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  • Meet Minneapolis: Travel to the Twin Cities this Summer for HITEC 2019

    We all know that travel can be a real hassle. So, what about a trip makes it worth packing up your suitcase, saying goodbye to your family for the next few days, fighting the airport and staying in a.

  • New Global Directors Join the 2018-2019 HFTP Board

    The HFTP 2018-2019 Global Board of Directors was installed during the association's 2018 Annual Convention and introduces new directors Toni Bau, Carson Booth, CHTP and Mark Fancourt. These extensive director profiles give insight into the distinguished professions and personal goals of HFTP's newest association leaders.

  • A Series of Must-Read Articles on Cybersecurity Produced by the HFTP Research Centers

    Data security remains a pressing concern and top priority for the hospitality industry. The HFTP Research Centers are dedicated to producing findings that can significantly aid hospitality businesses in their efforts to protect their guests’ privacy and personal information against potential cyber threats and attacks.

  • HITEC Special: Does EU GDPR Affect U.S. Hospitality Companies?

    By Alvaro Hidalgo. The EU General Data Protection Regulation has set a path towards protecting personal data which many other countries will follow. In a global industry such as hospitality, it should be a primary objective to take the steps towards compliance.

Article by Ian Graham

Serving Up Profitability

The Hotel Solutions Partnership · 7 November 2017
The principal revenue generating asset under management in a restaurant are the seats and tables - and this applies whether the restaurant is a stand-alone business, is in a mixed-use development, is in a theme park, is in an airport terminal, is in a hotel, or even is a pop-up business in a yurt. The seat is a hugely perishable asset - every minute that it is unoccupied there is a missed revenue generating opportunity. If you don't fill the seats this meal period, the revenue (not to mention the profit that you could have made) is gone - and probably elsewhere!So, it's clear that a key metric for best practice is Revenue per Available Seat Hour. RevPASH is calculated by getting the revenue for the hour and dividing it by the number of seats that you have. If the restaurant is only half full, your RevPASH will be lower than it might be; if everyone orders one course only, your RevPASH will again be lower again.Caroline Wilce is Finance Director and shareholder at Black and White Hospitality Management Ltd (the franchisor of the Marco Pierre White brands - Marco's New York Italian, Marco Pierre White's Steakhouse and Grill, Wheelers Oyster Bar and Grill Room, Mr White's English Chophouse, Bardolino). She says "the main key KPIs used by successful restaurant operators include:Revenue per available seat hour (RevPASH)Revenue per available square metre (RevPASM)Cancelled / No Show Covers as a % of Reserved CoversTime per Table Turn"The common ways to increase RevPASH are todecrease the amount of time each party spends at their table and/orincrease the average spend and/ordecrease the time that a table stays empty after a party leavesHere are some ideas to increase your RevPASH.1. Breakfast, Lunch and DinnerStelios Haji-Ioannou made a success of easyJet by first filling the aircraft then raising the price. Sweat your asset; how often do we see hotel restaurants closed for lunch. And branded restaurants closed for breakfast. Yet, one rarely sees small privately run restaurants closed - they are open all hours. The entrepreneurial owner/operator knows that the asset must be sweated.2. Seven days a weekBy increasing available seat hours, you give yourself the opportunity to spread your fixed costs. So, if there is a market, keep the restaurant open all week, all meal periods. If there isn't an obvious market, create one. Many hotels have found success with (champagne) afternoon teas. Pre-theatre dinners are a similar reaction to creating a market that enables the restaurant to be more successful.3. No more quiet nightsCapitalize on menu trends. The industry is seeing a need for more organic, healthy locally sourced options. In some cases, and locations, customers value these options and are willing to pay for them. You need to understand your customers, though, as opinions can vary depending on the market or region. Sundays and Tuesdays are traditionally toughest nights for a restaurant, so running promotions to fill the seats will at least get some revenue. Maybe link in with a local cinema, or run a series of promotions to encourage people to come out on your quieter nights.4. Increasing the number of turnsThe number of turns is the number of parties that sit at a table each night. Depending on your clientele and target market, you may be able to get another sitting in. Some restaurants do fixed sittings, say, 6pm and 8pm so that customers know if they are in the 6pm sitting, they need to be out by 8pm This works well if people are going to the movies or the theatre.5. Create a pool of ready dinersThe bar is a great way to increase your RevPASH. Customers have a couple of beers before dinner and are sitting there ready and waiting as soon as a table is cleared. The in-room TV, the lift walls, are opportunities to promote the hotel restaurant to guests. Better still, a recommendation by the receptionist at check-in can generate business that might otherwise walk out of the hotel for dinner.6. Increase your pricesMake sure your prices are right. Check the local competition and see how you compare. The big thing is to look at each sitting individually and try to optimise the results. Some restaurants do this without thinking about it. It is why there are separate lunch and dinner menus. After you evaluate what other restaurants are doing to drive sales a review of customer data might show that demand indicates that some menu prices could be increased without hurting sales.7. Table optimisationSome restaurants and cafes attract more singles and couples, others larger groups. If all your tables are for 4, it means that every single and couple is wasting seats and decreasing your RevPASH.8. Last minute offersIf you are having an unexpected quiet night, why not Tweet a special or post it on your Facebook page. Work hard to get those extra couple of tables in. It can be the difference between a loss for the night and breaking even. Customer traffic is one of the key metrics restaurant operators use to measure success. When traffic is down, many restaurants turn to new promotions or even consider lowing prices, but will these actions reverse the trend? Before you act, first take time to understand the change in traffic and the underlying causes. Two key steps in deciding how to address traffic issues are to determine if it is a sustained problem or a short-term trend and to determine whether the decrease is caused by internal or external factors. Guest count problems can be addressed in many ways. Once you gain an understanding of what causes traffic issues at a specific location, you will be better prepared to create solutions that address the true, underlying problem.Ally Dombey Northfield is a Director at Revenue by Design, creator of revenue management solutions for the hotel industry. In respect of restaurants, she says "..the focus needs to be on optimizing profitability through contribution margins, differential pricing, menu mix and price blending"Restaurant technology can and should be leveraged to provide better information to inform better decisions. Such tools provide insights into restaurant customer purchasing behavior enabling prediction of their reaction to future initiatives. Technology can be harnessed tomeasure the effectiveness and impact of limited time offersunderstand the impact of coupons and deciding on the most profitable offersquantify the impact of testing a new menu line or a new service concepthelp selecting the most representative restaurants to test brand innovationsreview loyalty programmes and recommend marketing initiativesThe National Restaurant Association in the USA believes that over 60% of sales in fine dining restaurants and 80% of sales in casual restaurants come from repeat business. So, remember that it is existing customers who are your most likely future customers - and through social media they can influence potential customers who have not yet experienced your restaurant. Leverage the database of existing customers (respecting GDPR of course).I hope some of these thoughts help YOU improve your profitability

