Timeless Principles of Hospitality for Exceptional Guest Experiences

630x355What are the striking differences between a great hotel that is top-notch in every way and a mediocre one? What does it take to stand out as the best from the rest? The difference between excellence and mediocrity is smaller than you think.

The key to being different and standing out from the rest is essentially about providing added-value through highly personalized guest service. That is what I will cover in a nutshell in this post and some of the basic steps that lead to that desirable outcome I refer to as excellence in service, which each and every single time leaves the guests with lingering warm memories and lasting positive impressions. Providing exceptional levels of guest service and creating wow moments is based on what I call the timeless principles of hospitality, some of which you will find in the list below. In essence, it is the little things that make a big difference in a guest’s stay, such as being genuine when interacting with them the first time, showing excitement over their plans and sharing the joy over a beautiful sunny morning and so on.

Let’s face it: there are gorgeous hotels in every town in every city. Guests have a lot more options than they have ever had at any time in the history. The leading brands of hospitality keep bringing their new hotels into the luxury hotel market. The promising new hotel brands are entering into the race offering more choices, variety and concept to the guests. New mergers and acquisitions are taking place between big corporations to polish and revive their decades old service and to become the first choice of the guests again. In short, we live in a very competitive world, where change and improvement in the service are happening on unprecedented levels. Those who don’t rest on their laurels but consistently deliver more value than guests expect are the ones who are likely to survive and thrive.

Warm Greetings
A memorable stay experience begins with a warm welcome. First impressions matter a lot and set the tone of a guest’s stay the moment they step into the hotel lobby and approach the front desk. A warm greeting is one of the most important aspects of a guest’s stay, which is in fact assessed in each survey sent to guests upon check-out by leading brands in the hospitality field. A warm and genuine welcome invites the guest to come back to the desk whenever they need assistance during the course of their stay while also contributing to the first impression the guests experience during the very first seconds of their arrival to the property.

In the world of luxury, where so much importance is attached to appearance, being genuine makes a hotel stand out and makes it more appealing to the guests. I am convinced that being genuine is the key ingredient in the exceptional guest service. A guest stay experience does not feel the same way without it. When we are genuine, exceptional guest service appears to flow naturally, with the hospitality professional sincerely, enthusiastically and attentively taking care of the guest.

Use Guests’ Name
What is the sweetest sound to anyone’s ear? The answer is obvious: their own name! The sweetest sound to anyone’s ear is their own name. Those who read Dale Carnegie’s timeless phenomenal book called How to Win Friends and Influence People know what I am talking about. In order to make your guests feel special, valued and cared for, use the guests’ name whenever possible. This step is also part of being genuine when serving to guests.

Emotional Connection
In order to connect with guests at a deep emotional level and exceed their expectations, we must be dedicated to being excellent communicators and sharpening our communication skills on a consistent basis. Emotional connection is basically established through genuine and polite interactions. By observing, anticipating mood and acting accordingly, it is easy to get positive emotional reactions and prove to guests that their satisfaction and needs are your primary priority.

People like to deal with people that they are convinced get them with ease and anticipate their needs accurately. More often than not, the most crucial skill in dealing with other people’s emotions is empathy: the ability to put yourself in someone else’s position and to make them feel that you are able to see the situation from their point of view. This allows us to form relationships with guests, provides insights into people’s thought patterns and makes it easy to predict their responses. The ability to empathize and deal with someone else’s feelings encourages a guest to talk to the hotel staff, and has a positive impact on the overall stay experience.

Being pro-active means taking full responsibility and ownership for your actions rather than just watch things unfold in a spontaneous way. Being proactive enables us to anticipate challenges and come up with new solutions ahead of time. Employees must use their own initiative to identify what needs to be done when necessary and appropriate. If they wait until they are told, or follow only prescribed actions, they will be both inefficient and ineffective. When asked about which habit is the most important habit, Dr. Stephen R. Covey who is the famous author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People book replied that Pro-activity is the most important habit as it provides the foundation for all the other habits. This is also a crucial character trait that allows people to excel rapidly in their chosen craft. The bottom line is that you can always effect the outcome positively by being pro-active, anticipating the next best step and taking action with a sense of urgency.

Go Beyond the Extra Mile
Guests consider their stay experience as excellent when they are convinced that they received more value than they expected. The best thing about extra mile is that it is never crowded. It is an absolute joy to be the one who makes a lasting positive impression in a guest’s stay by providing added-value through personalized guest service. Going beyond the extra mile should be part of each employee’s philosophy. Needless to say this one sets the best apart from the rest in most cases.

Rabindranath Tagore once stated that “We come nearest to the great when we are great in humility.” Humility, which is essentially a dramatically more powerful and effective way of serving to people and leading teams, is a valuable business asset that gets forgotten often. It is also about the commitments and the promises we make. A humble person tends not to over-promise and under-deliver. A humble person is also more likely to build strong and influential relationships. It is a well-established fact that humble people tend to be the most effective leaders and are more likely to be high performers in team settings.

Robert Bosh put it far more eloquently than I ever could in his following quote: “I would rather lose money than trust.” Maintaining a good reputation matters a lot more than how much revenue you generate. Integrity must be a value shared by all hotel employees, because nothing works without integrity in the long-term. Lack of integrity results in relationship failures, loss of trust that is almost always impossible to mend and a decline in reputation that eventually leads to loss of business. Put simply, integrity is about honoring your word. Regardless of the situation, you have to live up to your word when you make a promise. When unexpected things come up, be committed to taking immediate action to restore your integrity.

