What kind of a Leader are you – a Maker or a Breaker?


The dominant traits of the top most leader in any organization, unarguably, define the shape and personality of the organization as a whole. So whether the top dog is fair, biased, aggressive, assimilative, open-minded and inclusive or clique and coterie centered, insecure or confident, the organization tends to take on similar features and harbour the climate that screams of the same defining set of behavioural facets.

A Balanced Leader is the backbone of a Healthy Organization

In one’s career history, while growth and better opportunity are often the crucial reasons for moving out from one and into another organization, the other main reason that seldom gets talked about openly is a huge sense of disenchantment or dissatisfaction or unhappiness stemming from a sour equation with an immediate boss or the super boss or the politically charged peer group that makes it difficult for one to perform optimally. Complicated and unreasonable bosses or a set of ogre-like colleagues is in fact a bigger, often unspoken reason for people to move and seek greener pastures elsewhere. Several HR studies, globally, have proved this fact time and again.

In the early 1990s, as a young, sprightly fresher with rose-tinted glasses I joined the Public Affairs Section of a Diplomatic Mission in Delhi. This was my second job and I had often heard that it was Asians who were more clique-y, gossipy, with inherent biases and prone to apple-polishing. So, imagine my astonishment when I found some of my Western colleagues as guilty as their Asian counterparts. My first reaction was, “Hell, Here too!” And the second reaction post some thought, “We all are the same beneath the veneer.”

My first boss here was a grouchy, somewhat mean, cranky man given to favouritism and unpleasant disposition. He was tendentious towards one single person – obviously his favourite – instead of treating the entire team fairly; so much so that this person embodied the same attributes as the boss, adding extra doses of her viciousness to it. At one time when I was working along with her, she would rejoice in giving me some of the most menial tasks – “just do the filing,” “get me connected to so and so on the phone,” – and had the audacity to keep the official files hidden away and stashed under lock and key lest I lay my hands on them even when I had to file. Mind you, this was no confidential data but the ludicrous behavior continued, fanned by the boss’ strong inclination towards this person that allowed for many such unprofessional acts to flourish in the department.

Then one day this boss was transferred out and in came a breath of fresh air in the form of a youthful, dynamic lady who brought in a sea change in the department in terms of how we viewed PR work, how we regarded each other as colleagues, how our work was perceived by other departments and the parent Government we had to report back to.

What came across bright and clear were two different modes of leadership, two distinct personalities who contributed in their own way to the manner the department looked, breathed, felt and delivered.

While one was a negative influence, the other used her high standard of skills, fine leadership style, fair & equal opportunity approach to make every work day a fun and productive day and ended up turning the Public Affairs Department into a highly respected and sought after department in the High Commission.

Leadership Traits must dovetail into the Big Picture

My next stint for a period of about two decades has been with hotels. Now, hotels are completely multicultural organizations where the work force is truly international, hailing from different countries; but of course the largest base is of the countrymen from the place where the hotel is located. Yet, in hotels it becomes extremely pertinent to know how to work together with people from as far and wide as France and Germany to Sri Lanka and China. Despite the cultural differences, this ends up adding lot of fun elements to one’s day in the life of the organization as you

end up learning about these cultures and understanding what makes the ‘other’ people tick. This, however, is subject matter of another discourse.

In hotels, while the owner or the CEO of the hotel chain is the defining personality, the GM of the unit hotel where you may work is the lord of his own fiefdom. The team and staff pick out from this leader’s personality aspects and way of running his hotel as much as the top boss’ style percolates down.

On hindsight, having worked with six different GMs across three hotel chains, I have been fortunate to sometimes thrive and at times strive & struggle in as many organizational climates. And where there has been striving, it really has been a battlefront that has made one as hard as a rock, yet more understanding of the complexities and dynamics of a fire-pit organization.

As a Leader, are you a Maker or a Breaker?

It has also brought home the point that leaders can really make or break an organization. Not just what corporate literature may tell you, from personal experience, too, I can list out the following –

  1. The organization can be a happy and fun place to which you look forward to returning every morning and to which you willingly want to give extra hours at the end of the day. Such organizations create an overriding sense of job engagement and satisfaction.
  2. It can be such that each day, nay, moment is difficult to pass with an impossible boss breathing menacingly down your neck; and wicked set of colleagues rubbing their hands in malicious glee every time they pull you down like the proverbial crab.
  3. The organization can be healthy, conducive to work with unsurpassed functionality and highly ethical work practices. Responsibilities and recognition, exemplary output and rewards go hand in hand in such places.
  4. It can be sick, divisive, undermining and demoralizing. What might get you ahead is hoodwinking and proximity to the influential people like the bosses or the boss’ right hand man; even if such easily ill-gotten prizes are short-lived and open to scrutiny.
  5. The organization can be a place that allows you to blossom as a star worker with positive strokes that help germinate your skills and talent into wonderful fruits of productivity.
  6. It can also be a place where there is so much of negative energy that all that can flower there is more bad blood splattered about by parasitic employees who eat into the climate.
  7. The organization can be a place where workers breathe in fresh air, enjoy positive influences, are allowed space to make mistakes and grow, have access to information, become a two way process in clear communication and are given learning opportunities.
  8. Then there are organizations that live in the dark zone of fear, punishment, connivance and control. They operate like secret missions where unnecessary stuff is hidden and kept out of reach of the employees thereby acting as major impediment in the processes and execution of duty.
  9. There are healthy and buzzing organizations that promote good work practices, innovation and creativity and encourage workers to take ownership of their actions.
  10. And there are organizations where flattery, manipulation, bad performances, terrible attitudes and overall downward slope in almost all areas rule the roost.

