How far are hotel investors willing to go in order to bring out the best in their properties? In 2013, the El Encanto in Santa Barbara re-opened after a top-to-bottom renovation that took seven years and AUD $170 million to complete. The following year, Loews Regency Hotel in Manhattan opened after a $127 million refresh. And just last year, in 2017, Le Lutetia in Paris welcomed guests after a $174 million renovation of its own.
None of these, by the way, come close to the $400 million transformation of J.W. Marriot’s Marco Island Beach Resort in the U.S. state of Florida.
So then, what have all these millions achieved? Fresh infrastructure, gleaming new guest rooms, opulent flourishes and high-tech amenities — all worthy of Instagram. If you have the cash to spend, there’s no limit to the ways in which you can reinvent.
But what if you’re an independent boutique, or a small chain? What if you’re in the majority who simply don’t have that kind of financial backing? Improvement is still necessary. Reinvention is still vital. The question is how to do it without spending a fortune.
1. Focus on your staff
No physical renovation can measure up to the importance of a team that feels valued and motivated. A Cornell University study on staff motivation in hospitality found that people generally want the things you would expect (a good wage, job security, and opportunities for advancement). More importantly, the study found that wants and needs vary significantly by individual.
Seeking input, allowing employees to help steer policies and decisions, and even rewarding good performance with a gift card or a plaque — these are all worthwhile measures. But there is no shortcut to understanding what drives each unique individual on your team, and what kind of guidance and motivation will bring out the best in them, day after day. Knowing the individuals working under you, and cultivating a good rapport, is truly powerful in terms of hotel performance.
2. Make simple guestrooms changes
Contemporizing guestrooms doesn’t have to involve complex renovations and months of being closed for business. In many cases, there are ways to update guestrooms at little-to-no expense. Are the bed linens tacky and patterned? If so, try changing them to solid, neutral colors. What about the wall paint, the artwork, the workstation, the lounge chair? At most, rooms will be out of commission for a few days while these details are updated — and the impact on the guest experience will be significant.
3. Build a new web site
A new custom web site for your hotel, including PMS integration and a robust booking portal, might cost upwards of AUD $8K, depending on which firm you hire. But if your existing site is as dated and tacky as those patterned bedspreads you recently placed in the rubbish, splashing out for a new online hub is worth the money. Research shows that more and more guests are using OTAs to find properties, and are proceeding to check hotel web sites for better deals. While OTAs prevent hotel managers from publicly listing lower prices on their own web sites, you can certainly incentivize guests in other ways, such as offering double rewards or a free gift for booking direct. There are also ways to offer direct booking discounts by hiding them from public view.
Hammers and saws not required!
For the hotelier, it’s easy to reinvent when pockets are deep. But when the budget is spoken for, reinvention takes on different meaning. It becomes clear that the basic building blocks are not infinity pools and showers infused with eucalyptus (although these things are nice), but rather the nuts and bolts of a hotel: Pleasant guestrooms, vibrant and functional common spaces, and positive interactions with staff. In the world of hotels, renovation is not an event that occurs every so often, and only with meticulous planning. It’s an ongoing and creative process that touches every aspect of our profession.
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