Fond Farewell
A fond farewell that is done attentively and genuinely is as important as the warm greeting that sets the tone of a stay experience. The first thing people will remember when they think of their hotel stay is the last moment, regardless of how their hotel stay might be up to that point. That said, this one seals the deal when not neglected. Make sure you show the same level of professionalism, enthusiasm and care when your guests are leaving your hotel.


Inside the Future of Luxury – The direction of luxury consumers and experiences

Commercial-Pool-Building-Project-4Taking stock of the UK’s luxury industries

At the charming premises of Home House in Marylebone, Glion recently had the privilege of hosting luxury industry leaders from a range of different British brands to debate the nature of future luxury consumers and their notions and expectations of high-level costumer experiences.

In front of a select group of Glion students, alumni and guests, representatives from sectors as diverse as hospitality, jewellery, auctioning, yachting and private aviation shared their assessment of the state and future of the UK’s high-end creative and cultural industries, which have grown over 25% in 2010 – 2013 and are forecast to reach sales values of GBP 51 – 57 billion by 2019 and account for 158,000 to 177,000 jobs, according to a recent study commissioned by Walpole, UK’s luxury trade association.

With this rapid growth and the volatility of global markets, luxury businesses need to keep reinventing themselves and create the type of products and services that continue to inspire new breeds of consumers, while staying true to their origins and heritage.

Identifying the future luxury consumer

The main challenge remains equal to all brands within the luxury sector: how to sell non-essential goods and services. Typically, brands utilise design, branding and the experience related to a good or a service to differentiate from competition and engage customers and all three categories need to be of the highest level and quality to inspire consumers to choose and stay loyal to a certain brand.

At the same time, consumer groups are changing with a younger millennial generation gaining spending power that is well-informed and spoilt for choice, since it makes most purchasing decisions online and expects the best value for money within a specific price range. In order to cater to this consumer group, auctioneer Christie’s is increasingly running online-only auctionsfor modern art, watches and wine and now generates over 30% of its new business over online channels.

But also more senior customers’ behaviour is shifting: where a Sunseeker boat show in the past attracted a mostly male clientele it has today become a family event, where purchasing decisions are made across genders and generations.

Luxury companies have further developed strong relationship management with their top-tier clientele and organise non-accessible, unique experiences to ensure their brand loyalty. At Boodles, buyers of certain collections get access to exclusive private performances of the Royal Ballet, accompanied by a Boodles family member.

Creating luxury experiences for tomorrow

In terms of products and services, the luxury industry is seeing a general shift from luxury goods towards luxury experiences, as many consumers already own the luxury goods they aspire to. Also, experiences tend to be more inclusive and can be shared with others, either in person or via social media.

The high-end hospitality sector has typically been an area of experiential luxury, where guests are willing to spend more for a higher quality of service and a heightened atmosphere. Celebrity chef Marcus Wareing builds on the heritage of his restaurants and caters his service to fulfil his guests’ every wish. Contemporary Mark Hix commissions artists to create unique restaurant environments, such as huge Damien Hirst sculpture of a cow and a chicken kept in formaldehyde for his latest grill restaurant.

For long-time London hotelier and Glion alumnus Stephen Alden, innovations often occur across sectors and through creative collaborations. A turning-point in the industry was when hotels discovered design and luxury brands discovered service, realising that costumers expect the highest level of service throughout the entire journey, from product promotion to sales consulting and after-sales service.

Across the industry, online channels have become indispensable to raise awareness for brands and facilitate transactions.Quintessentially Lifestyle, a bespoke concierge service, teases members with the latest luxury experiences in their online community to then suggest personalised unique experiences based on customers’ preferences.

Private jet charterer Victor follows a high-tech/high-touch approach with a customised app complementing a high-level customer service, enabling clients to choose how they wish to book their charters and how much interaction they prefer in the process.

Preparing talent for the luxury industry

Despite digitalisation trends, consumers seem to appreciate a human element within the transaction and on the highest levels of luxury, a need for personal interaction prevails to provide the personalised, compassionate service that inspires consumers’ confidence.

With Glion, we have recently established a world-leading higher education institution in London that looks back on long-standing tradition of classical Swiss hospitality, paired with the business and soft skills required to lead teams and operations. Our latest undergraduate track combines hospitality and luxury brand management and prepares students to join this aspiring sector and create future personalised experiences.

Because according to Stephen Alden, “Luxury is something that moves you – with an emphasis on you.”


Who Must Own Reputation Management in Any Hotel

shutterstock_136417715Be honest: the 900 pound gorilla in hotel booking has become TripAdvisor.

In some hotels – not all – Yelp also plays an important role in the success (or lack) of f&b.

And then there are the comments on Facebook and Twitter, the images posted to Instagram and Pinterest. All help shape the hotel’s reputation.

Reputation is decisive in determining a hotel’s success in the marketplace.

Question: who in your organization is in charge of the efforts to maximize performance on those new media reputation measurement channels?

The true answer in most hotels is nobody. How scary is that?

Probably various people – many people in some hotels – have responsibility for various parts of the effort. Usually an assistant to the GM or a pr executive – rarely the GM him/herself – posts responses to a selection of the comments. Probably an assistant GM monitors posts for customer service issues that can be addressed in real time (if that’s not happening at your hotel, start doing it). Somebody in marketing or sales is mulling how to harness TripAdvisor as a booking engine, at what cost. Maybe that person, maybe somebody else, is in charge of the property’s TripAdvisor Business Listing (and you do have that paid upgrade, right?). Etc.

What is lacking is overall responsibility. Who has set the hotel’s goals on TripAdvisor, Yelp and the rest? Usually nobody, or the goals are borrowed from third party advisory services.

That is not good enough. Not when it is emphatic – undeniable – that TripAdvisor performance strongly impacts how much a hotel can charge for its rooms, a finding of a Cornell study of TripAdvisor’s impact.