It is widely seen that the top man maneuvering the reins of the Organization can really lead by example, allowing for the finest personal and professional traits and benchmarked business best practices to shape the organization into an exemplary company; that boasts happy, engaged and optimally delivering team.


Hospitality industry needs to “plan for the worst” on staff shortages

The hospitality industry needs to “plan for the worst” regarding an imminent labour shortage according to George Vezza, Managing Director, Nestlé Professional UK and Ireland. During a panel discussion at the British Hospitality Association Hospitality Summit 2017, Mr Vezza asked five hospitality professionals how they plan to inspire the future workforce.

He said that the current staff shortage is like “standing on the track knowing that the train is coming” quoting a recent study by KPMG that predicted a 65,000 job shortage per year if the industry didn’t have an EU workforce available.

“Before Brexit staffing was an issue, but now it is going to get a hell of a lot worse,” he said. “Some 75 percent of waiting staff are EU migrants.”

Natalie Cramp, Chief Operating Officer, Careers Enterprise Company said that brands need to open their doors to volunteers. “People volunteer because they want to see what you can offer them and the pathways,” she said.

Ms Cramp also encouraged businesses to “tell their stories better” by going into schools and showcasing the industry. She said: “Get role models into schools and start changing perceptions. Bring someone in who started on the shop floor and worked their way up to the top. I think we have got more of those stories of progression than any other industry.”

Nikki Kelly, Employment and Skills Manager, Tottenham Hotspur Foundation shared Ms Cramp’s enthusiasm for volunteering. The operation recently took on a catering stand in the northern section of the stadium where 12 volunteers can work on match days. “It does better than any other kiosk in the grounds because it supports young people and has become a great employment mechanism.”

Oliver Crofton, founder and CEO of staffing agency Flexy, said that businesses need to appeal to millennials by offering flexible working. “Gig Economy is a temporary, task-based work,” he said. “It’s often given a bad rep because of the few companies that are exploiting it, however, it offers work on a casual basis and that’s what the modern workforce want.”

Andrew Parkinson, Operations Director, Liverpool Football Club said they also rely on flexibility and regularly visit colleges and schools to celebrate the industry. “We recently went out to colleges and assessment centres and spoke to 5,000 people about the club, how they can get involved and start them thinking about entering the industry and starting a career with us,” he said. “One of the most important things is that we offer millennials flexibility and recognise their needs. We have done our best to make jobs available to a widest spectrum as possible.”

Sophie Kilic, Senior Vice-President, Talent and Culture, hotel services UK and Ireland for AccorHotels highlighted an importance in employing a diverse workforce. “If you want to grow as an industry you need to tap into a diverse workforce. For the first time we have promoted as many female general managers as men which is huge for us,” she said.

AccorHotels aim to achieve a total of 35 percent female senior positions across the brand.


Getting Your SWOT Analyses Right

Most of us have probably taken part in a whole boatload of SWOT analyses. Certainly, in my time, companies and staff have shared numerous SWOT analyses with me. They all seem rather basic, Marketing 101 kind of stuff. Yet, just because SWOT analyses are basic does not mean that most companies carry them out well, or that they even get them right.

In fact, most people carry out SWOT analyses very poorly, and they get them wrong, no, very wrong. Let me share with you why so many people mess up their SWOT analyses, and, more importantly, how to get them right.

Getting SWOT Analyses Wrong

In order to explain why so many companies get SWOT analyses wrong, let me describe how most companies develop their SWOT analyses. I admit that what I am about to share with you is a parody, but it is only just a parody…

Most people start their SWOT analyses with their strengths, which the participants in a SWOT analysis session typically feel pretty good about. They know that they have to admit to a few weaknesses, so they move onto that next, but nothing that would be politically problematic. At that point, the participants are feeling somewhat tired, so they pull together a few opportunities, and finish up with a handful of potential threats.

At this point, it is close to lunchtime, so the group arranges for a junior staffer to type up the results. The staffer circulates the document and places it on a company server, where it is promptly ignored until it is archived and deleted a year later. The end result of all of this effort is, to be precise, nothing.

Getting SWOT Analyses Right

So, how do we get SWOT analyses right? The answer to that question is to remember that the purpose of a SWOT analysis session is to identify the opportunities that we are going to pursue over the following year.

We should therefore, start any SWOT analysis by focusing on opportunities, and by that I mean only those opportunities that are likely to be substantial enough, and doable enough, to be worth pursuing. In practice, as we will see, we will end up spending the bulk of our time on opportunities, and very little on anything else. After identifying opportunities, we should then list any serious threats. Just as with opportunities, we should only focus on those threats that are likely to be material enough, and probable enough, to be worth considering.

My basic advice when it comes to strengths and weaknesses is to spend very little time on them in any SWOT analysis meeting. While identifying strengths and weaknesses may be an interesting exercise, it is rarely time well spent. The only reason why we spend any time at all on either strengths or weaknesses in a SWOT analysis is to make sure that we can realistically attain our chosen opportunities, and deal with any serious threats. I wish to emphasize in this context that a strength means absolutely nothing, unless it enables us to pursue a sizable opportunity or deal with a significant threat. All other so-called strengths are not actually strengths at all, but merely irrelevances.

At this point, we now have the raw material for a successful SWOT analysis. But we have to take it a level deeper if our SWOT analysis is actually going to be useful. We have to remember that “we can only do three”…

We Can Only Do Three

Steve Jobs would gather together his lieutenants each year to lay out the opportunities that Apple could pursue over the following year. Inevitably, the Apple management team would come up with a long list of potential opportunities that Apple could go after. Jobs would then say that “we can only do three”, and he would list the three opportunities that Apple would focus on over the upcoming year. What I would suggest is that if that is true for Steve Jobs and Apple than it is true for all of our organizations. Realistically, we can only do three.

