Hotels are no longer places where you just rest your head. They are activity hubs where Wi-Fi, coffee and conversation flow fast and free. Guests seek convivial co-working, networking and “not-working” experiences that flex to their busy schedules. They also need somewhere to let off steam and have fun when the work is done.
Of course, key elements such as comfort, facilities and convenience matter, but in an increasingly crowded and standardized hospitality landscape, I believe the survivors and high achievers will be those that do things slightly differently, slightly better, and most importantly, those who offer real value to their guests.
Value does not mean cheap.
It means that your customers feel completely satisfied with the total experience for the price they have paid. That sense of satisfaction only comes when a guest feels a hotel has gone the extra mile to make their stay as perfect as possible. Whether that means remembering a guest’s name, cooking their eggs just right or providing insights into local attractions, every detail counts. That’s why our industry is based on hospitality.
Our job as hoteliers is to find a price point that is fair and deliver accordingly. That requires creativity, dedication and simple hard work, yet all too often the continuous efforts exerted by the core team inside a hotel – the GM, the F&B Manager, the housekeeping staff – are undervalued.
It is people, not systems that make or break a hotel. Investing in the right people is therefore the most important business decision that a hotel owner or company will ever make for their business. It is people who react and adapt to customer needs and demands, delivering services on a daily basis and maintaining a vision that’s based on guest satisfaction.
To that end, being a hotel manager is like being the mayor of a city. You are a planner, a technician and a multi-disciplinary expert. You are also a mentor and sometimes even a counsellor.
The hospitality scene is an ever-changing landscape. Trends, brands, concepts appear and disappear all the time. What matters in the end is service, which is something that is rapidly diminishing as hotels adopt mass-market strategies and sensibilities.
In Thailand, for example, the market I know best, we have seen an increased focus on the numbers in recent years resulting in impressive guest arrival figures but much lower buying power. This has impacted heavily hotels’ average room rate in some of the country’s main resort areas resulting in lower business performance despite higher occupancy.
A great room is not sustainable without great service.
A funky look will fade; a wacky concept will narrow your target market. Building the right experience for your guests requires experience and a deep understanding of their needs and behaviour in order to get the service basics right. Only then will you be able to drive your rates up, and to do that you need the right people.
Travel has now become global and online distribution has been taken over by a handful of huge companies that have little understanding of the unique attributes of a destination or hospitality product. At the same time, hotel chains are aggregating and becoming larger. In this sense, the travel industry has been following the same trajectory as banking, food and other globalised trade. Our industry sells experiences that are delivered by people, yet algorithms, mergers and the bottom-line dictate the daily activities of the travel and hospitality giants.
In the face of global uniformity, individual hotel owners need to understand that what makes a hotel or restaurant successful, even in a highly competitive space, is how their product is perceived and how their services are delivered. That’s why my first advice is always to make sure you have the right people to achieve that crucial goal from the start.