A 60 page Masterclass - Free gift from Hotel Solutions Partnership

The Hotel Solutions Partnership ·13 September 2013
Our assignments over the past 10 years have taken us to Amman and Austria as well as to the United Kingdom and to Ulaanbaatar. Who knows what the next 10 years will bring?To help you on your way, this Masterclass is a series of thought leadership pieces around brand, operational and asset management of hotels. We've brought it together in this 60 page e-book given to you as a birthday present. It's full of advice to help unlock advantage at that most important of hotels - yours! Please also forward it to your team members as I am sure it will inspire them too.If you have any questions, or would like further advice from Hotel Solutions Partnership, contact us here. We look forward to working with you during the next 10 years!
Article by Doug Fiedler

Rethink Your Strategy Before It Rethinks You

The Hotel Solutions Partnership ·12 August 2013
Challenge Questions: StrategyDo you have a written strategic plan that has been updated in the last 12 months?Does your senior management team know and understand all aspects of the plan?Is your plan more than four pages long?Observations: StrategyIn today's fast-changing business environment, it is critical to have a written business plan that is up to date and has the full support of your senior management team. Tragically, too many companies don't have a plan, haven't reviewed it recently, or the plan is so long it becomes burdensome instead of enabling. Even worse, the plan is laden with tactical execution points instead of having a true strategic vision for the future.Best Practices for Strategic PlansInvesting in time. It should only take a day or two to create or update your plan. Anything more will result in prolonged, distracting discussions that will frustrate your participants.Investing in place. Schedule the meeting off-site in a location that is free of distractions and make accommodations for a small social event, even if it is dinner out in a competing hotel or resort.Investing in people. Schedule the senior management team well in advance. Consider inviting a bright rising star from the middle management team as a wild card to bring a fresh perspective to the discussion.Investing in preparation. At least three weeks before the meeting, send out up to five thought-provoking questions that your participants can consider before they arrive.Investing in creative thinking. The planning process should include stretch goals that are practical and some that go well beyond practical to almost unimaginable.Investing in differentiation. In today's economy, it is all too easy to become a commodity, even in the hotel business. Think hard about what distinguishes your company. What makes your company the hotel company of choice? What makes employees want to work for you?Investing in outside resources. Creating a strategic plan is best accomplished with the assistance of a non-interested third party. As a professional facilitator of strategic planning sessions, I ask probing questions that further the conversation and lead to a deep and rich conversation. This can lead to a dramatically improved outcome that is well thought out and documented.Investing in communication. A plan that sits on a shelf or in a hard drive serves no purpose. A good strategic plan acts as a map to the future, giving employees and management the vision to make great decisions on their own without excessive oversight and micro-management.Investing in continual evaluation. Six months after the planning session concludes, conduct a brief two-hour re-evaluation of the plan. Ask your management team to consider how the plan fits and feels now that they have lived with it for a short time. The strategic plan should allow for some flexibility to adapt and change as the organization grows.Investing in brevity. This doesn't mean bullet lists. It means keeping the plan to no more than four pages. Consider writing it in the form of a story to increase retention among those who read it.The process of planning the future and direction of the company should generate intense discussion (maybe even controversy) about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that face your organization and its people. The discussions should bring out everyone's point of view. This is no place for a wallflower!What does it feel like at the end? In planning sessions I have facilitated, it is extremely common to hear participants say things like, "I never knew that", or "I didn't know you felt that way". At the end of the session, it is not uncommon to hear, "I was a skeptic going into this, but I'm a believer now. It was invaluable."The process of planning is almost more important than having a plan. So before you start your budget cycle this fall, re-evaluate your strategic plan. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was famous for saying, "Plans are nothing. Planning is everything."
Article by Manuel Sanchez