We should make sure in a SWOT analysis meeting that we select the Top Three opportunities that we should go after, and the Top Three threats that we need to deal with. Because we cannot focus on everything, we should then ignore the rest for the time being.

From SWOT Analysis To Actionable Results

As in any other project management meeting, we should finish up our SWOT analysis by allocating responsibilities, milestones and deadlines for each of the three threats and opportunities.

My approach to SWOT analyses may not be quite what we have all learned in business school. On the other hand, if we go through the approach to SWOT analyses that I have just laid out, then our SWOT analysis meetings will be much more productive, and they will actually produce focused and actionable results.


Just How Unique Are Luxury Hotel Guests? – By Marissa Rasmussen

Our latest hotel report, From Search Engine to Booking Engine, in collaboration with Google, garners a view of the hotel guest’s journey over the entire path to booking. However, not every guest and their pre-booking behaviors are alike. Here we highlight our findings on the luxury hotel guest and offer ways hoteliers can influence these guests on their path to booking:

1. On average, luxury hotel guests conduct more searches than more economical segments.

A luxury hotel booking is usually a more expensive purchase, and these travelers want to make sure they are making the best decision. Ensure you are staying top of mind during these extra searches by creating ads that reassure them that your luxury hotel will create the most enjoyable experience for them.

For example, Solage Calistoga does a great job showcasing their luxury property through their ads while reassuring guests that their vacation will be a getaway.

2. Luxury hotel guests start their hotel planning much further in advance than other segments.

60+ days out, luxury travelers perform more searches than other segments. Consider how your hotel segment impacts the path to purchase so you can increase your brand’s presence at moments when travelers are likely to be influenced. For example, if you know your luxury guest will begin searching 60+ days before arrival, start impressing them with ads while they are at the top of the funnel, and continue to nurture them throughout their entire path to book.

Loews Hotels “Room You Need” campaign did a great job of reaching travelers at each stage in the funnel by using certain Instagram photos taken by guests as the basis for its print and digital ads. It was a way of showcasing real-life images of authentic guest experiences at Loews, and that’s the perspective that a potential guest wants to see.

3. Luxury hotels see lower shares of mobile searches, averaging 45% of all searches, but mobile queries are growing rapidly with 23% YOY growth.

It may not be surprising that mobile searches are on the rise since smartphones have enabled us to have information at our fingertips no matter where we are. According to Skift, 40% of global travelers use mobile devices to shop for travel. To capture these luxury travelers early on in their planning and dreaming phases, implement a multi-platform strategy: prospect and retarget users with display, mobile, YouTube, Facebook, native ads, and more.

The New Norm in Global HR Competencies


The competency profile of professionals in Human Resources (HR) roles has always been a moving target, consider the various names the function has taken over the decades – staffing, personnel, human resources, and more recently, more creative monikers like ‘people and culture’ to ‘human capital managers’ and ‘talent resources’.

These changing names typically reflect the changing market or business conditions impacting organizations.

For example, unions formed in the mid-19th century in response to social and economic effects of the industrial revolution, which subsequently motivated businesses to think and act beyond simply hiring and firing in order to consider the broader and more complex issues of managing both labour pipeline and relations.

As the “war for talent” blossomed in the 1980s and became fierce from the 1990s onward, companies often faced a job-seekers’ market and found themselves needing to “sell” themselves and the opportunities they offered to the marketplace of workers.

As a result, many forward-thinking organizations invested in specialists to help build engagement via learning and development programs, as well as working with organizational leadership to maximize effectiveness.


Despite the occasional advances, HR has been traditionally perceived and treated as an administrative cost centre versus a strategic profit centre – sadly a trend that has continued in recent times. Indeed, even Wikipedia defines a human resources department in this day and age as, “overseeing various aspects of employment, such as compliance with labour law and employment standards, administration of employee benefits, and some aspects of recruitment and dismissal.”

Up to about five years ago that characterization, at least in the hospitality industry, was perhaps justified by independent psychometric profiling of HR pros across their Execution, People, and Cognitive skills.

In particular, AETHOS’ prior global testing of HR leaders (conducted 2011, n = 1,000) using the 20|20 Skills™ assessment showed that most profiled as “Motivators” – those especially effective in general people skills and motivating team work with a focus on producing tangible outcomes.

Of course, missing from that equation was the Cognitive skills element, given that often HR often did not exhibit or rely on its own decision-making but rather conformed to the directives, rules, and regulations set by senior management or government requirements.

Of course, that prior equation is changing too. Organizations are facing increased consolidation and culture merges, competency issues, as well as evolving employee expectations. HR pros are increasingly becoming to be seen as subject matter experts in the care and feeding of organizational culture and as a result their job descriptions have graduated from administrative levels to strategic ones to include responsibilities such as:

  • Competency modelling, bench-strength, organizational structure and retention
  • Proactive talent pipeline and succession planning for leadership roles
  • Team member engagement and culture branding to external audiences
  • Learning, development, mentorship, coaching programs within and across functions
  • Facilitation of IT and other technology to streamline all of the above

Current psychometric studies support the idea that today’s HR leaders need to function less as “Motivators” and more as “Achievers” – those endowed with strong Cognitive ability along with Execution and People skills. Cognitive ability is more than being “book smart” and involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas and learn quickly). It is a competency that all modern leaders (notably C-suite) exhibit, and its especially pertinent in today’s market which is dominated by dynamically changing variables and substantial ambiguity.

AETHOS has recently profiled more than a 1,200 HR leaders from around the world. Figure I gives their scores (scaled 0-100, mean of 75) across ten core competencies that independent studies validate as significant predictors of performance in the service-hospitality industry.