The impacts of the other venues are less clear – but there definitely are impacts.

That is why this is such a crucial topic.

Just as there is a head of f&b, a head of rooms, oftentimes an executive tasked with managing meetings, there needs to be a chief reputation officer where the TripAdvisor buck stops.

Note: whoever is in charge of reputation needs to have wide influence on operations because, in the vast majority of cases, the hits on reputation have their origin in operations failings. Food is served at the wrong temperature, a concierge is rude, housekeeping is tardy and sloppy – right there are the primary themes of many hotels’ negative comments on TripAdvisor and Facebook and all, obviously, are rooted in operational miscues.

The big reputational plusses – the glowing writeups – also have their roots in operations and a concern has got to be how to get more of those winning moments.

Understand that but know my vote for who needs to be in charge of reputation management is the senior public relations executive and my logic is simple: PR has always fundamentally been about reputation management. The words weren’t used way back when but since PR emerged as a discipline it has focused on shaping an organization’s image – that is, reputation – with its publics.

What PR is adept at is knowing the real state of an organization’s reputation. We don’t go off the deep end over one bad write up, nor do we go over the moon because of one glowing comment. We know proportionality and have the knowhow to see elements of reputation in the appropriate context.

PR also is good at using what leverage is available to uplift an organization’s reputation. That is what PR’s prime mission has been for 50+ years.

What’s different now is that instead of focusing on leading media, the focus is on online, crowdsourced review sites as well as social media channels.

Does PR have the clout to effectively manage a hotel’s reputation across multiple channels – and that means getting the ear and respect of the frontline staff who are key to shaping a hotel’s rep?

Good question but the answer is plain: PR has the clout as soon as the GM, or corporate HQ, gives PR the clout.

Put PR in charge, empower it to get results, and then let the buck stop there.

Another question that always comes up in this discussion is, do we need a third party reputation management consulting service? That – really – is up to you and your budget. For one hotel, probably that is overkill. How long does it take to sift through a day’s feeds on TripAdvisor, Facebook, etc. and also comments on key competitors? 15 minutes?

Personally I like the hands on empowerment that comes with sifting through the primary source materials, rather than depending on another’s summary.

But whatever works in your hotel is what works.

The main to-do is: appoint a chief reputation officer and my vote is make that person the PR head.


Is there a new segmentation for commercial accommodations’ clients? How to reach them through personalized one2one marketing?

Olivier Cohn, Benoît Lamezec, Carl Michel, Françoise Houdebine and Pascal Visitanier touched upon the subjects of new behavior, customer segmentation for commercial accommodations, and the marketing strategies used to reach customers during the last edition of the Global Lodging Forum.

Olivier Cohn, CEO Best Western France

The new generations arrived on the market with different expectations, but older generations are also evolving and looking for new tools. This customer profile is quickly adopting new technology, particularly as far as booking via mobile. Technology is thus expanding to the entire clientele spectrum.

Price is a very important element in our customer relations as it is a priority. To get beyond it, we must work on the relationship we have with clients from reservation to post stay. We must understand the customer in order to identify the right time for the right message.

We must be able to offer digital services to our customers, but particularly to our collaborators, so that they can free up time to develop good relations with our guests.

Françoise Houdebine, VP Sales & Marketing Louvre Hotels Group

Our customer profile is currently undergoing a change for different reasons. The new generations that come to our hotels, especially Millennials, are extremely important. They currently represent 35% of employees across all markets, and this figure should reach 75% in 2020, or 50% of business travelers. The new generations are the first to adopt new trends and new products. They are influential, not only among themselves, but also across generations.

We must understand how our brands can interact with these new generations. For example, there is a great deal of porosity between the business and leisure worlds, obliging us to reinvent our services. These generations are very involved, and want to see brands that share their values and take their feedback into consideration to improve their supply.

Benoit Lamezec, Director Marketing & Distribution B&B Hotels

Digital is not a tool, but a language, and there are no digital strategies, but strategies to adopt in a digital world. The real subject we must work on concerns data collection on our customers, how to capture it, capturing it and using it. New technological tools means customers are increasingly impatient, require personalized and practical information about the value for money.

Digital tool users have become contents creators, and the relationship we have with consumers or prospects can only happen if it is a part of this logic. The real experience that we offer must rely on real fundamentals, because it will be checked and shared. The user is an actor and it is necessary to interact with him or her in complete transparency. The brand’s true values must be reflected daily.

Carl Michel, Board Member StayWise

In order to stick to the characteristics of Generation Y, it is necessary to create large social spaces because they are very connected. The are social not only in their increased use of smartphones and other mobile devices, but also in terms of their expectations from interactions, particularly when traveling.

The real challenge is to know how we can reach these clients, whether they are Generation Y or Z, who were born at the same time as these new technologies and who trust their friends, bloggers, and online comments more than brands. We need to have a two way relationship with the new generations. We do not need to do marketing; we need to let them do it for us through the contents they share. It takes time and money to have a steady relationship with our clients, so it is easier to let them carry out exchanges for us.

Pascal Visintainer, Commercial Director Groupe Lucien Barrière

The luxury hotel segment has not been spared by changes in customer behavior, indeed, sometimes it outdistances them. With the rise in new technology, today’s customer has more power than ever before. Hotel customers are quick to change hotel or brand when they find a better offer elsewhere. I think the traditional aspect of the hospitality industry can be compatible with these new changes because it continues to be about serving the client.

Consumer segmentation is no longer applicable because each client is unique, and we must be able to speak to them at the right time and in the way they wan to be approached. Therefore we must enter a dialogue with them prior to their stay, and this takes a lot of time, technical expertise and accumulated data.

