Mr. Bottois

Condo Hotels

Tips for Hotel Operators and HO Associations to Communicate with Owners in Private Residence Clubs

By Olivier Bottois, Managing Director & COO, The Whiteface Lodge Resort & Spa

Just as hotels operate more smoothly with focused guest communication, a private residence club must also provide consistent, informative communication to its homeowners. Homeowners have a stake in the success of the property from both a resort and a real estate perspective; anticipating and addressing their concerns is crucial to productive hotel-homeowner relationships.

From a real estate perspective, homeowners are entitled to receive information from the hotel on a regular basis, and they should hear about achievements, from accolades to new amenities, to generate a sense of pride in owning at a successful property. Homeowners should also be treated as hotel guests with additional benefits, such as a private Owners' Lounge or advanced notice about promotions. In monthly newsletters, encourage homeowners to reserve early for high occupancy periods and ensure they have updated information about services and promotions.

Hoteliers should generally expect to convey information regarding the hotel's operation and brand standards, and try to be innovative and personal when doing so. For instance, in addition to the monthly newsletter, consider hosting a reception while homeowners are in residence. Most private residence clubs have different structures, and the hotelier's role varies depending on how the entities are set up. While it is not generally his or her responsibility to provide ownership information (i.e. calculation of annual fees or offering plan questions), hotel operators should be well versed in homeowners' topics or issues in order to facilitate relationships between the entities. They should assess which topics should be delegated to the HOA Board versus topics that are related purely to hotel management and operations. Streamlining communication through multiple avenues reduces the amount of time a hotel operator spends tending to homeowner issues and puts homeowners at ease, as they receive relevant information on a more frequent basis.

In this era of ownership, hoteliers need to become aware of this new facet of the luxury hotel business and integrate homeowner communication into their daily business dealings. Building a positive foundation with homeowners will prove beneficial to all parties.

The relationship between management and residence owners at fractional private residence clubs is a complex one-it requires special attention to issues that are new to most hoteliers. With this in mind, here are the important things to consider when communicating with residence owners:

1). Communicate Consistently & Frequently

Owners have a stake in the success of the property from both a resort and a real estate perspective. Keeping them informed of resort news is critical. Utilize the HOA Board of Directors for this, as the Board typically receives inquiries from owners on a regular basis and can assist in distributing the message. Additional formal communication directly from the resort should occur on at least a monthly basis, and critical issues must be conveyed in a timely manner.

2). Outline the Structure and Role of Different PRC Entities

In most private residence clubs, a number of entities are involved in the property's operation: the Sponsor, Hotel Management Company, Spa Operator and/or Golf Management, the Homeowners' Association, etc. It can create confusion among both management and owners if owners do not understand the roles and responsibilities of the entities. Establish a clear distinction between what qualifies as an HOA matter versus a hotel matter, and give owners appropriate contact information and instruction for dealing with different issues. Also convey the limitations of information about these entities. Owners purchase the suite and its contents but not the hotel. It is unlikely that the spa or restaurant's financial performance would be shared, as they are separate from the HOA and this would only complicate communication. Owners should know what is happening with the amenities but not necessarily the finances of those amenities.

3). Explain How Annual Fees are Calculated

While this process takes place prior to purchase, ensure owners are informed about annual fees and explain how they are calculated. Owners speak to one another, and it's helpful for them to understand that variations in square footage or amenities, for instance, mean that fees are calculated differently for different residences. Additionally, while 90% of owners may never voice concern, the 10% who are challenged to pay monthly fees or are interested in the minutiae, want communication specific to budgets and the actual cost of operations. Once an HOA Board has approved the budget, they should communicate the budget in a detailed letter mailed to each owner.

4). Handle Owner Correspondence as Professionally as Guest Correspondence

Professionalism and privacy in correspondence are just as critical with residence owners as they are with guests, and treating them as such will help maintain consistency in the resort's image. Hire a database management firm to handle owners' contact information and keep it up-to-date, and employ a writer to add polish and a professional message.

5). Send a Monthly Owners Newsletter

Not only do newsletters keep owners informed, they have the advantage of reaching all owners with the same message at the same time, so that some do not receive information ahead of others and potentially miscommunicate the message. Know your audience, and choose e-news or a mailed newsletter based on the owners' ability to receive email communication, as well as the cost of delivery and their willingness to pay for it. E-news is cost-effective and can be posted online for future reference, but mail is still the only way to reach some owners. Consider asking the HOA and the resort to write two different columns so that owners receive information about the full spectrum of issues.

6). Educate Owners about Brand Standards and Their Value

Purchasing in a private residence club is buying into the benefits and prestige of a five-star lifestyle. However, once the purchase has been made and owners acquire financial responsibility related to service or facilities, often questions begin to arise regarding the necessity or importance of certain initiatives. The General Manager must educate the HOA Board and homeowners on brand standards and convey the minimum negotiable standards, as they cannot be compromised. Reinforce that maintenance of these standards is inextricably linked to the value of the real estate investment, as well.