The Importance of Your Online Reputation and How to Influence it

The Hotel Solutions Partnership ·26 June 2013
A recent TripBarometer by TripAdvisor states that 93% of people booking travel are influenced by online reviews.1Another study by Cornell University2has found that a 1% increase in online reputation leads to a 0.89% increase in ADR and a 0.54% increase in occupancy. This represents a 1.42% overall increase in revenue per available room (RevPAR).By comparison, adverse reviews contribute to the ever-declining position of poorly managed hotels. Lightspeed Research3concludes that reading anywhere from 1-3 negative reviews can turn off 67% of potential customers. Other reports suggest that getting 3-4 stars (on a 5 star scale) is the equivalent of hitting a tipping point, making it three times more likely that a reservation will follow.50% growth per annumThe market for online travel reviews is constantly growing, requiring all players to continually innovate.TripAdvisor has 100M reviews, which have been increasing by 50% annually. Just in the last few months it has:Concluded an agreement with Tom Tom to pinpoint accurately location-based applicationsConcluded a pre-installation agreement for the new Samsung Galaxy S4 (mobile unique users of the site have increased 190% from 2011 to 2012)Announced a new widget that will be included in the hotel siteImplemented a delayed ad-call, only invoicing for the advertising that is actually seen by the clientAcquired Tiny Post, Jetsetter.com and NiumbaAnnounced Review Direct, an integrated option where the hotel can ask for reviews via TripAdvisorCompetitors have not stood still. Hotel Me is a new online travel review site, which claims to authenticate reviews. Travelocity has a Green Hotel Directory. Booking.com now has 21M reviews, and a network of 312,000 hotels. And the list goes on, and on.Part of the changing market resulted from action by the European Commission. Google has agreed to eventually increase the prominence of links to competitors like Yelp and TripAdvisor etc. in Europe.The social geneSocial is the new gene in the Internet, especially since the direction of traffic has so dramatically changed. Once upon a time, five or ten years ago, corporates pushed content to consumers. Now consumers and non-consumers alike push social content up to the Internet. The man and woman in the street, in their lounge, at their desk, on their mobile, at school, or on the road, are the new rulers of the Internet. This trend will only get stronger with time.This social content uploaded to the Internet offers both risk and opportunity to your hotel business. Organized action can cheat the system for a while. A blackmailing client may try to get refunds, extra discounts or upgrades on review extortion. A vengeful person, or even a competitor, may attack your reputation, and these actions may all impact your results.A great example of how this works is the one of a homeless hostel in the UK. The Bellgrove Hotel was named a top hotel by TripAdvisor after five fake 5 star reviews. Following the alert of fraud the reviews were removed, a BBC exposee called the hostel a "dumping ground" for the poor and Trip Advisor thanked The Sun for making it aware of the situation.4Trust is the key asset for online company reviews and as such techniques and procedures are being developed to detect fraud. At this stage some authenticating procedures are based on algorithms and others on confirmations of stay by the hotels.Your set of toolsAs stated earlier, regardless of your opinion, online reputation affects your business. It is a subject to be taken seriously whether you believe the reviews can inform business processes improvement, or whether you think prospective clients will be influenced.A recommended set of tools is:Honesty, values and goals:Only an honest approach will win in the end and you will need your values and goals to be real to be able to react quickly and in the right direction.Use tools properly to answer reviews in a caring but assertive way.Surveys show 84% of TripAdvisor users say an appropriate management response to a bad review "improves my impression of the hotel".Identify advocate clients who are your real ambassadorsprepared to spread their view, and help them do so.In case of threat, contact the online company and let them know.Not many threats come true ultimately, and if even if they do, it is good to have announced the threat suffered in order to help remove the review.Train staff to care for the guest's wellbeing.Caring staff inspire guests and are appreciated by the online opinions.Review the basics,because the basics add value here as elsewhere. What and how you deliver, what expectations are created and how you match them, will eventually reach the online world.Include online reputation as an area to review, manage and report on.Monitor and "measure" your reputation and also the reputation of your direct competitors. Apply targets that will help you assess performance. This will focus your team in specific goals on online reputation.
Article by Katrina Craig

Key Steps to Ensure your Hotel Acquisition is a Success

The Hotel Solutions Partnership ·17 June 2013
"We have been offered a hotel in Central London, it's not on the open market but with an offer of GBP PS XX million, we can get exclusivity. Katrina, do you think it's worth pursuing?"I've been asked this question many times over the past decade and it usually raises a big red flag. London is one of the most lucrative and resilient hotel markets in the world. A hotelier can rent a room to either a business or leisure guest, whether domestic or foreign, 365 days of the year. Due to strict planning restrictions and the recent dearth of development finance, hotel supply has not kept pace with demand. As a result, London hotels continue to attract interest from investors of every ilk - sovereign wealth funds, property funds, family offices, high-net-worth individuals and the operators themselves. In such a seller's market, why on earth would the owner of a central London hotel not engage a reputable property agent to sell the property on the open market?Urban CowboysThe most likely answer is that the hotel is probably not really for sale, but someone who "knows the owner" or "knows someone who knows the owner", thinks he can wrangle a success fee if he can produce an unsolicited offer from a potential buyer. There is no shortage of opportunists around. I've even come across a con man who was selling a hotel online that I knew was definitely not on the market.When vetting opportunities for my clients, I look for proof that an agent is engaged by the owner and would be compensated by him/her in the case of a successful transaction. Crucially, the agent should be able to arrange a meeting with the owner on the basis of a non-disclosure agreement signed by my client. If the agent fails either of these tests, he is probably a cowboy.The Stalking HorseSometimes a property is being offered 'off the market' because the owner is testing the market to see its potential to generate interest at a price that would make a good return on investment. The truth is that if an owner were truly serious about selling, he could commission a RICS appraisal and would not accept offers based on conjecture. In any case, a serious offer cannot be made in the absence of an analysis of the hotel's documentation. Is there a virtual data room containing the property titles, trading figures and other essential information such as technical surveys and outstanding planning applications? If not, the property is not yet ready for sale and any efforts made to extract this information will most likely be a waste of time and money.The Acid TestHaving verified that the target hotel is indeed for sale and that one is dealing with client's authorized agent, there are many issues to consider before making a binding offer. These will often be driven by the investor's profile and objectives. Here are a few basic questions that should be answered during the due diligence process:Q: Is this an investment-grade property that will be easy to sell at the end of your investment horizon? Are all technical drawings, design and construction warrantees and maintenance records in order?Are there any hidden structural or planning problems with the building?Are there any liabilities relating to the ownership history, management, suppliers, customers, government taxes, or employees?Is the property freehold and if not, is the leasehold long enough to make a return?Are there any threats from future developments or regeneration efforts in the area?Is the property in a location with enduring appeal where property values are increasing or tend to hold their value through the economic cycle?And concerning the upside...Q: Are we "making a profit going in" given the asset's price and any upside potential?Is the asset fairly priced vis-a-vis yield and other hotels of similar character in the area?Is the hotel achieving its fair share of the market and if not, does the price take into account the resources needed to improve performance?Are all the details in the data room accurate? (key count, square meter measurements, financials)Is the sale structured advantageously for tax purposes e.g. going concern vs. asset purchase? Are there any unused capital allowances?Is there a potential change of use to residential or commercial units that may allow you to sell the asset at a premium in future?Can you extend, renovate or change the room mix to increase revenue potential?Is there branding or re-branding potential and how much will it cost to bring the property up to a brand's standard?Is the area being regenerated?Acquiring a hotel in Central London is no easy task. Ensure that you take the time to answer the questions above and choose a team of professionals to advise you who offer a holistic service and are not only motivated by the transaction. The complexity of doing business in London and the acquisition process means that the right team is essential to keep the transaction rooted in reality.
Article by Ian Graham