The graph surprisingly indicates that modern HR pros look increasingly like CEOs and decreasingly like their peer set from five years ago. In particular, 20|20 Skills psychometric testing reveals that today’s HR industry leaders are adept generalists across Execution, People and Cognitive skills, with particular strengths in Cognitive ability and process-orientation.

Indeed, HR leaders have become – or perhaps finally have freedom to act as – balanced and independent thinkers and problem-solvers. Rather than administrative tacticians, this is the profile of organized, measured, confident leaders with the mental acumen to contribute meaningfully to strategic business discussions.


As long as business conditions remain in constant flux, involve lingering ambiguities and present new complexities that require right- and left- brain thinking from HR, it seems unlikely the new competency profile for HR pros presented here will change dramatically.

If anything, we predict that both the Problem-Solving and Creativity aspects of Cognitive skills will only increase in order to meet the challenges and opportunities yet to hit the industry.

Therefore, we strongly recommend that organizations screen and select candidates for HR leadership roles, in part, with tools or processes that test for balanced and effective competencies in critical-analytical thinking and strategic-big-picture orientation. The idea is to identify individuals who are effective general problem-solvers, as opposed to merely subject matter experts.

This all ties to the foremost topic that seems to dominate conversations and presentations at industry conferences, i.e., the idea of trying to identify the most likely industry disruptors coming to the industry and how businesses should best prepare to navigate them from business and leadership perspectives.

Since it is impossible to predict confidently specific changes or challenges, it is more important to identify and add to an organization’s talent base those individuals who can effectively and efficiently deal with dynamic and uncertain variables and forces, regardless of origin. This translates to high levels of tolerance of ambiguity, grit-resilience, emotional intelligence, behavioural integrity, and as shown in the graph, both balanced and high levels of general cognitive ability.

Perhaps this new norm in global HR competencies is not so surprisingly after all. Ultimately, organizations need HR leaders who think and act like business owners and apply their subject matter expertise systemically or cross-functionally, as the behind-the-scenes dynamics and corporate cultures are more open, transparent, and indeed public in a social media sense than ever before (think Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.).

HR expertise offers significant value to inform other functions from sales and marketing/PR to Boards of Directors and the senior-most leadership who set strategic direction for the company. The new competency norm understandably follows from new business norms.

Who knows what new names for HR will be introduced in the decades ahead, but given the changes we have seen, HR leaders in our view fundamentally add enterprise value by serving individuals and teams within organizations as “cultural strategists”.


Hostel market in America: Potential for growth

What is a Hostel?

Hostels offer low-priced accommodations with a unique social component, guests rent a bed rather than a room, sharing the space with up to five other guests, some hostels include private bathrooms and kitchens in every room, though most hostels have a common bathroom area with no kitchen facilities.

More than 4,500 hostels are spread throughout Europe, with the highest concentration in the densely populated destination cities.

The first hostel originated in 1912 in Germany, and that country boasts the highest number of hostels today.

Success in the European Market

Historically, the European hostel market consisted of small owner-operated assets, with backpacking leisure travelers forming the bulk of demand. Over the past two decades, the flow of private capital coupled with the operational experience of larger lodging companies has improved the quality and service levels of hostels throughout Europe.

The corporate-run hostels are referred to as “upscale” or “boutique” hostels. These properties are managed and operated by large companies that bring in operational structures, brand standards, and efficiencies akin to those of a major hotel brand. Some of the “upscale hostels” comprise more than 500 beds—much larger than the standard 75 to 150 beds at a traditional hostel.

The move to more upscale hostel accommodations has expanded the sources of demand from backpackers to corporate travelers who seek extensive food and beverage outlets and a social atmosphere not available in the limited- and select-service hotel space.

Since the mid-1990s, brand-managed hostels have been successfully developed in London, Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, Amsterdam, Rome, Prague, and Venice. Development of these properties has grown exponentially over the last two decades, with future development expected to come at an even faster pace.

Hostel Metrics

Hostel performance metrics for occupancy and average rate are expressed “per bed,” versus “per room” for traditional hotels. Hence, operators and analysts look at RevPAB (Revenue per Available Bed) versus the industry standard RevPAR. Hostel appraisals also consider market value estimates based on a “per bed” metric, which is comparable to the “per room” metric for hotels.

Hostel occupancy levels generally mirror those for limited-service hotels, though occupancy decreases at hostels as the average number of beds per room increases. However, average room rate (which equals the average rate per bed multiplied by the average number of beds per room) for a hostel is higher than the average room rate for a hotel.

Therefore, RevPAB will exceed the comparable RevPAR when considering a single room/unit. This results in a greater revenue stream for hostel assets versus hotel assets, which is a key factor in their development and popularity with developers and investors.

International Hostel Brands

A majority of the well-known hostel brands are headquartered in Germany and England. The accompanying chart presents hostel brands with presence in multiple countries (the Hip Hop brand, which does not have a presence outside of Paris, is not represented).

Nearly all of the major cities in Germany feature hostels, but the hostel market is underserved in virtually every other European country, where hostels exist in only one or two major cities.

Major Hostel Brands in Europe

Note: Tick marks indicate the number of hostels in each city

Proposed Hostels

This illustration, which shows a relative lack of hostel operations in major markets across Europe, illustrates the potential for the hostel market, with development expected to expand over the next decade.

Hostel Booking

Online travel agencies (OTAs) represent the majority of all hostel bookings. The OTA Hostelworld, which currently has the highest market share for hostel bookings, has drawn fury from smaller owner-operated hostels for raising commission rates for bookings. Until hostel brands gain worldwide market recognition, however, OTAs hold the cards and will remain the chief source of bookings. Other OTAs include Hostelbookers, HostelsClub, and, as well as HI Hostels, which is a global network of hostels.

