College Campus Hotels for the 21st Century

An "Old" Hotel Type Gets a New Twist

By Paul Breslin Managing Director, Horwath HTL | December 11, 2016

Co-authored by Oliver Tang, Analyst, Horwath HTL

Generally, any hotel that uses a nearby educational institution as the primary demand generator can be considered a campus hotel; however, the scope of this article focuses on hotels that are directly affiliated with an educational institution, often a college or university.For each campus hotel project, developers should fully understand the school's vision to create a property that not only meets the design requirements and educational purposes, but is also economically sustainable. On the other hand, operators should have appropriate revenue management practice, leverage school's internal resources, and manage student employees with extra emphasis on scheduling and training.

The concept of campus hotels is not a new one. In 1923, the American Hotel Association proposed a "practice hotel" for Cornell's then newly-established hospitality program. For many years, because there are only a limited number of this kind of properties, there has not been significant study on this topic. However, in recent years, the industry has seen increasingly more joint ventures or other types of partnerships between educational institutions and developers all around the country. There are several reasons that contributed to this trend:

  • The boutique lifestyle hotel movement in the hospitality industry requires
    many older campus hotels to be renovated or upgraded.
  • More and more universities and colleges started offering or expanding their
    hospitality programs, and having a hotel can add practical value to these
    programs.

The hospitality industry is becoming more segmented in terms of branding, product offering and affiliated demand generators, and special considerations are required for the development and operation of each type. Corresponding to this need, the industry boasts developers who solely focus on campus hotels. For example, a Chicago based hotel chain, Graduate Hotels, has been developing college-themed hotels since 2014. SMART hotels, a hotel development company based in Cleveland, started their campus hotel specific development service in 2010.

Many educational institutions perceive their campus hotels much more than just a lodging facility; most campus hotels are considered an integral part of the school or program. Schools not only utilize these hotels in the traditional manner, but also use them to provide hands-on working experience for hospitality students. In some cases, the campus hotels have even become the activity and social center of the campus.

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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.