Key Items Owners And Managers Must Address During The Continued Economic Downturn

What can you do to keep your hotel performing well in this tough economy? Industry vet Steven Belmonte thinks it's time to get creative. Here's why.

By Steven Belmonte CEO, Vimana Franchise Systems LLC | September 25, 2011

It's a tough world out there right now and that cannot be denied. This rough and difficult economic climate has caused most hoteliers to write off the past few years in hopes that 2012 will be the year when it all turns around. Unfortunately, these are just pipe dreams and expectations like those are just too high. Instead of just enduring, hoteliers need to begin to find the tools in order to build a foundation to grow upon.

If you ask any industry assessment professional, most will agree that this current cycle will be much worse than the downward cycles of the early 1990's and early 2000's. The few that retain a small glimmer of hope mixed with capital resources are taking a step back to take a better look at what their business missions and future projections are. They are taking the safer road by waiting out the economic storm before moving forward with any developmental projects. When faced with a decrease with occupancy, average daily rate and revenue per room, there is little that needs to be done on the property level except to make sure to outperform your competition while containing costs. The issue is that many hotels will play the rate game and you will see this happening again even though history has proven that we are all together losers when this occurs and in actuality, this does very little to generate new business. Hoteliers needs to begin to focus on literally stealing more business by using value added services and product amenities. It is at this point where hoteliers need to accept and embrace the mantra, "out of chaos grows creativity" in order to make it through these difficult times. Here are a couple examples that hoteliers can use to maintain a status that is competitive:

• Create a solid presence in the world of social media to keep yourself ahead of the marketing curve

Having a presence on Facebook and Twitter shows the younger consumers that you are in the know about the modern technologies and communication tools. Hoteliers need to be promoting their properties and taking ownership of their local area by being known as the hotel of their city. For example, when a consumer searches your city's name on Facebook, your hotel's name should also show up. Remember that social media is FREE! So using it is a wonderful and inexpensive way to interact and reach out to your consumers.

• Create a buzz over your property by coming up with contests that will excite consumers

This can be easily done using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Not only will contests create buzz for your property but they will also help you gain a loyal following and fan-base on those sites. This is important because it helps provides your hotel with credibility and nowadays, everyone goes to the Internet to find hotels. As prizes, you can give away free night stays or if that seems like too much, even just giving out simple gift cards will do.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.