The F Word... and why it's important

The Hotel Solutions Partnership ·17 June 2013
Food is the four letter word that we in the hotel industry dare to say. Is it me, or is there a disconnect between what the industry puts its thinking and resources into - we call it F&B - and what the customer buys - they call them "great experiences" in restaurants, bars, or banquet rooms? It is strange that we industry insiders are apparently so fixated on ingredients when our guests and customers buy things like "an anniversary night out with my spouse", " our daughter's wedding party", "a family breakfast at the hotel before going out exploring our holiday destination", or "lunch with friends".Food and Beverage" (F&B) can be many things. It is a profit, or sometimes loss making, centre, a career to be pursued in its own right, a department in the Uniform System of Accounts, and the part of a full service hotel where most people are employed.For the majority of us, eating and drinking is not about survival. We have a privilege denied earlier generations, that is of being able to design, prepare, serve and then enjoy our meals and drinks as 'events'. This pleases us, our nearest and dearest, and our friends and colleagues. The same applies to our guests and customers.But when we design a kitchen, propose the interior design of a bar, or work in/lead an F&B department, too many of us put all this behind us.For the time we are at work, and we become an avatar focused on the ingredients of Food and Beverage - the food cost percentage, the supply chain, the labour cost, and labour turnover. All of these factors are important, but are just Maslow's hygiene factors surely.Think how much better it would be for our guests and customers, our shareholders and work colleagues, if instead we aimed to deliver a faultless and memorable dining or drinking experience.Recently I went back to school, spending a day in the good care of award-winning Ashburton Cookery School re-learning Chef Skills. As a hotel school undergraduate at University of Surrey, I had been taught kitchen and restaurant skills of course. But that was 45 years ago and for most of my post graduate life I have been working in finance, albeit within the hotel industry. After so long, some skills have evaporated. Some just lay unused and rusting. But once I get a knife back in my hands I find I can still filet a sea bass! And when I come to plate up (on a slate) the wild pigeon breast I have cooked, I produce something which is good to look at and good to eat. At the end of the class, I am re-enthused for the 'art' of the hotelier, something I had consigned to the far right of my brain for too long!I'll treat myself to more days at school I think. I strongly recommend reconnecting to your inner self by discarding your business suit in favour of chef's whites, if only for a few hours!You won't regret it. And if we all did it, then I suspect that the F&B in our hotels would edge ever nearer to the great exceptional experiences that our guests and customers seek.
Article by Ewa Kossakowska

20 Tips to Build Innovation into your Hotel's Sales and Marketing Processes

The Hotel Solutions Partnership ·12 June 2013
Over the past 10 years we've been using tools such as hoteldoctorTM to deliver custom-made advice to clients to help them implement innovative solutions. Our belief is that any business that does not evolve to meet changing market conditions dies, and deserves to.There are many hotels that have cost a fortune to build and are standing with empty rooms and unused tables. In many cases, if not all, a primary cause is the lack of innovative thinking and action. Recognize the problem?If you do, then here are some ideas you might want to think about:Trends and behaviors:How completely do you know the real expectations of your guests and clients?How deeply do you know the trends in each market segment?Are you thoroughly familiar with the purchasing behavior of your existing and prospective guests and clients?What do you know about the 'travel journey model' of your guests?Are they looking for overnight lodging as part of something else, or are they looking for a memorable experience in its own right?Awareness and market development:Are you intensively involved in implementing systems that track in real-time the results of your sales & marketing programs?How thoroughly do you understand the competition and market environment?Are you using the most appropriate distribution channels to generate business?Are yield & revenue management tasks completed on a daily basis?Are you proactive with all social media, developing a strategy for each channel?Are your sales & marketing costs monitored on a regular basis?Have you defined which sales & marketing costs should earn a return and are you tracking sales & marketing project profit and loss accounts, e.g. weddings, daily?Management and motivation:Do you have the right management team and are you measuring their performance regularly?Are you developing and implementing SOPs on a regular basis?Do you employ talented, well-trained, dedicated and service-orientated staff?Are you prepared, with your staff, to provide excellent service to the hotel's guest and clients?Are your behaviors honest, full of the confidence and authentic?Are you on time with responses and willing to be proactive on a daily basis, not only during occasional sales blitzes?Do you conduct audits and "health checks" of the hotel's departments on a regular basis?And the last, but not the least, the final question: how have you as an individual improved internal and external communication in the last month?Innovative actions create value through new services, new products, or new experiences. But innovation is not the same as improvement; improvement only concerns existing solutions. Innovation is closer to invention - discovering the unknown. There is a room for innovative actions in every organization. Every innovation needs a leader. Innovation requires time. Hotel Management should be a generator of innovative actions by building its own awareness and that of employees. Not everyone is able to act innovatively and you should reward quickly and publicly those individuals whose personal traits deliver measurable innovation to the business.I recommend becoming a guest in your hotel first. If you can feel the emotion your guest experiences from sitting down to breakfast, having a good night's sleep, riding the elevator, crossing the lobby, then and only then will you equip yourself to innovate with the most appropriate products and services.If you want help in being more innovative, generating new revenues and improving profits at your property, ask professional advisors (with extensive experience in managing hotels), for an independent view of your business.At Hotel Solutions Partnership, innovation is in our DNA. Products like hoteldoctorTM can help hotels survive in an ever volatile environment. As I said before, hotel businesses need to evolve to meet changing market conditions or die. It's as simple as that.

