Why Do Some Hotels have the Luck of the Irish?

March 15, 2016


While reading an article on St. Patrick’s Day, I was surprised to learn that “the luck of the Irish” originates not from ancient folklore, but from 19th century gold prospecting in North America.


People from all over the world were making a mad dash for riches during that time, hoping to bag their fortunes in places like Colorado and Nevada. It so happened that many of the most successful prospectors—the ones who found large veins of gold—were of Irish descent. Thus “the luck of the Irish” found its way into common speech. Some consider the phrase derogatory and some don’t. Either way, it conveys an interesting idea: That there exists a certain magic or mojo that can’t be logically explained. An inherent ability to succeed through good fortune.


This reminded me of a real estate truism that there are specific business locations where no tenant is able to succeed. We have all seen locations that just aren’t able to support a successful business. One place opens, then closes. The space sits empty for a while, and a new business moves in. History repeats itself.


On the flip side, you may have noticed certain businesses—especially in the hospitality industry—that seem inherently charmed. They appear to have the luck of the Irish. They may not have as many investors as the next hotel or restaurant. They may not have the trendiest concept or even the best execution. But for some mysterious reason, they succeed from the word ‘go.’ People come through the doors. Business booms.


If luck were the only explanation for these successes, prospecting in hospitality would be a fickle thing indeed. You may as well focus your efforts on the UK Telegraph’s list of the world’s luckiest places.


Fortunately, there are more logical ways to understand what’s going on.


Location, for example, always remains a critical factor. When owners and investors survey locations for a new hotel or restaurant, their senses need to be razor sharp. What areas of the city are growing, and what areas are losing steam? How is the local culture evolving? What developments are on the horizon vis-a-vis transportation, sport, entertainment and shopping? What’s the relationship between passing trends and timeless qualities? How can hotels and restaurants build meaningful relationships within their communities to improve their “luck”?


Quality of service, likewise, is not something that happens by accident. The management structure—and indeed, the company culture—should be thoroughly designed to heighten guest experiences. This includes making employees feel consistently happy and motivated to deliver great experiences. It includes flexibility with guests and a creative approach to marketing and promotion.


This article in Hotel Business Review highlights another way to “create” the luck of the Irish in 21st century hospitality—ensure your “virtual” property is attractive enough. Many hotels and restaurants have a surprisingly weak handle on e-commerce. They rely on OTAs to deliver bookings while their own web sites and booking gateways are buggy and disjointed. Industry research suggests that more people want to book directly through hotel web sites. If this is true, it’s only logical for hospitality players to improve virtual infrastructure, and to learn how other players are driving traffic and bookings through their own online portals. And finally we should never forget the quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson, “I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”


The point I’m trying to make? Hospitality is a little like gold prospecting. Sure, you might pick a random mountain or canyon and get lucky. But it’s much more likely that success or failure will depend on your knowledge of the landscape, your skill as a gold prospector, your sense of what to look for both now and into the future and your ability to keep at it.


“Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit!”




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