displayed prominently on a wall plaque near the check-in desk.

Paying tribute to a conservation hero

Other guest-facing initiatives include bat fact cards in guest rooms and bat coloring sheets for kids. Copies of Stellaluna—the book and the movie about a young bat—are also available to borrow. These initiatives have reduced the number of bat-related complaints and taught wary guests that seeing bats around the hotel isn’t a cause for alarm.
To make the property more hospitable for bats, Hotel General Manager Esa Paltanen added 10 bat boxes throughout the resort and ensured that the parking lot lighting was conducive to dark skies, which also helps bats.

What began as a response to people being alarmed by wildlife in the area has now resulted in a larger pool of people realizing how incredible bats are. The property continues to credit John Thomas for the broader acceptance of bats among staff and guests alike.

Tragically, Thomas was killed in a motor vehicle accident in Moab on Nov. 21, 2023. Paltanen says that Thomas’ work to protect Utah’s bat population and make bat education and conservation a part of the resort’s landscape will live on to honor Thomas’ memory.