Europe’s Famous Hostels is an association of individually owned independent hostels. Similar to Preferred Hotels & Resorts and Leading Hotels of the World, Famous Hostels represents high-rated assets that feature prominent locations in major European cities. The association was founded in 1995 with five hostels and its portfolio has expanded to more than 50.

Hostelz works similarly to Kayak, displaying results from Hostelbookers, Hostelworld, and some other booking sites, and directing the user to the hostel with the cheapest rates. Hostelz currently has a database of nearly 44,000 hostels in the U.S. and Europe.

Ingredients of a Successful Hostel

A successful hostel development must include the following elements to entice demand:

In addition to the above, most boutique hostels provide flexible room types, including (1) separate rooms for male and female travelers, (2) dorm rooms that can accommodate up to six beds per room, (3) private rooms for up to three travelers, (4) single rooms, (5) en-suite rooms, which include a private bathroom, (6) twin rooms, which offer one bunk bed, and (7) double rooms, which offer one double bed.

This product flexibility is critical to the success of a hostel operation. Hostel guests may travel individually, as couples, or in groups of six or more. The availability of everything from en-suite individual rooms to larger dorm rooms provides guests with plenty of options based on their requirements.

An American Brand of Hostel

The NYAH (Not Your Average Hotel), located in Key West, Florida, and managed by SMS Lodging, is a hybrid product between a hotel and a hostel. The owners of this asset and the NYAH brand, Mr. Jesper Arnoldsson, CEO and Mr. Gustaf Arnoldsson, CFO, created the model to appeal to group travelers who were looking to pay less per person without sacrificing the experience of staying in a traditional hotel.

The NYAH features custom beds, designed and manufactured in Europe, which can be converted into bunk beds, couches, or single kings. NYAH also features characteristics akin to boutique hostels, including group-friendly accommodations, communal spaces, a pool, and beverage services.

Current Hostel Market in America

The current hostel market in America is limited to owner-operated properties, youth hostels, and not-for-profit hostels. Traditionally, the youth hostel represented an inexpensive, basic accommodation provided to enable people less than 18 years of age to travel in groups to rural or countryside destinations. Youth hostels and owner-operated hostels comprise dormitory rooms with between four and six beds and do not include private rooms or twin/double rooms.

While American travelers may readily stay in hostels in Europe, the default option when traveling within America is to stay at a motel or a budget hotel. Mr. Jesper Arnoldsson recognizes that meeting, socializing, and sharing experiences with new people propels the hostel culture in Europe. This culture, he says, has to be fostered by hostel developments in the U.S. that include communal spaces and provide a vibrant social atmosphere for guests. Currently, there are no high-end boutique hostels in America (with the exception of Freehand, featured below) and the lower-end U.S. hostels do not have such socially charged communal spaces.

Some elements of the European model, however, simply aren’t replicated in America. The long distances between major U.S. cities and the lack of efficient, inexpensive public transportation options (such as the Euro Rail) create a scarcity in the backpacking demographic—a cornerstone of hostel demand.

Hostel Development Potential in America

Issues of geography and transportation infrastructure aside, there is considerable pent-up demand for hostels in many major U.S. cities. Mr. Paul Harries, CFO of Generator Hostels, claims a boutique hostel development would be a game changer in certain cities in America.

These include New York, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, the District of Columbia, Miami Beach, San Diego, and Austin, and to a lesser extent in New Orleans, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon. Mr. Harries also indicated that the American customer has to be imbued with a sense of the benefits and experiences of hostels and their distinction from traditional hotels.

One considerable obstacle to the hostel market’s growth in New York City is a law that prohibits more than three unrelated people sharing purchased accommodations. This law was enacted during the mid-20th century to prevent overcrowding and irresponsible landlord behavior, as well as to encourage the conversion of boarding houses to family homes.

The law, which forms an impediment to new hostel development, can be amended only by the local city council. However, sentiment seems to be moving in this direction. Hostels in New York City, home to the nation’s highest rents and a population of more than 8 million—many of them millennials—would benefit.

Corporate/branded hostel development could also be profitable in major markets of Canada, where the hostel landscape is dominated by currently smaller owner-operated properties.

Europe presents continued opportunities for growth, especially with an increased focus on density and economies of scale within and near the existing footprint of hostels. Meanwhile, the U.S. represents a vast market with virtually no competition in the shared accommodation space, though with some infrastructural and legal hurdles possibly impeding growth.

Freehand and Generator Hostels: Heating Up Miami Beach

The success of the Sydell Group’s Freehand Miami property, which Condé Nast Traveler referred to as the “upscale hostel,” demonstrates the expanding demand and potential in the U.S. hostel market. Occupancy at the Freehand Miami averages over 80%, with average rate per bed commensurate with that of Europe’s top boutique hostels.

The hostel opened in December 2012 and was designed by Roman & Williams, the team behind New York’s trendy Ace Hotel. In line with the elements of a successful hostel outlined above, the Freehand Miami offers food and beverage options, a swimming pool, a variety of shared rooms, and space for social gatherings, all at an affordable price in the heart of Miami Beach.

Freehand Miami’s popular Broken Shaker has ranked among the world’s best bars since 2014. The Broken Shaker has also been referred to as the “Best American Hotel Bar” and was twice a semifinalist for the James Beard award. This level of recognition, which might be expected of the world’s top five-star hotel properties, is remarkable for a relatively inexpensive hostel accommodation.

After the success of the Freehand Miami, the Sydell Group opened the Freehand Chicago in June 2015, with the Freehand Los Angeles slated to open in December this year. Freehand is the only true boutique hostel company in America that has followed the operating model of some of the corporate-owned hostels in Europe.

London-based Generator Hostels, which operates a portfolio of luxury-boutique hostels in Europe, is in the process of converting a condominium building to a 406-bed hostel on Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. Generator opened its first hostel in London in 1995/96 and currently operates 12 hostel properties, including a 550-bed hostel in Madrid. The Generator Miami will be the company’s first hostel in North America.