Independent International Hotel Consultancy Expands

The Hotel Solutions Partnership · 5 June 2013
For almost ten years we have been solving complex problems for hotel owners and operators by bringing together independent truth-telling experts, each of whom has led hotels or hotel companies. With more than 30 members, the team can now assemble any mix of over 80 different areas of expertise to create a customized response to your needs anywhere in the world, as well as in our own domestic markets.Jane Bethke is a strategic development executive and seasoned sales professional specializing in long-term customer relationships. Practiced in account management, she has the ability to articulate needs and recommend solutions that match customer objectives with skilled practitioners in a cost efficient manner. Her skills and achievements have been demonstrated in culinary, conference services, catering, group sales, and supplier/client relations as an independent business owner.Richard Coates is an experienced advisor offering strategy development, business and marketing planning services to the hospitality, tourism and travel sector. His proven approach is based on developing marketing and business plans for clients that are fully aligned and effectively prioritised, ensuring that they successfully identify, analyze and deliver the growth objectives available to the business.Dorothy Cusack is an accomplished and practiced business professional with extensive experience in the UK, Irish, EU and US hospitality markets. Key areas where Dorothy brings expertise include brand management, business development, marketing management, investment appraisal and business case formulation.Julie Halstead has many years of diverse experience in the hospitality industry, as well as consulting. Prior to working with Marriott International for 15 years, she was a consultant with a large multinational accounting firm and a small entrepreneurial consultancy. Before receiving her MBA in Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management from Michigan State University, Julie worked in hotel operations at the historic Hotel Del Coronado and Sheraton Harbor Island hotels in San Diego, California.Cindy Miller is a strategic marketing and media production executive specializing in creating long-term marketing strategies for companies and organizations. Adept at reinvigorating existing brands and creating new ones, she immerses herself into her client's organizations in order to assess strengths and weaknesses in their current communications and operations channels. She then crafts key messages, identifies the appropriate media and training needed to most effectively communicate and reinforce them to the appropriate audiences, and manages her creative and training teams in the production, implementation and measurement of their effectiveness.Niall Murray specializes in large integrated resorts, casinos and hotels, with a particular focus on strategic and operations development, pre-opening, quality guest service, performance optimization and human resource development.Philippe Maricq advises on processes and technologies to mitigate risk - operational, administrative and financial. His flexible yet disciplined and structured approach evaluates, improves and finally adds value to hotels. And his approach has also led to turnaround in some hotels. He brings what he calls Constructive Auditing, providing advice and implementing improvements to the management of risk over the long term and in so doing building bridges between operations, the Board and shareholders.Ian Graham, CEO of Hotel Solutions Partnership says, "The leadership team at Hotel Solutions Partnership is continually amazed at the talent that surrounds us. As a team and as individuals, time after time, we see our expert consultants delivering outstanding value for money to clients. We now have a full service capability led by Doug Fiedler in the USA, and real strength in depth around the world."If you are interested in engaging with insightful, independent, innovative, cost effective, actionable advisors leading to profitable strategic and operational change in your hotel business, please Contact Us.More details on all the team members are available by clicking here.
Article by Ian Graham

Closing a hotel for a short period - is it the right thing to do?

The Hotel Solutions Partnership ·24 May 2013
A hotel is essentially a fixed cost business - the reciprocal being that the marginal cost of a room night or a meal is very low.Let's just think about the variable costs:FoodBeverageTelephone CallsBathroom amenitiesLinen laundrySpa productsThat's it. So if you close a hotel for a day or for a week, you save next to nothing.If you close for around a month, you still save very little but you do get the chance to recuperate vacation entitlement and give yourself the opportunity to do some essential Front of House repairs and maintenance, i.e. you manage the balance sheet but not the P&L.If you close for more than a month, you can choose to lay off some front line staff, perhaps you close one of the restaurants, or close down one of the floors. But the semi-variable costs you "save" will be pretty minimal and in your closing down and reopening processes, you will incur incremental redundancy and training costs.Whether you close for a week, a month, or a quarter, you need to keep the elevator maintenance agreement in place, the freezers need to stay on as well as the air conditioning, management and the accountants stay, and the marketing team remains in post etc. So in my opinion I don't think there is much scope to save money with semi-variable expenses - there may be some savings, but they won't be huge!Let's use an example: a hotel with EUR11.5m of revenues, EUR1.5m of EBITDA and a cost base of EUR10m.The variable costs might be:Food Cost of Sales EUR0.7mBeverage Cost of Sales EUR0.2mMOD Cost of Sales EUR0.6mManagement Basic Fees EUR0.4mAnd let's say another EUR0.5 can be prised out of the other areas e.g. travel agent commissions.So the costs we can avoid by closing are just +/- EUR2.4m out of a cost base of EUR10m = 25%.The rest of the costs will continue to be incurred.If the hotel is closed for more than just a week or two, say for three months, there is some scope to save additional costs. But I suggest it is likely to be less than 25% of the other EUR8m, so maybe EUR2m. Because management stays on, real estate taxes need to be paid, insurance and energy needs to be consumed, sales and marketing continues, and the chef and his top team stay in place.All of these considerations leave me thinking that the costs of keeping a three-month closed hotel ready to re-open are of the order of (EUR10.4m-EUR2.4m-EUR2m) = EUR6m per annum = EUR0.5m per month. And that's without the costs associated with closing (redundancy) and re-opening (hiring and training)!Personally I think this is a cost that a responsible owner would avoid like the plague. So I do not understand why hotel owners and operators decide to close, even for short periods. Even the man in the street will recognise that it is extremely uncommon for hotels to close for a week, and even more unusual for hotels to close for three months.Do you agree?
Article by Ranjit Gunewardane

