Creating a Lively Landscape on a Budget

By Ken Hutcheson President, U.S. Lawns | March 29, 2015

Hotel executives must make tough budget decisions every day. When funds are limited, itís tempting to limit expenditures on a hotelís exterior landscape. But this is a mistakeóa beautiful landscape can bring more guests (and, consequently, more revenue) through the door. If youíre working with a limited budget, follow these best practices to make sure that you see a positive return on your landscaping investment.

Start with the Basics: Before Your Invest, Evaluate Your Maintenance Plan and Your Landscape

Before you talk to your landscaping contractor about making any big investments on your hotelís propertyótake a deep breathóand evaluate the landscape first. The easiest way to improve a hotelís overall look and feel (without breaking the bank) is to look over your routine maintenance procedures and make sure that they are effective and efficient. At a bare minimum, your property should appear clean, safe, and well taken care of. Sidewalks, curbs, parking lots, and flowerbeds should be crisply edged at all times. If thatís not the case, itís time to talk with your landscaper and reset expectations. These regular maintenance services should be included in your contract, so there should be no additional cost to you.

Refreshing your mulch throughout the year, at least four or five times annually, is cost-effective way to keep your landscape looking continuously fresh. Many hoteliers replace their mulch right before spring or sometime during the warmer months, so by the fall and winter the landscape looks tired. Having your contractor replace the mulch regularly gives your property a well-cared-for appearance and helps your shrubs and flowers stand out. Replacing mulch also is a very minimal cost and definitely wonít make a dent in your budget. So itís a good conversation to have with your contractor, if youíre looking to brighten up your property.

Additionally, replacing any unhealthy or unsightly shrubs, plans, or turf is absolutely essential. You and your landscaper should routinely survey to identify landscape elements that need to be replaced. Staying on top of ďone-offĒ issues will save you the money (and time) of more extensive landscape overhauls down the road.

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Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.