The Generator Miami will be positioned as an upscale boutique hostel on par with the Freehand Miami, representing the upper end of the hostel segment in the U.S. The Generator Miami is expected to achieve an occupancy rate of 75% and command an average bed rate in excess of $50.

According to Mr. Paul Harries, CFO of Generator Hostels, Miami Beach was chosen as the initial destination in North America due to its widely famed leisure, nightlife, and entertainment attractions; its popularity with European travelers; and high hotel average room rates, which can exceed $200 for limited-service hotels during the peak winter season. The hotel is expected to offer an average of four beds per room, with an inventory made up of 30% private rooms and 70% dormitory rooms. The property’s private rooms are aimed at American travelers, who tend to travel in groups versus their European counterparts, who more frequently travel alone.

Notably, while the Generator Hostels brand does not target the corporate traveler, the Generator Miami is anticipated to cater to some corporate tastes with its private room options and upscale amenities. Families with two children normally require two standard hotel rooms, whereas a private hostel room with two bunk beds should be sufficient to accommodate a family and also cost considerably less.

Currently, Miami Beach has seven traditional hostels totaling 1,140 beds, resulting in an average bed count of 163. However, these hostels do not approach the quality level of the upscale boutique hostel brands; they also lack the depth of amenities available in the Freehand Miami and the proposed Generator Miami, giving these properties an advantage with more upscale segments of demand.

Financial Benchmarks of Hostels versus Budget Hotels
Upscale boutique hostels offer accommodations on a level superior to most budget and midscale limited-service hotels and will compete heavily for the leisure segment of demand. The Freehand and St. Christopher Inn brands derive approximately 50% of their revenues from food and beverage sales. As profit margins are high with beverages, a greater proportion of total revenues flow to the bottom line.

The higher number of guests capable of occupying a hostel versus a traditional budget or midscale hotel brings potential food and beverage revenue even higher and increases other ancillary revenue streams. Hence, hostels can produce higher revenues and net income streams versus traditional budget or midscale hotels constructed on a similar footprint.


Upscale hostels bridge a gap between traditional hostels and lifestyle hotels. For one, the upscale hostel provides relatively inexpensive accommodations along with amenities expected at branded lifestyle hotels, including Wi-Fi access, swimming pools, and trendy décor. Secondly, first-rate hostels like the Freehand Miami offer a variety of room accommodations and communal spaces aimed at drawing demand from solo millennials, families, and corporate travelers alike.

Because of their increased profile in U.S. travel markets such as Miami Beach and Chicago, private investors, including Patron Capital, have taken notice of hostel developments and formed partnerships with international hostel brands. Factors such as the attractiveness of upscale hostel assets like the Generator Miami and the lack of competitive supply are likely to lure more investors looking to obtain attractive returns.


Keys to Success: Employee Satisfaction.

Without a satisfied hotel staff we have no foundation upon which to build.

At the recent Marriott owners meeting I attended in December, when asked what will make Marriott hotels successful, Bill Marriott said that the key to success at a hotel is to take care of our employees because employees will in turn take care of our guests and our guests will come back.  I could not agree more so here are some thoughts on how we should walk that talk.

Strong leadership is one of the areas we focus on within our hotels to promote a positive environment. Attitude starts from the top and trickles down to everyone else. Good managers/supervisors with a hands-on approach can build teams up and help grow individuals. When employees have someone to lean on, learn from, and that listens to them, they are much more satisfied and their quality of work significantly increases.

As an example, our front desk staff has some of the most challenging work on property as they interact with our guests more than anyone else. This makes their jobs extremely important to the success of our hotels and as such, their satisfaction in the workplace is paramount. Whether it is assisting with a guest issue or covering the front desk while an employee is on break, it is the littlest things that can make the biggest difference.

As most of us know, employee satisfaction extends well beyond front desk agents to housekeepers, maintenance staff, and all other employees be they managers, supervisors, or line level employees.  What could be perceived as the smallest interaction between an employee and a guest could create a lifetime of memories translating into a loyal guest, referral business, or an excellent TripAdvisor review.

The phrase “that’s not my job” is a killer for a hotel, restaurant or frankly any service business. Likewise, a title does not limit one’s ability to assist in other departments. Seeing a General Manager cover the front desk or a Director of Sales helping room service clear trays may not seem significant on the surface, but it sends a unifying message to the entire team that we have each other’s backs. Teamwork breeds satisfaction.

Recognizing the team for doing a good job is equally important in overall employee satisfaction. Individual accolades are always nice for a positive guest comment or a job well done. Setting goals for the team as a whole creates key performance indicators (KPIs). Whether these goals are for perfect sells in a given period or reaching a certain TripAdvisor ranking, these KPIs give the team something to strive for that can then be celebrated together as a team once the milestones are achieved.  An ice cream social or bringing in lunch is not that expensive and will pay dividends in terms of increased revenue well above and beyond the cost of these functions.

As was discussed in Ken Blanchard’s One Minute Manager, leadership behavior that acknowledges someone for having done something right will stimulate the team as a whole. Unfortunately, many managers see their role as correcting behavior only when it is wrong. We have all worked for the manager that was always on our case when we made a mistake, was slow to give praise for having done something right and rarely said, “good job.” Good Leadership is always noticing when someone does something right and makes mention of it. Blanchard also promoted “management by walking around” which in our business refers to checking restaurant service in process, inspecting rooms and working “in the trenches.”

In Service America by Karl Albrecht and Ron Eke, “moments of truth” was a phrase coined by Jan Carlzon, then president of Scandinavian Airlines, to reflect moments of customer service interaction. As such, every service encounter that a team member will make and every expectation that leadership has must be communicated and reinforced. When a team member has clear expectations from leadership, job satisfaction greatly increases and service scores soar.