Ensuring Guest Safety in Hotels

The Hotel Solutions Partnership ·25 April 2013
Even more than a sense of comfort and style, the quality of the welcome, or even the level of service, hotel guests want to feel safe and secure in their hotel. It enables them to settle into unfamiliar surroundings and enjoy the experience without anxiety. It is a feeling they should be able to take for granted.The hotel operator must take this responsibility seriously and understand that this concern knows no international boundaries. It is an important part of a hotel's duty of care. To ensure this sense of security, hotels must observe their local and national regulations, but be ready to go beyond these rules, incorporating the latest and best international practices.Emergency generators are installed in hotels to prevent hazards associated with loss of municipal electric power supplies. The reliability of electric power supplies for Fire and Life Safety systems is critical.In a hotel, the automatic power transfer switches that transfer the electricity source to the emergency generator, must be timed to provide electric power to fire and life safety loads within 10 seconds and to standby loads within 60 seconds of loss of municipal power supply. The life safety loads include:Illumination of exits from a hotel building leading to an assembly pointEmergency exit signsAlarm and alerting systems such as the fire alarm systemControlled emergency communication systemsEmergency generator-set room lightingFire suppression systemsSmoke management systemsAn emergency power source cannot perform successfully unless each system component functions properly. While attention is often given to protecting the engine-generator set, components such as the fuel system, the age of the fuel (if using a fossil fuel product) and the emergency power transfer panels may not have the same degree of care. As a result, the emergency power source may fail.For example if the engine-generator set in a hotel is installed on the roof to avoid being flooded, but the automatic power transfer system and emergency power panels are located in the basement, then in the event of a flood the system is likely to fail, regardless of the reliability of the engine-generator.Hotel developers spend an enormous amount of money on emergency power supply systems so they are assured that in the event of an emergency, the hotel will have the power required to ensure the safety of their guests and associates.Very often, the fuel oil storage and supply system, the "life blood" of the entire emergency power system, is neglected. Many hotel operators are unaware of the fuel's condition, and its clarity and purity. Fuel contamination is a major cause of premature shutdown of an engine-driven generator set. The fuel storage tanks must be sized to ensure adequate fuel supplies are available throughout the municipal power outage. The size of these storage tanks could be very significant.The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that fuel storage tanks are sized so that the fuel is consumed within its "storage life" of 1.5 to 2 years, or provision should be made to replace stale fuel with fresh fuel.As hotel electrical distribution systems get more complex, the initial commissioning and startup process becomes high priority. It is important to ensure that the entire emergency electrical power distribution system functions appropriately as a whole.Finally, the most important maintenance issue for emergency power supply systems is the requirement to regularly test the generators with load. Most often it becomes inconvenient to perform the test due to interruptions to delivering guest services. In order that proper testing of the emergency power distribution system doesn't negatively impact hotel operations, modern technology enables a design engineer to develop an automatic power transfer system that provides a seamless transfer between the municipal utility supply and the generator system.Proper maintenance includes, but is not limited to, fuel filtration to reduce the possibility of contaminants, battery maintenance and replacement to ensure a successful generator start every time, and periodic load testing to reduce the possibility of failure.ConclusionsHotel buildings throughout the world are potentially high-risk buildings because of their design and high concentration of people. In addition to not being familiar with their surroundings, hotel guests vary greatly in physical condition and age. There are children and elderly persons to be considered. To minimize risk to these individuals, a reliable Emergency Power Supply system is extremely important. Make sure your professional services firms understand this and deliver the appropriate latest technologies.
Article by Aurelie Denoueix

The Spa Experience

The Hotel Solutions Partnership ·12 April 2013
Over the past decade the spa industry has been booming all over the world. Many spa associations, spa certifications, spa academies, and spa awards have flourished. The goal is to guarantee the best spa experience to customers and to deliver the best service based on strong policies and procedures. A story about my most recent Spa ExperienceLast week, it was time to spa. I decided to book a spa treatment in the most beautiful spa on the Red Sea, one of the 'leading spas in the world'.Here I will detail a total of seven distinct factors that turned what I expected to be a very pleasant experience, to one that was unpleasant. And all of these factors could have been easily avoided.Over the phone, the reservation agent was nice, polite and accommodated my booking according to my needs.A friend of mine recommended an Indian spa therapist. Unfortunately, she was not available, she had just gone back to India. The receptionist assured me that the new therapist was also very good and skilled in Ayurvedic treatment.I arrived at the spa and entered through a large lobby that was full of marble and a little icy! I found that the spa staff recruitment correlated to the decoration of the lobby, it was icy too. I was instructed to pay up front and that I would receive my change and invoice later as the receptionist had to go to the hotel reception. I took my locker key no. 43 and headed to the changing room. But unfortunately, I couldn't find locker 43, the number on the door was missing!I had time to relax around the pool before my treatment and I decided to have a snack for lunch. After one hour's relaxation, I was still waiting for the bartender to come with the menu. He was just behind his bar nearly asleep! Finally, I went to see him to place my order.I was ready for my massage and arrived in the lounge area five minutes before the scheduled time. Ten minutes later, I was still there alone in the empty marble lobby! Finally the icy receptionist passed by with a customer. I asked her where the therapist was, so she went into a panic trying to find her. Finally the Indian therapist arrived and ran up to me saying "I'm coming in two minutes".Next, I entered in the massage room and discovered a fantastic brand new sound system...next to the sink sat a mobile phone, so that's where the Indian music was coming from! Unfortunately the massage was a disappointment too! I knew it the second she started applying oil over my back with very rough hands. During the massage, I felt her sweat dripping on my arm and her hair dropping on my face when she put on my eye pillow. After one hour, the mobile phone was running out of battery and the music stopped. It was time for the head massage but I couldn't stand it. I thought my head would blow up because of all the stress! Finally, I asked her to finish the massage prematurely.This spa experience was as awful as the label 'Leading Spa of World' was appealing!To summarise, the seven negative parts of this spa visit were:The cold receptionist to match the cold decorBeing unable to find my lockerThe unresponsive bartenderWaiting for my massageThe panic of disorganisationMusic played through a mobile phoneThe poor quality of the massageRunning a spa is not as simple as we imagine. It's not a matter of spending many millions to build the most beautiful spa. It's not about being affiliated to the most impressive label or using the most prestigious cosmetic brand. It's a matter of people! We are touching people's emotions. The True Spa Experience is a matter of feeling - it's how we interact each other and how we make this intimate moment unique. It's a philosophy of life to inculcate in spa therapists that any hotelier should be aware of.
Article by Richard Coates & Ian Graham