We must try to stop forecasting the way we learned at school and through our experience; the time has come to take risks, because today is what pays in terms of marketing.


How Can Data Benefit Hotel Employee Time Management?

2016-03-11_ebook-05-1-741x486With all the resources spent on personnel, it’s no surprise hotel management is always seeking to better understand how their employees spend their time. But interestingly,almost all of the hoteliers we spoke with relied entirely on trusting their management and maintaining strong communication channels as ways of staying informed of what their employees are doing all day.

One of our GMs depends mostly on guest reviews as way to keep a pulse on how his staff is doing. “I’d say you get somewhat of a sense by reading reviews,” the GM told us. “If you see the same problems coming up, there might be a larger trend.” Another GM only made adjustments when his employees were falling short of their weekly tasks. “Ultimately, it all comes down to trial and error,” he said. “The sad truth is that we determine workloads based on when things don’t get done. It allows us to readjust our goals.” Of course, the biggest problem with such a reactionary strategy is that it relies on guests’ complaints as the main way of improving.

In a perfect world, hoteliers would find ways of correcting poor experiences before they turn into negative reviews. However, with much of the guest’s experience unknown to a manager before the review is written today, most hotels focus on “hiring good management, and trusting each department manager to get his or her tasks done on a daily basis.” Beyond that, a hotelier told us, “it’s mostly based on trust. ‘Here’s your checklist, now I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt and assuming that you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing when you’re here.'”

As this time management becomes increasingly important to staying competitive, hotels are beginning to seek out technology systems with powerful reporting functions to help remove the guesswork from these important decisions.

Another problem that all managers we spoke to struggled with was how to allocate workload to reduce downtime while making sure their employees are available to help a guest at a moment’s notice. The ALICE solution is to automate some of the more mundane tasks like integrating with both the PMS and department systems to make it easier to update the status of a guest request or automatically dispatching requests to the right department, or even the right employee. Because they’re spending less time dealing with this “double work,” employees have more time for the “high touch” guest-related functions.


Hotel School Graduates Gain Management Training, Employment with Meyer Jabara Hotels

reverseEight week ‘Leadership Development’ program offers competitive salary, benefits package and the opportunity to join one of hospitality’s leading management and ownership companies

Danbury, Conn. — How are today’s leading hotel companies ensuring exceptional experiences for guests? By empowering employees to deliver outstanding customer service. At Meyer Jabara Hotels, an award-winning East Coast ownership and management company, creating engaging stays start with recruiting, hiring and training the highest level of talent. This process starts with the Meyer Jabara Hotels Leadership Development Program, a placement opportunity whereby hotel school graduates build a strong professional foundation and understanding of how each position, department, and division contributes to a hotel’s overall success. In addition to receiving a competitive salary and benefits package, at the end of the eight-week program, qualified candidates are offered full-time, entry-level management positions in the Rooms or Food-and-Beverage divisions within the Meyer Jabara Hotels portfolio.

“The first step towards a successful career in hospitality is education; the second step is to participate in the Meyer Jabara Hotels Leadership Development Program,” said Justin Jabara, Meyer Jabara Hotels VP of Development. “Not only do participants receive practical training and hands on experience in a fast-paced hotel environment, but it’s here that the journey to becoming a hotelier begins. We bring candidates up close and personal with all the small actions, big strategies, and monumental decisions that happen when operating a hotel to set them up for success.

“Providing superior customer service doesn’t happen by accident; it’s a conscious effort made by each associate willing to accept the responsibility,” he said. “If you want to create a truly engaging destination experience, then the Meyer Jabara Hotels Leadership Development Program is for YOU. We are looking for associates willing to do what it takes to create an award-winning, memorable guest experience.”


Here’s how the Meyer Jabara Hotels Leadership Development Program works:

Step One: Apply to the program by clicking here.

Step Two:
Begin the Eight Week Rotation

The training program begins with an orientation on the Meyer Jabara Hotels brand and its company culture, referred to as “The Journey.” Along “The Journey,” candidates will be trained to embrace empowerment and the responsibility for providing superior customer service and differentiated repeatable experiences for guests. Candidates will attend two interactive training classes: “Leading the Journey” prepares them to nurture and perpetuate the culture, while “Living the Journey” showcases the benefits and expectations of living and working within this culture from a managerial perspective. They also will receive ServSafe® Food Protection Manager Certification from the National Restaurant Assn. that provides education on food sanitation and foodborne illness (and how to prevent it). TIPS (Training for Intervention ProcedureS) Certification is also conducted to ensure education and training for the responsible service, sale, and consumption of alcohol.

Candidates then rotate throughout every department of the hotel, gaining hands-on experience and working together with fellow employees. Rotation between the following departments will happen in two-week increments: Accounting & Human Resources, Rooms Division (Front Office, Housekeeping, Engineering), Food & Beverage (Restaurant, Beverage, Kitchen, Banquets), and Sales & Catering. Meetings with property General Managers will take place after each two-week rotation. A mentor will be individually selected for each candidate who will provide one-on-one coaching throughout the training period.

Step Three: Placement at a Meyer Jabara Hotel

After successfully completing the program, an evaluation of the candidate’s performance will be conducted by the property’s General Manager and VP of Operations. Based on the review, a candidate may then be offered a full-time, entry-level management position within the Meyer Jabara portfolio. Placement is determined by skills, interest, talent and individual property needs.

“We have been very fortunate to attract and hire exceptional associates through this program,” Jabara said. “A recent success at one of our largest properties hosted five trainees, of which four progressed to management positions. This is an important message to carry out to graduates – especially Millennials – who need assurances that they chose the right career. Knowing that there are companies willing to invest in their future removes some of the uncertainty that recent graduates experience when entering the workforce.”