Labor Costs
Fiscal health is another leadership responsibility item that requires guiding the organization toward profitability. Line managers and department heads sometimes lose sight of the fact that their decisions have financial impacts on the business. Leadership must always be caring and compassionate but today’s worker compensation costs, insurance costs, energy costs and labor costs may cause a business to fail. If that occurs, human conditions like layoffs, bankruptcy, foreclosure or hostile takeover will be much worse than the stress of dealing with and reigning in expenses.

One of the easiest ways to add stress to the team is by understaffing the hotel. Labor is one of our biggest costs as hoteliers and while we need to be diligent in managing labor levels, cutting hours only to save a few dollars leaves a heavy burden on the team and may actually be detrimental to the hotel’s financial performance in the long run. A stressed out team is not only bad for internal morale but also noticeable to guests. Alternatively, an adequately staffed hotel with satisfied employees is not only evident to our guests but tends to be acknowledged via social media platforms that provide terrific exposure for the hotel.

We are in the service industry. This means that despite the cost of labor and benefits, we need to provide good service to our employees as well as our guests. Employees who are satisfied at work, show up with a positive attitude, receive strong guidance, have clear expectations and are recognized for their efforts convey these attributes to our guests and provide a substantially better service experience.

After all, employees want to feel valued, cared for and respected.  Give them that and they will go above and beyond every time.  By ensuring that our service is top-notch, we are setting our hotels up for success not only in 2016, but for years to come.


How to Help Your New Manager Build Respect

Building a strong manager and management team is an obstacle you’ll constantly face. If this isn’t something you’ve been focusing on, put it on your radar now.

Management Goals.

A major goal for your business should be to develop a team around you that enables it to function while you’re not there. Preferably to function while you are away for extended amounts of time.

Building a management team takes an enormous amount of effort and understanding from you. It also takes the same amount effort and understanding for new managers who face a different set of problems.

Being a New Manager.

I was first hired by a well know corporation as an assistant general manager for their Houston region. I had the academic knowledge and was immediately respected by others at the management level and above.

But after completing my six weeks of training, I was having trouble gaining respect from my employees.

You see, in a restaurant, reading and memorizing a recipe or procedure means nothing if you don’t understand the physical and logistical demands of executing those on a large scale.

Simply put: You have to earn respect.

A hands-on leadership style makes a definite difference in this industry.

Today, I’ll quickly give some pointers on how to establish respect and credibility as a new manager.

1. Listen to your staff.

As I got to know my employees at the corporate restaurant, I found they needed someone who understood their plight. Managers working for a corporation are constantly pushed to meet budgets, deadlines, etc. They may have the best intentions, but sometimes they can forget about their team.

In independent restaurants, I found that employees perceived not being listened to as a sign of a disrespectful and uncaring owner.

Employees may not show it all the time, but most of them generally care about their job. They need to feel they’re making a difference. They need to see the difference they’re making.

Set and keep a scheduled time to listen to employee feedback and then…

2. Be consistent.

Make sure your deliver what you promise. You can’t say yes to everyone. That leads to spreading yourself thin, which leads to you letting people down.

“No” can be a valid answer.

3. Be fair.

So, if you’re going to say “No,” be fair about it. Don’t play favoritism.

Also, do what you say you’ll do; whether it’s to reward or punish. Make sure you’re fair on both across the board. Avoid special treatment. Recognize good work and individuality, but don’t make one reward more exciting (or a punishment more harsh) than another.

4. Work alongside your employees.

You cannot lead from the back, from a distance, or from a position of authority. Set the example by “showing” your team what to do. Not by “telling” them.

Especially during your busy times/rush. You have to be 100 percent willing to jump in and help (or to defend) an employee.

5. Communicate clearly.

The service and hospitality industry is busy, physical, flowing work.

There is rarely a time to sit and chat, much less explain things in detail. Any instructions you give need to be delivered clearly, concisely, and most likely while something else is going on.

6. Be humble.

If you make a mistake and an employee points it out, celebrate their knowledge instead of looking at it as disrespectful.

Also, this should be a “gimme”, but I see owners and managers still doing this. Do not embarrass or make your employees look bad in public.

“If they don’t look good, you don’t look good.”

7. Trust yourself.

Show trust and confidence in your team. But also remember you were put in a position of leadership because you deserve it. Whether you worked harder or whether you have the most experience, just remember you’re the leader for a reason.


Encouragement = the “Miracle Grow” of Employee Morale

Encouragement = the “Miracle Grow” of Employee Morale

office-worker-honoredComplaint after complaint is heard about today’s workforce; they are lazy, spend too much time on social media while on-the-job and they have no work ethic.

True or not, it is a fact of business. Today’s employees; regardless of their social status, geographic makeup or millennial segmentation, face a vastly different work environment that those of 30-40 years ago.

Industry has mostly done away with pensions, profit sharing, matching 401K’s and many of the business perks we have long been accustomed to like employee outings (team building sessions) and Christmas Parties (I’m sorry, they must now be classified as “Holiday Parties”).

But we still expect our employees to be engaged and to work hard, and they should. Today’s workers are getting paid more than ever…

As reported by, “Wages and salaries in the United States have increased over the last three decades. Between 1979 and 2010, the median weekly income of fulltime wage and salary workers grew from 241 to 747 U.S. dollars.”

So why all the long-faces at work, why are our employees so disengaged and less productive?

As continues, “These numbers are not adjusted for inflation however, as doing so yields a different result. The median weekly income in 2010 constant dollars only increased from 675 to 747 U.S. dollars in the same period.”