2013 U.K. Hotel Forecast

The Hotel Solutions Partnership ·15 March 2013
This report focuses on the UK market, however the issues highlighted apply to numerous developed markets as the market conditions, competitive characteristics, and responses are all very similar.Published in March, the report states, "While we still anticipate overall trading declines in 2013, these falls are less sharp for London but more unfavourable for the provinces then we predicted in November. The revised forecast expects UK hotels to continue to struggle to overcome the impact of weaker demand at home and in major inbound markets."The combination of the international economic back group, consumer confidence, post-Olympic expectations and poor weather in the UK are all set to impact 2013 forecasts.For the UK as a whole, PwC forecasts that Occupancy will be 72%, a decline of 0.7% on 2012. Average daily rate in 2013 will achieve PS81.77, a decline of 1.7% on the previous year and Revenue per Room will be PS59.11, also representing a decline of 2% over 2012. Over the same period capacity is forecast to increase in London by 4% and in the other UK regions by 2%.These comments and statistics combine to form what will surely be another highly competitive year for the UK hotel industry.Richard- So Ian, what is your overall reaction to the report. Any surprises?IanFrom our work across the industry and talking with our numerous contacts, the consensus is that the report has captured the market conditions very well. Perhaps most interestingly, this report was issued just a few months following the publication of the original forecast. So whilst it is not a surprise, it is worth noting that PwC has updated a 12-month forecast after only four months. What seems to have changed is a deterioration regarding the GDP growth and currency rate forecasts. PwC's forecast is limited to revenue, actually room revenue, and as in the earlier forecast the firm is silent on the implications on profit.Richard- If you were advising hotel owners / managers about how to compete in this environment, what would you be saying to them generally? What is critical?IanFor me the first lesson for us and our clients is that the days of five-year strategic plans and one-year annual budgets must be consigned to the waste basket. If I were running a hotel I would limit my planning horizon to one year and would focus, focus, focus on a three-month rolling forecast. I think the eyes of a hotel owner / operator (and thus the reporting system) must be on three-month profit and cash flow. Although I am the first to accept that both profit and cash flow start with revenue generation.In respect of RevPAR, the goal must be much more than just positive RGI index achievement. What I mean is that you also need very close management of all channel costs. Net RevPAR has to be the focus: not occupancy, not average rate, not even RevPAR, butNet RevPAR.Excluding brand and channel costs, the big operating costs in a hotel are food, beverage, labour and energy, so these must be areas where productivity gains are prised out of the operation - hour by hour, day by day, and week by week. Complacency and entrenched attitudes are the big enemies.Richard- Do you see the forecast increase in supply as a significant issue for the industry?IanPwC note that supply is going to grow by 4% in London and 2% elsewhere. At first glimpse this seems relatively small and therefore should not pose an issue. But of course for us as hoteliers, supply change is really important, particularly if:(a)We are managing the new supply, in which case building the pipeline of demand through all - and I mean all - available sales channels. This must be the first part of the mission. How quickly can you get to positive MRI? Six months would be a good goal.(b) A new property is opening around the corner from us. It's important at all times, but in such a situation holding on to existing guests and customers becomes ever more important. That might involve making attractive pricing available to retain customers, but more likely will be about delivering, or indeed over delivering, the basics of hospitality. As our colleague Mark Godfrey has recently said: "it's about working closely on building an emotional connection between your staff and your customers at all brand touch points".Richard- The domestic leisure performance in 2013 will be an interesting area. What are your views on that, and how can hotels get themselves in the best position for this sector's new normal?IanWith a devaluing currency, the domestic hotelier has two opportunities it seems to me; on the one hand, the UK becomes a more price competitive destination for holiday makers from neighbouring European countries than it was last year. So there is perhaps an opportunity to market to these counties. On the other hand the fact that holidays on the continent will be more expensive than last year and disposable incomes smaller also provides our own hotel industry with the opportunity to sell "stay-vacations".So whilst overall disposable income is under pressure, this may be less so in some segments of the market. As with much else, marketing these days is about targeting quite small segments and putting highly customised packages in front of these customers. With today's mobile and web-based technologies this can be done quickly, repeatedly and cheaply.Richard- Do you see the same broad themes continuing for the next couple of years?IanI have little doubt that we are in "the new normal" and there is no Exit Door! More than ever there is a necessity to operate the hotel excellently, and this is about excellence in brand management, operational management and asset management. All three need to be together and managed all the time.So part of the new normal for hotel owners must be about making sure that they have the right people leading (and that's not the same as managing) their business. There never was any excuse for carrying highly paid under-performing senior executives and there certainly isn't any excuse nowadays.In summary, 2013 certainly looks to be another challenging year for the hotel sector in UK and in many developed markets, where competitiveness, quality, effective marketing and cost management will be required to continually drive performance. As a result managing and forecasting on a quarterly basis will become the norm for the industry.Ian Graham, CEO, Hotel Solutions Partnership: Ian leads and contributes to complex advisory assignments for hotel owners and operators around the world, leveraging his deep understanding of the goals of the guest, the hotelier, the investor, the lender and the brand owner - and all this from a unique base of experience that has seen him working on hotel issues in more than 60 countries. Read Ian's full profile >>>Richard Coates, Associate, Hotel Solutions Partnership: Richard is an experienced advisor offering strategy development, business and marketing planning services to the hospitality, tourism and travel sector.. Read Richard's full profile >>>
Article by Deirdre Renniers

