Hotel Check Up: Is Your Hotel Out of Tune?

By Steven Belmonte CEO, Vimana Franchise Systems LLC | January 12, 2010

I'd like to preface my article with a story about Count Basie, the great jazz pianist. He once told an owner that he would never play in his night club again because the piano was so badly out of tune. A month later the owner called Basie and said come back, it's fixed. Basie showed up, sat down, played a few bars and slammed the key cover down in disgust. He said, "This is worse. What did you do to this piano?" "I had it fixed," said the indignant club owner. "What do you mean you had it fixed? What did you do to it?" asked the Count. "I had it painted" was the answer.

Suffice it to say, a lot of hotel owners can probably identify with this story. No matter how much paint is used or the color of the paint, it doesn't help if the hotel is out of tune. I'd like to elaborate a bit about what I consider to be the two greatest broken components that need to be tuned in our industry - personnel and marketing.

Putting an End to the Revolving Door Syndrome

I'm amazed at the current turn-over rate at a majority of hotels. It's almost as though the personnel department is like a revolving door. Instead of offering career development for leaders, hotels tend to be offering jobs for lackeys. It's my opinion that there seems to be a real disconnect between hotel owners and their staff. Throughout my career I have been approached by a multitude of owners who would brag to me that they hired a general manager for a pittance wage. On top of that, they would be tickled pink because they were able to schedule the GM to pull a shift or two at the front desk.

It is mind-boggling to hear of these situations where those hired to be the face of the hotel are treated with little respect. The low wage may be a cost-saving method in the beginning, but in the long haul, it will end up being very costly for the owners. The old adage 'you get what you pay for' couldn't ring any truer in this case. Without a true investment in a general manager, the potential for poor customer service becomes a real threat. Hotel owners and their general managers set the culture of their hotel. In essence, they establish the tone and the environment in which the employees operate. Without a positive vibe to be sent out to guests and patrons, the hotel is destined to be a shell of its potential.

While a quick paint job in this case is the constant hiring of general managers at a low wage, the real problem, in my opinion, that needs to be tuned is the reminder and realization that we are in the people business. Without a general manager that is fully-invested in creating solutions, all the expenditures and marketing and sales efforts will not give hotel owners a full return on their investment.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. 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.