Ok, so with the adjusted numbers there is only a slightly higher increase in wages than mentioned before. Is that the reason for poor employee morale?

“According to the “State of the American Workplace”, a 2013 Gallup study, seven out of 10 workers in the US say they aren’t fully engaged at work, meaning they aren’t working to their fullest potential. The resulting loss of productivity can cost companies between $450-$500 billion a year. Plus, according to research by the Dale Carnegie Institute, 80 percent of employees who aren’t happy with their supervisors claim that they’re disengaged and ultimately, less productive”, states

How are we expected to compete in today’s business climate and against the global marketplace with numbers like these? There must be a way to encourage our employees so they feel valued, appreciated and willingly do as needed to the benefit of the business and themselves.

That’s it, encouragement is the key!

Think back to when your children were just learning to walk. All those times when you were on your hands and knees, arms outstretched and wide-eyed talking to your son or daughter; “come on baby, I know you can do it”. “Yeah, yeah, that’s it; come on come on, one more step, keep going! “Good girl, hooray!”

We even do the same with our dog when we teach him to sit or roll over – he gets a snack. That’s pretty good encouragement and motivation to learn a new trick.

Your daughter, and dog, tried with all their might to do as you asked because of you, your efforts and encouragement. They didn’t want to let you down, they wanted to please you and make you happy. And, in the end, they learned a new skill too, how to walk or roll over. It’s a win-win situation.

That’s what we need to today’s business but we don’t do it. Where is the encouragement of our employees?

We hire warm bodies with little skill because we wish to keep our payroll costs as low as possible. We forgo the 2-3 day, or longer, new hire orientation sessions and thrust the newbie into the world of other disengaged employees and expect great performance. And what about the work conditions? Those probably are really bad too!

But we still expect our employees to be engaged and to work hard under conditions like this, and to provide GREAT customer service! Yeah, sure…

Bad leaders beget bad employees, disengaged management breeds the same in our hourly staff. It’s almost impossible to have any other outcome under these conditions.

The Importance of Engaged Employees

As Dale Carnegie reports, “Today, employee engagement and loyalty are more vital than ever before to an organization’s success and competitive advantage. Gone are the days when a young person starting out in his or her career joined a company and stayed until retirement – in today’s business environment there are no guarantees.

Experts predict the current turnover rate may rise to 65%. With recruiting costs running approximately 1.5 times annual salary, the ability to engage and retain valuable employees has a significant impact on an organization’s bottom line. The question for management is how to ensure that the supervisors interact with individuals to generate an engaged workforce.”

A “Workforce Mood Tracker” survey states,” 69 percent of employees said that they’ll work harder for a company that recognizes their achievements.” So, what are we waiting for?

You don’t offer profit sharing, or a pension. You don’t pay the highest wage or give many perks. Your employee turnover is not too bad but can be better. What’s next?

Here’s 12 Ways to Provide Encouragement at Little or No Cost

  • Assign a mentor for each and every new employee, one to turn to for advice, guidance and direction.
  • Provide all written documentation regarding all company policy, procedures, etc. You can’t expect an employee to know what to do and where to do it without being told.
  • Get a list of all employee birthday’s and send a card on their special day, signed by the executive team
  • Hold an “employee discount sale” where your product or service is offered to all employees at a deeply discounted rate.
  • Scavenger hunt – host periodic, and unannounced, scavenger hunts through your store. Hide a prize that will be awarded to the employee that finds it.
  • Celebrate your employee milestones or achievements. Your business is only as good as the employees that work there.
  • Share company news and financial success. Let your employees realize your success is because of them.
  • Let Santa pay a visit to your business – give small gifts to your employees.
  • Have a “Star of the Week” bulletin board highlighting your good employee.
  • “Walk the Floor”. Leadership needs to get out of the office and interact with their team daily, assist as needed.
  • Host monthly discussion round tables with employees to monitor engagement.
  • Start an “Idea Box” where anyone can recommend a way to improve on an existing practice or procedure – and really take these into consideration. If any improvement idea is adopted, broadcast the source of the great idea.

This list can go on forever and it should.

Happy, content and appreciated employees don’t happen by accident, only by direct and intentional actions of their leaders.

You must be like a gardener; get the best flowers possible, water and fertilize well, weed and trim-out the bad and always let your light shine bright.


Making the most of a first impression

Making the most of a first impression

Ultimate First ImpressionWe’ve all heard the expression that “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”. Recent studies support this, but more importantly, the studies indicate that it’s very hard to change a poor first impression to a more positive one later on.

As a hotel, your entire image depends on the ability to offer great customer service right from the initial contact with your guest. It’s absolutely critical that your guests feel instantly welcome the second they contact your hotel.

According to McKinsey research on customer experience, 70% of buying experiences are based on how a customer feels they are being treated. Significantly, a study by RightNow concluded that 73% of people fall in love with brands because of friendly employees or customer service representatives.

Clearly, there’s huge value in nurturing great relationships with guests right from the start to increase the prospects of them booking with you now and in the future. But all too often, a guest’s first communication with a hotel involves an efficient, standard welcome email generated by the PMS or CRS. And no matter how nicely worded or individually tailored that email might be, an automated welcome will never feel truly personal.

In contrast, extending a friendly welcome over the phone allows a hotel to build rapport with customers and form valuable, long-term relationships.

In those crucial few moments of interaction, a human voice can convey a genuine warmth that is more personal and sincere than any other form of communication. This can shape a customer’s entire perception of your hotel, enhancing your brand reputation and helping to increase bookings.

While busy periods can make it hard to give every customer quality attention, a great call center team can ensure your hotel always offers this one-to-one welcome. More importantly, well-trained agents can personalize the guest’s experience, addressing any specific queries they might to make their stay more enjoyable, and offering the right activities or add-on items to make their stay unforgettable.