Meyer Jabara Hotels VP of Operations Ron Antonucci had this to say about the Leadership Development Program: “We believe that investing in people through programs like this is an investment in the success of hospitality as a whole. Spending a little extra time on training increases employee productivity and job satisfaction while it reduces turnover. It also lowers the costs associated with recruiting and training new hires. With the program in its third year, the company is seeing great results.”

Meyer Jabara Hotels is often seen recruiting and speaking at college career fairs and attending classroom visits, interacting with graduating classes to introduce its Leadership Development Program. Participating colleges to date include: Johnson & Whales, University of Delaware and Monroe College.


No Need to Reinvent the Proverbial Wheel: Why Hotel SOP’s Are Crucial

Man and complicated diagram. 3d rendered illustration.

Three words can make or a break a hotel – Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

The bigger the organization, the more important SOPs become. Even individual boutique hotels are still “big enough” to require SOP’s to perform at optimal efficiency. Hotel chains and brands without SOP’s are unlikely to succeed.

The point here is short and sweet – have an SOP in your hotel for literally everything.

If this isn’t already the case, start implementing them now to ensure your hotel is set-up for success.

Similar to how children need structure in their daily lives in order to mature into grounded, stable adults, hotels require structure in order to function at maximum efficiency. SOP’s affect not only the procedures, but also the team.

A lack of structure results in chaos, which results in stressed out team members who are unhappy at work, and will therefore perform at suboptimal levels. It’s a new year, which means you have an opportunity to improve. The work is never completely finished in the hospitality industry, improvements can always be made, and trends are always changing. All we can do is try our best, keep up-to-date, and constantly implement and refresh SOP’s. The following bullet points demonstrate the different ways SOP’s enhance hotel operations.

Why waste time and energy re-teaching, or even re-inventing, the proverbial wheel? Consistency is a hotel’s best friend, allowing the management to relay simply, easy-to-follow instructions on procedures already known to work.

Hotel’s who join brands or become part of a portfolio, understand the benefits of consistency really well. Even if your hotel isn’t part of a brand, there are still known SOP’s within the industry that you can adopt and implement within your property to save resources and a headache.

For this to work best, ensure the SOPs are well written, available in all languages spoken by the majority of your team members , and provide a clear visual flowchart or illustrations.

Quality Control
If everyone is cleaning, inspecting, and generally operating with the same procedures, then the level of quality desired can be controlled. Errors and variations occur when there isn’t a standard procedure, and that’s when customer service issues will arise.

Additionally, when a quality control issue does arise, you can then determine what the issue stemmed from. For example, if the issue at hand is that the shower does not meet a guest’s expectations , is it

  1. Because the room attendant did a poor job based on the SOP?


  1. Because the SOP is outdated, and there are better methods for cleaning a shower now?

Now it’s a simple solution of either chatting with the team member, or instating a new and improved SOP. This same idea can be applied to all areas of the hotel.

Increased Performance
When team members know specifically what is asked of them, they have the opportunity to shine. Standard routines allow predictability, when a procedure is laid out step-by-step, there is no reason why a competent and ambitious team member can’t become an expert at the task.

You may even discover which team members are full of innovation and creativity, because they will come to management with suggestions on how to enhance SOP’s in their departments.

When the team isn’t clear on exactly what is being asked of them, some will falter and deliver sub-par results. When the team has every available tool to perform their duties flawlessly, there will be more than a few that learn each skill and perform it with excellence. Those that don’t have no excuses, and you can then replace them.

Productivity and Performance Management
SOP’s make conducting employee appraisals nice and simple. Have each employees job description written out in detail, and keep them as your collection of key SOPs. Give each team member a target level of outputs for the SOPs in his or her job description.

Now it’s simple and quick to determine the level of productivity on each SOP per team member. Naturally take into consideration which SOPs are most important, and asses the team member based on his or her abilities to do the most important aspects of the job, and then move down to the lesser prominent tasks.

This can also be used as a Benchmark to encourage improvement over time. Perhaps team members are only expected to meet a minimum output per SOP, but then over time that expectation increases, along with the skills of the individual. This can also help when decided who to promote and when.

Growth ties in with consistency . When your hotel has reached maximum efficiency utilizing SOPs, you can then assess your growth, and duplicate the entire process on the next property opened.

If every single SOP is detailed and written out somewhere, then all of those materials can be gathered and then replicated for the new property, saving an incredible amount of resources.

Similar to how you can compare team members to one another, you can use SOPs to compare properties against one another.

When your hotel runs smoothly internally, it shows and the guests can feel it. The energy of a calm, well-organized hotel is enjoyable and relaxing for the guests. The energy of a chaotic, fly-by-the-seat hotel is frenzied, rushed, and not relaxing in the slightest.

Sit down with the management team and develop or adopt SOPs for every little procedure. There’s no time to waste if this isn’t already the case for your hotel.


Jane Pendlebury is the new HOSPA Chief Executive

urlThe Board of Directors at HOSPA – the Hospitality Professionals Association – is delighted to announce that, with immediate effect, Jane Pendlebury has been appointed the new HOSPA Chief Executive.

Jane, who has played a key role in HOSPA’s success over the past two years as leader of HOSPA’s Membership and Events Office, succeeds Carl Weldon as the Association’s Chief Executive.

Commenting on the appointment, HOSPA Chairman Chris Upton said: “Jane Pendlebury was the unanimous choice of the HOSPA Board – she is a natural successor to Carl Weldon. Not only has she excelled as head of HOSPA’s Membership and Events services, she has also proved to be an excellent ambassador for the Association, supporting Carl at key meetings both in the UK and overseas. She is well-known in the hospitality industry and brings with her a wealth of management experience and knowledge.

