Tough Question Requires Equally Tough Answers

By Steven Belmonte CEO, Vimana Franchise Systems LLC | May 21, 2010

"Are product upgrades and renovations really needed during hard economic times?"

That's a question I used to get asked a lot. But, as always, things change-and, obviously, not for the better, at least economically speaking these days. And so the question has changed. In these almost unprecedented hard economic times, the question isn't so much whether a renovation is needed-rather, it's whether a renovation is, first, viable and, second, whether it's a smart thing to do.

This is a question you absolutely must ask yourself, especially in this incredibly tough financial environment. As for the answer... well, here's what I think: There are two answers to this crucial question -and they both add up to an emphatic "Yes!"

First of all, it doesn't matter whether you're operating in a recession or in the most robust economy imaginable. The fact is that if your hotel doesn't meet guest expectations, if it's inferior to other, similarly priced properties in your market - well then, you need to upgrade. In fact, if you think you're being fiscally responsible by not upgrading your hotel's public spaces and guestrooms right now, you're mistaken. Failing to renovate could lead to an irreversible decline in guest satisfaction and loyalty - and that scenario, obviously, will destroy your bottom line.

Here's another piece of advice for hotel owners and operators: It's crucial that you have in-depth knowledge of your property's competitive position in the market. You have to take a thoughtful-and brutally honest - look at the quality of your hotel. Ask yourself if the property meets the needs of today's increasingly demanding guest. How does your hotel compare with nearby (and perhaps much newer) properties? If your hotel isn't cutting the mustard qualitywise, its future - and yours - is looking very dim.

In short, you can't afford to defer upgrades because of the poor economy. To put it another way, you can't afford not to invest in an upgrade, regardless of the economy's strength (or lack of it). The truth is, your guests don't care if the economy is in bad shape, as long as your hotel is in good shape - and if it isn't, they won't be back.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.