7). Explain the Offering Plan

Making a real estate purchase in a private residence club is no different from any other real estate purchase with the exception of the complex offering plan. Essentially, owners are purchasing a second home with a deed and all the associated paperwork; however, in this case, the paperwork is more extensive and the legal language requires interpretation for many. Owners will continue to have questions after they purchase, even if the great majority of them have taken time to understand the offering plan.

8). Communicate when Owners are In Residence

Take advantage of personal time with owners when they are in residence. One-on-one attention is valuable and conveys sincere interest from management. There are many ways to do this: hold informal weekly meetings, which owners in residence may attend to learn more about happenings on property; host owner receptions; walk the property with them one-on-one; or create a communications binder and daily activity sheet that owners may consult for up-to-date information when they are in residence.

9). Request the HOA Organize its Own Communications Committee

Owners should be communicating through the HOA as much as possible. Ask the HOA to organize a committee whose role it is to provide suggestions to improve communication and to introduce new avenues for communication. While the Sponsor will usually budget for owner communication in the early stages prior to transfer of control to the HOA, the Association will eventually absorb the cost of communication and will determine themselves what is a reasonable and most effective level of communication.

10). Offer Tools or Avenues for Owners to Communicate

Consider launching a password-protected extranet that allows owners to correspond with management as well as among themselves. Make it the responsibility of the HOA to maintain and monitor the extranet. Additionally, an annual meeting is required, per the bylaws, and this is another good opportunity for owners to meet one another and for management to communicate with owners as a group.

Olivier Bottois is the managing director and chief operating officer of The Whiteface Lodge Resort and Spa in Lake Placid, New York. The Whiteface Lodge is the first private residence club and fractional luxury resort in the Northeast region and the only Leading Hotel of the World in upstate New York. Bottois has 25 years of experience at exclusive hotels and resorts, such as The Connaught in London, Hotel Ritz in Paris, The French Presidential Palace in Paris, and The Peninsula New York plus 10 years in various management positions with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. Mr. Bottois can be contacted at 518-523-0520 or o.bottois@thewhitefacelodge.com Extended Bio...

HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.com.

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
RESOURCE CENTER - SEARCH ARCHIVES
General Search:

MAY: Eco-Friendly Practices: The Value of Sustainability

Eric Ricaurte

In 2011, we visited the 10 hotels contracted in the room block for the Greenbuild conference in Toronto. As part of their award-winning sustainable event program, the conference organizers embedded green practices into the contract language for these hotels, who either had to comply with the requirements, explain their reason why they couldn’t implement them, or pay a $1,000 fine. Part of our consulting work was to gather the data and confirm some of the practices on-site. READ MORE

Susan Tinnish

Hotels brands have actively engaged in large-scale efforts to become more environmentally friendly. Individual hotels have made great strides on property. Many significant large-scale eco-initiatives s are most easily built initially into the infrastructure and design of the building and surrounding areas. Given that the adaptation of these large-scale changes into the existing asset base is expensive and disruptive, hotels seek different ways to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and eco-friendly practices. One way to do so is to shift the focus from large-scale change to “small wins.” Small wins can help a hotel create a culture of sustainability. READ MORE

Shannon Sentman

Utility costs are the second largest operating expense for most hotels. Successfully reducing these expenses can be a huge value-add strategy for executives. Doing this effectively requires more than just a one-time investment in efficiency upgrades. It requires ongoing visibility into a building’s performance and effectively leveraging this visibility to take action. Too often, efficiency strategies center on a one-time effort to identify opportunities with little consideration for establishing ongoing practices to better manage a building’s performance ongoing. READ MORE

Joshua Zinder, AIA

Discussions of sustainability in the hospitality industry have focused mainly on strategies at the level of energy-efficient and eco-friendly adjustments to operations and maintenance. These "tweaks" can include programs to reduce water usage, updating lighting to LEDs, campaigns to increase guest participation in recycling, and similar innovative industry initiatives. Often overlooked—not only by industry experts but even by hotel operators and designers—are possibilities for hotel design and construction that can make a property truly sustainable from the get-go. READ MORE

Coming Up In The June Online Hotel Business Review




{300x250.media}
Feature Focus
Sales & Marketing: Who Owns the Guest?
Hotels and OTAs are, by necessity, joined at the hip and locked in a symbiotic relationship that is uneasy at best. Hotels require the marketing presence that OTAs offer and of course, OTAs guest’s email when it sends guest information to a hotel, effectively allowing OTAs to maintain “ownership” of the guest. Without ready access to guest need hotel product to offer their online customers. But recently, several OTAs have decided to no longer share a data, hotels are severely constrained from marketing directly to a guest which allows them to capture repeat business – the lowest cost and highest value travelers. Hotels also require this data to effectively market to previous guests, so ownership of this data will be a significant factor as hotels and OTAs move forward. Another issue is the increasing shift to mobile travel bookings. Mobile will account for more than half of all online travel bookings next year, and 78.6% of them will use their smartphone to make those reservations. As a result, hotels must have a robust mobile marketing plan in place, which means responsive design, one-click booking, and location technology. Another important mobile marketing element is a “Click-to-Call” feature. According to a recent Google survey, 68% of hotel guests report that it is extremely/very important to be able to call a hotel during the purchase phase, and 58% are very likely to call a hotel if the capability is available in a smartphone search. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.