“Jane has been an invaluable friend to HOSPA over many years. Whilst Jane was Vice President and General Manager of HOSPA sponsor Agilysys, she and Carl initiated the Association’s first IT Directors events. In 2011, in her role as Director of the Penrose Partnership, she was an integral member of the rebranding team that successfully transformed the British Association of Hospitality Accountants in to HOSPA.

“Jane also has expertise in sponsorship. During her time as General Manager-Sales of VisitLondon, she headed up the sponsorship team which generated over £1m per annum and the knowledge she gained there will prove invaluable to us in her new role as HOSPA CEO.”

For her part, Jane Pendlebury said: “I am thrilled and honoured to have been given this exciting opportunity. I want to continue where Carl left off, and ensure that we focus on HOSPA’s core objectives – namely, in the areas of Professional Development and Membership, whilst not forgetting other key services – such as our prestigious HOSPACE Conference and Exhibition, regional and London meetings, and our monthly‘Overview’ magazine.

“Professional Development is one of the Associations most important Membership Services; and I am delighted with the very recent news that HOSPA has successfully secured a £10,000 Savoy Educational Trust grant, to be matched by investment from HOSPA, to further the development of our hospitality focused Revenue Management courses, and support the updating of the highly acclaimed HOSPA Revenue Management e-book. HOSPA Membership is the lifeblood of the Association and I am determined to increase our numbers significantly. The recent and welcome addition to HOSPA of the Hotel Marketing Association has kick-started the road to achieving this goal.

“In addition to my CEO responsibilities, Jenny Rose and I will continue to run an expanded Membership and Events Office from the Haslemere office; and I look forward very much to helping make this great Association of ours to be even more effective and influential in the years ahead.”

Jane Pendlebury’s Professional Experience:
2014 – Present HOSPA Membership and Events Management

2010 – Present Penrose Partnership Director and Company Secretary
2007 – 2009 Agilysys (Formally Visual One) Vice President and General Manager

2006 – 2007 EasyRMS (Revenue Management) (See below – returned once London had secured
the 2012 Olympics)

2004 – 2006 Visit London (London Tourist Board) General Manager – Sales
2002 – 2004 EasyRMS Ltd European Sales Director

2001 – 2002 SoftBrands Hospitality New Product Sales Manager – UK
2000 – 2001 Inter-touch (EAME) Ltd Sales Manager (UK & Ireland)

Major Account Manager (EAME)
1990 – 2000 Eltrax Systems UK Ltd Director of Sales and Marketing – UK & Ireland

1989 – 1990 Booking Services International Sales Executive / Conference Organiser
1988 – 1989 Castle Hotel, Taunton Front Office Manager

1986 – 1988 Royal Bath Hotel, Bournemouth (DeVere)
Trainee / Duty Manager


How Hotel General Managers Identify Their VIPs

120073465In an effort to help our peers compete, we at ALICE sat down with a roundtable of New York City’s leading hotel General Managers to learn how they are leveraging data to run their hotels. We share our findings in our report, “The Data-Driven Hotelier.

Given their varying levels of loyalty, spending habits, and influence on future bookings, not every hotel guest is equally valuable.

While hoteliers generally agree it’s vital to segregate guests by potential value, each of the General Managers we work with have a different way of defining a guest’s Lifetime Value (LTV).

Here are a few of those ways that our hotels are determining a guest’s LTV, along with a few of the challenges that come with it.

Booking Channel. The simplest and easiest way to start segmenting guests is by how they booked. Was it through an OTA? Through the sales team? Directly through the website via a referral? Was it a corporate account? Knowing how a guest booked their room can paint a picture around how involved and loyal that guest will be.

Corporate Booking Potential.
Specifically amongst larger hotels, many GMs define the value of a guest by the potential corporate business she can bring depending on how big her company is, how often she travels, and how much upsell potential is there.

Total Spend. The most obvious way to determine a guest’s importance is by how much he or she spends. While simple in theory, many of our GMs find it a challenge to keep track of this data and “make the connection between the guests that are just staying for a room, and those that interface with F&B outlet, take advantage of our other services, and keep coming back.” It would appear that although all of the data is there, isolating the important metrics and linking the reservation to the spend is difficult.
Booking Frequency. Another common method of determining a guest’s LTV is repeat bookings. One of our General Managers says he tasks his front office team with “being responsible for recognizing repeat guests and making management aware of it.” And then, he says, “Once we’ve identified a VIP, we’re going to make sure they’re treated as well as possible. That could mean anything from VIP perks to comped dinners.” But as in the case of keeping track of a guest’s spend, the GMs we spoke with expressed difficulty in keeping track of all of this information in one place. Specifically, they find it difficult to “figure who is coming back, and why they’re coming back here. I wish we had something like Salesforce to give us an idea of where the value lies,” one GM says.

Social Media Influence. Beyond TripAdvisor reviews, many GMs are looking to a guest’s social media imprint as a way to anticipate poor reviews before he checks out. One GM we talked with went so far as to consider a guest’s social media influence to be the most important factor in determining his or her value to the hotel. In an ideal world, this GM would have “a dashboard that would show all of [his guests’] social media influence to see what they’re posting and its impact so that I could assign some kind of value to them. For example, it would allow me to see that a major fashion influencer with 40,000 followers is going to be staying with us, and treat him accordingly.”


A Radical Thought: Do Millennials Really View Travel Differently?

millennials-digital-business-travelerForget what you think you know about traditional travel marketing principles and crafting effective loyalty programs. There aren’t many differences among Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, Gen Zers, road warriors, or vacationers — at least not when it comes to how they travel.

