New Amenities, New Risks: How to Protect Your Guests and Your Business

By John Welty Practice Leader, SUITELIFE, Venture Insurance Programs | December 16, 2018

These days, hotels and resorts are doing everything they can to differentiate themselves from the competition. They'll do much more than "leave the light on for you," offering a variety of amenities and experiences from new water-park like swimming pools with slides and lazy rivers to exotic car rentals. They are competing not only on price, comfort, availability, and location, but also on amenities.

In searching for that perfect hotel, the online search parameters can be overwhelming. Are you looking for a secluded hotel away from the hustle and bustle of the big city or are you looking for an inter-city retro hotel? Are you looking for something family friendly or a hotel that provides more of a romantic get-away atmosphere? Do you want a resort with golf amenities or daily excursions? The search possibilities are endless.

Unfortunately, with new amenities and services, come new risk exposures and in many cases, hotel owners and operators may not have considered the risks these new amenities can introduce for their guests, employees and bottom lines. Ignoring these risk exposures, however, can put your guests and employees at risk of injury or even death, and in turn, could cause irreparable damage to the hotel's reputation and its future.

Pools, Fitness Centers and Spas

Most guests think they understand the risks of using a hotel pool or fitness center. These two amenities are very common for hotels, whether high-end or economy.

Take the pool exposure–most guests are aware of rules like no diving, no running, and no glass in the pool area. Hotels post signs when no lifeguard is on duty, post pool depth markers, and state that the pool is to be used by guests only. Similarly, hotels post rules and procedures for their gyms or workout facilities with which many guests are familiar. Hotel owners and operators post policies and procedures, age restrictions and 'use at your own risk' signs. These are amenities that are familiar to most, if not all guests, and as a result, can pose less catastrophic exposure to the hotelier.

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Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.