Most hoteliers in North America have had a pretty good run in 2017. Occupancies and rates have been steady if not growing. The ‘natural’ calamites (hurricanes, earthquakes, wild fires and the like) are regional anomalies, hopefully with rather short-term impacts and adequately mitigated by viable insurance policies.
Before you pop a few magnums of Krug or Dom, let’s pause for a moment. Hotels are not flash-in-the-pan operations. Physical structures are built with multi-generational use in mind. A good year or even a fantastic year does not mean that you are impervious to downturns.
Hence, as we move towards the inevitable cycle of year-end reconciliations and next year’s business plans, here are several guiding principles that I encourage you to consider.
Reward Your Best Employees
Your property’s success is a mix of products and services. And the latter is ultimately a function of the dedication by your team. Identify those who have contributed above and beyond, demonstrating leadership and influencing your high TripAdvisor scores. Rewards typically start with a solid financial component but can extend to preferential parking, new phones and vouchers to use specific hotel operations. Personalization of rewards is just as important for staff as it is for guests. Remember that your best employees are being recognized by your competition as well, and loyalty does not sustain itself without adequate compensation.
Be An Innovator
When I was at Procter & Gamble working on several leading consumer package goods, we always had several market tests underway. These included new formulations, packaging, promotions, pricing, pack sizes, configurations and advertising. While P&G is a behemoth compared to most hotels, the idea of testing something new should never be restricted to billion-dollar brands. If you don’t try, you will never succeed.
Don’t Forget Your Community
Have friends in high places. No, this does not mean brownnose to your local politicians. Rather, it means participating and contributing to community projects in a meaningful and visible way. Examples include donating to shelters, food bank contributions, guestrooms used as prizes for local charities, meetings for local service organizations held at your establishment, intern programs for local college students and training for entry-level positions. Encourage your staff to volunteer in community affairs and allocate time off for this purpose.
Hope for the Best But Plan for the Worst
Prudent general managers understand that their primary goal is to protect the value of the asset for their owners, with short-term operating profits a close but secondary goal. When you’re riding high, it’s also the perfect time to review procedures for security, fires and natural disasters. Plow back some of your well-deserved profits into enhancing your efforts in how you would mitigate any of these unforeseen occurrences. Don’t forget to brush up on your crisis communications planning procedures as well.
Despite all the challenges we are facing, I’m eager to face the New Year and will continue to speak out on topics that help us improve. If you have a topic that you wish me to pursue, by all means drop me a quick note.