If you want to engage consumers of all ages and types, and build brand loyalty with them, you’ve got to look beyond those definitions to get at the heart of their shared travel wants and needs.
That’s what two new studies, one from Price Waterhouse Coopers’ (PwC) Consumer Intelligence Series, and another from Upshot, a Chicago-based marketing agency, seem to be hinting at.

The PwC study, “What’s Driving Customer Loyalty for Today’s Hotel Brands?” interviewed 1,026 business and leisure travelers (59 percent business; 41 percent leisure) ranging in age from 21 to 69 to understand loyalty behaviors across a spectrum of guests.

What the PwC researchers found, in some ways, was surprising: “Millennials are not unique in their attitudes and behaviors toward loyalty programs. In fact, they are quite similar to travelers aged 30+,” the researchers note. On average, travelers ages 30 and up have 3.6 hotel loyalty memberships while Millennials (ages 21 to 29) have three.

“There are some differences between Millennials and other travelers [when it comes to loyalty programs] but they’re not as significant as we thought,” says Adam Kennedy, PwC hospitality and leisure advisory leader. “They’re just not as varied.”

The Upshot study, “Travel Quest: Building a Travel Superbrand,” takes that assessment further. “Demographics, or even business versus leisure designations, have ceased to offer predictive value for understanding individual travelers’ preferences,” the study’s authors write. “Instead, these distinctions have blurred as today’s travelers fluidly shift between mindsets depending on their immediate circumstances.”

For its report, Upshot conducted an online survey of 500 frequent travelers (having taken three or more trips a year) with equal representation of Millennials, Gen Xers, and Boomers, as well as an equal number of business and leisure travelers.

Brian Asner, Upshot planning director, says that when the agency initially embarked on this study, it was focused on examining traditional travel categories like business and leisure, Boomer and Millennial, but what he and the other researchers found was that it was more important to realize that “breaking down travelers that way doesn’t answer the questions that the modern traveler has today,” he tells Skift.

What they found, instead, was that frequent travelers of all types share similar patterns in “mindsets” or travel values. “Brands need to appeal to a diverse range of mindsets,” Asner says. “To try to speak to a more static type of traveler was the old way of looking at things. Brands need to have multiple facets of their personality to address all of these mindsets that take place in a single day.”

What are those travel mindsets? They’re about finding opportunities for cultural immersion, escaping the everyday, enabling spontaneity, and having a stress-free, hassle-free experience. Sound familiar to you? If they do, that’s not surprising. In fact, those mindsets have been used to describe Millennials’ traveler preferences and desires in countless studies and reports.

“Some of the changes in broader priorities are being attributed to the younger generations,” explains Asner, “but those crucial traits for Millennials have trickled out to every other generation, too. The demand for authenticity and experiences has become really universal now, and that’s where the bar is set.”

Those mindsets identified by Upshot, in addition to a desire for authentic experiences, and travelers’ perceptions of accommodations like those Airbnb offers, align with some of the findings in the PwC report. Here are some key takeaways from both studies for marketers in the travel and hospitality spaces:

Experiences Matter

For hotels and travel brands, it pays to create unique, memorable, and innovative travel experiences.

In PwC’s study, both Millennials and business travelers placed a higher premium on softer loyalty program benefits like upgrades than other traveler types, suggesting the importance of the overall hotel experience. While all travelers, regardless of age and traveler type, redeemed points for room nights, the second-most-redeemed category was for upgrades, which was chosen by 21 percent of business travelers compared to 12 percent of leisure travelers, and 36 percent of Millennials compared with 16 percent of non-Millennials. By focusing on offering better, more unique hotel experiences, hotels can drive more guest loyalty and brand commitment going forward.

“There’s this general notion of people valuing experiences over things, and I think that is often misconstrued as a Millennial mindset,” says Asner. “I can say from both personal experience with researching travel brands and with this survey that the desire for deeper and more authentic experiences is a very universal thing among Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z, and business and leisure travelers.”

Define Authenticity

All travelers, in their own way, are seeking some sort of an “authentic” experience but it’s very difficult to define exactly what that is for different people. “When we spoke with travelers in our survey, the definition for ‘authenticity’ was really broad,” says Asner. “I can’t say all travelers share the same definition, but they all feel like it’s really important.”

Asner and his researchers ultimately concluded that “authenticity” is a “hybrid of cultural experiences and an escape from the everyday life you have at home,” he adds. “The majority of people like this balance of new and different places and experiences with something that feels comfortable.”

Know How and When to Surprise and Delight

Building on that mix of offering both comforting elements and new and different experiences is knowing how to best surprise and delight your guests. Asner says that hotel brands that want to build loyalty with their guests need to know the difference between what’s expected, and what has the power to make a guest remember his or her stay.

Today’s guests, he says, expect certain things from their hotel experiences but they also want to be surprised and delighted by the unexpected. “Consumers have extremely high expectations about what brands should be providing them,” Asner says. “Just satisfying those needs doesn’t wow them enough.”

The research from PwC supports that assessment, too, finding that for all travelers, loyalty is about receiving benefits they don’t actually request. What makes any traveler loyal to a particular hotel brand or program, beyond room quality, is accessibility, promotions, and personalized service.

“At the base level,” says Asner, “your hotel loyalty program has to make sure the functional rewards of the program are compelling, but that’s table stakes. For long-term loyalty, it’s the surprise-and-delight side of the equation, the benefits that are really unexpected and get people’s attention.”
Use Technology Wisely

Technology can be vital for providing a seamless, hassle-free traveler experience and it also has the potential to surprise and delight in direct engagement with consumers.

“When you think about all the options there are out there to engage with customers, hotels can do that much more directly now, as with an app or a website,” says Kennedy. “They need to think about how the user is consuming services from them, and how to continue driving engagement, that next stay, or that next opportunity.”

Brands that use technology and social media to really connect a guest to the hotel and to craft a memorable experience will also resonate more deeply with their consumers, says Asner. “Mobile check-in and stuff like that — it’s sort of expected. That doesn’t delight them.”

One example of a hotel brand that harnessed the power of social media to personalize the guest experience is Four Seasons, says Asner. “If people were going to stay at their properties, the Four Seasons asked those guests to create a Pinterest board that was aspirational, and illustrated what they wanted to have in their travel experience. The concierge would look at it, and put together a customized itinerary for that person and send it back to them,” he says.

Loyalty Can’t Be All Business

Many loyalty programs cater to business travelers primarily, says the PwC report, and hotel companies need to decide which they prioritize more: business travelers or everyone else? “More hotels are focused on extending loyalty programs beyond just the high-value customer,” says Kennedy. “Historically, the high-value traveler was the business traveler with high travel frequency, but they’re also looking to engage with customers who may not travel as much, or the leisure traveler who doesn’t have the same level of travel frequency. They’re looking for more ways to drive engagement for them.”

Driving engagement by offering those one-of-a-kind, authentic experiences spans all traveler types. “Stress relief and spontaneity were most appealing among all the traveler archetypes we examined,” says Asner. “You still saw the same leisure-like priorities for business travelers; their demands on the road are very much leisure-like. As any traveler goes about his or her day, they’re responding to different circumstances. They want a taste of the local culture, too.”

Asner points out Courtyard by Marriott’s “make room for a little fun” advertising campaign is an example of a hotel brand that understands how today’s business traveler wants his or her hotel experience to be. “Some people get to travel for work, as opposed to some people who have to travel for work,” he says. “Being able to explore more places as part of your work travel is a way of really understanding modern business travelers.”

If your brand can drive engagement successfully, that will likely translate to higher revenue gains, suggests the PwC study. The majority of both business (69 percent) and leisure (59 percent) travelers in the PwC survey were willing to pay between $10 to $50 more to stay at their preferred hotel brand.

Value Your Human Capital

For those hotel brands that are concerned about the impact of disruptors like Airbnb or HomeAway, they may not need to worry too much for now. Even though the sharing economy has gotten a lot of attention in recent years as a potential disruptor to the hospitality industry, it’s not as well known or trusted among the majority of travelers, says the PwC report.

While 80 percent of leisure travelers and 90 percent of business travelers surveyed by PwC said they were aware of non-traditional accommodations, only 16 percent of business and 24 percent of leisure travelers have used them. Of those surveyed, with the exception of adventure-seeking Millennials, most were concerned about the variances in quality, safety, and security at these types of properties.

The Upshot study shows that among its frequent traveler respondents, 49.2 percent have used a peer-to-peer travel service like Airbnb, and 65.9 percent prefer them to traditional travel brands. Even though the research suggests traditional travel brands should be concerned about these disruptors, utilizing human capital is one way to keep hotels top of mind with consumers.

“Big hotel brands, for a long time, were selling standard, predictable experiences as an asset,” Asner says. “What Airbnb offers is that they take this natural variety you get from going to different homes and neighborhoods and builds this into a never-ending experience. No matter how many Airbnbs you stay at, it’s always slightly different, there’s always this sense of discovery.”

What can traditional hotel brands do? “Traditional brands can harness their people and make their consumers become brand advocates,” he says. “Not standardizing the concierge experience is very important.”

For example, at Kimpton properties, Asner says, there are different staff members with specific specialties and interests like sports, nightlife, dining, etc. who can assist guests. “Really offering that variety, and leveraging the people who work for that organization brings in that natural variety.”

Don’t Have Millennial Tunnel Vision

Even if it seems like typical Millennial characteristics are seeping into all different traveler archetypes, it’s important for travel and hospitality brands to know there’s much more than just Millennials, or Millennial mindsets, out there.

So, instead of trying to cater specifically to Millennials, PwC’s report suggests you’re better off crafting a hotel loyalty program that appeals to all age groups. Yes, that’s even if Millennials are the biggest group right now in terms of numbers (75.3 million in the U.S. in 2015 according to Pew Research Center) and they have the most annual spending power ($2.45 trillion globally in 2015 according to Youbrand).

Likewise, the Upshot report emphasizes that brands shouldn’t be overly focused on courting Millennials. In fact, in looking at data from Experian Simmons Spring 2015 Connect and 2-Year National Consumer surveys, Upshot found that even though more Millennials (69.8 percent) desire to travel abroad than Gen X (60.7 percent) and the Boomers (51 percent), the percentages of those travelers who have traveled abroad four or more times in the past three years painted a very different picture. Only 16.5 percent of Millennials had traveled abroad that many times, compared to 17.8 percent of Gen Xers and 20.7 percent of Boomers.

The highest-spending group for both domestic and international travel among Upshot’s respondents was the Boomers: 28.5 percent spent more than $1,000 on their last domestic trips, and 11.7 percent spent more than $5,000 on their last international trips.

“While it is certainly important for travel brands to position themselves as relevant for the future,” the study states, “brands that are overly focused on wooing Millennials may be missing out on those who are actually doing the most traveling and spending the most on these travels in the present.”

Bottom line: Don’t get caught up in definitions or categories, or what you thought you knew about certain traveler types. All travelers as a whole, regardless of age and type (business or leisure) are looking for a unique, authentic, personalized, seamless travel experience that is culturally immersive and offers local, human connections. The best hotel loyalty programs, and the best-in-class travel brands will know how to deliver that to them.