A New Look at Hotel Guest Rooms

The Hotel Solutions Partnership ·14 February 2013
For decades hotel rooms have generally included the same standard layout, with the enclosed bathroom (with shower over tub) in the corner of the room adjacent to the entrance, the wardrobe and mini bar area in the entrance hall, and a room with the bed facing a desk area and TV console. A loose armchair with a small coffee table is usually at the window facing the bed. Windows are usually sealed with two layers of drapes.Boutique hotels have always tried to break away from this layout to create a different experience. However breaking away from the norm has been a challenge, with the usual problems associated with plumbing, housekeeping issues, and space constraints.Unconventional LayoutsThe first and obvious solution is to merge the bedroom and bathroom by removing the typical solid wall that separates the two areas, which creates a visual link between the two rooms and maximises the view. This is now possible with new technology and materials such as coloured or frosted glass for the toilet and the shower on the corridor wall. The bath and bathroom vanity can be integrated into the room space, creating an indistinct division between the bathroom and room areas.The bathroom area can also be integrated into the room, but separated by a sliding screen that can be closed for privacy when required. As this creates a blurred division between the bathroom and bedroom area, it allows for the possibility of designing a more spacious and luxurious bathroom area, even within a small room space.In some layouts, it might be possible to divide the bathroom area and room lengthways so there is an opportunity to enjoy natural light and views from the shower or bathtub.The removal of the typical bathroom separating wall can have a huge impact on the hotel room experience in budget or luxury hotels, large or small rooms, businesses or resorts.Integrated Room DesignIn the bigger cities rooms are becoming smaller, so effective and interesting use of space needs to be considered. Yacht design is an inspirational example of how efficient and beautiful spaces can be achieved in limited confines.By integrating furniture such as desks, beds, and seating into the interior architecture of the room, one can efficiently create a spacious and interesting interior by maximising available space, removing clutter, and introducing custom (built-in and room specific) furnishing. One then makes good use of small and otherwise redundant spaces within the room.The current trend seems to favour smaller rooms with a focus on luxury elements such as beds, entertainment systems, and effective business facilities within the room. With more guests working from personal devices, large desks can be eliminated and replaced with smaller floating worktops or larger coffee tables, both of which can double up as eating areas for guests.The hotel room is increasingly being used as an office, so the design of the workspace and connectivity are very important factors.When guests work on their laptops or other devices, I expect most would prefer to see a view rather than face the room interior. They may want the option of opening a window or stepping out onto a small balcony to enjoy the city views and sounds. They may also want an area to do exercise in the room (with increasing on-line fitness and yoga regimes available).If the room is appealing, guests will spend more time in their rooms relaxing, working, and taking advantage of available in-room services such as dining, entertainment and massage / spa treatments.BathroomsThe focus of new hotel room design trends is mostly on the bathroom.Hotel bathrooms are becoming larger, with smaller rooms that are being furnished with select, high quality pieces to create a feeling of spaciousness. Fewer physical barriers between the guest room and bath area, or having the bathroom situated on the outside wall for access to views and natural light, are simple and effective ways to transform a guest room and improve the guest room experience.Showers over bathtubs are a thing of the past, as designers look at creating a bathroom space with spa elements and body jet and rain showers, and a free-standing tub within the room, if space allows for this.Design SolutionsRecently 12 British architects were shortlisted in a competition to design the budget hotel room of the future. The competition was organised byBDandBdonline.co.uk, the UK's leading architecture newspaper. The designers were invited to develop a scheme that would make a tiny space (14sq m) feel generous and luxurious. The shortlisted designers came up with innovative schemes such as a floating bed; pre-fabricated guest room 'pods'; removal of all the usual walls that separate work, sleep, relaxation and wash spaces; a 2m-wide bed that can be used as a lounge area; and movable elements that allow visitors to move floor-to-ceiling curtains around and change the space as it suits them. These ideas and schemes show that there is scope to move away from the standard room type, even if space is restricted.The well-travelled business traveller or tourist will soon see a radical change in the guest room experience as hotel brands and their designers increasingly recognise the need to implement refreshingly new room footprints with simple but stylish built-in furniture and a spa-like bathroom experience, focusing on views and natural light, as well as the latest entertainment and connectivity technology.Author: Deirdre Renniers, Associate, Asia Pacific | Deirdre provides interior design advice and direction from her Singapore Office in respect of the refurbishment or development of hotels to ensure that the overall vision and intended character is adhered to. She is an Interior Design graduate of the University of Johannesburg. Read Deirdre's full profile >>>

Decision Making In The Twitter Era

The Hotel Solutions Partnership · 4 February 2013
Is your company's decision-making system allowing you to make key business decisions as fast and efficiently as your competitors?A robust and well executed decision-making process will enable a team to attain peak performance and usually includes some of the following key attributes:Reason. Is there clarity within the organization as to why any specific decision is being made? Can all team members clearly explain the purpose of the decision and the expected outcomes?Transparency and consistency. Does the criteria used in the decision-making process reflect weighting and underlying values which are evident from the data being used? The data being considered should be clearly actionable.Scalability. Can the decision-making process continue to be used as the business grows?Efficiency. Is the decision process one which enables rapid response and quick decision making if necessary? Can decisions be made in real time? I have recently worked with a team which has perfected this attribute. It has a keen understanding of the balance between an ideal decision using all of the facts available, and a decision which has to be made in a fast paced environment based on sufficient, but not all of the facts.Commitment to Action. Once a decision has been made, can the team move ahead with execution and/or implementation without hesitation or further follow up.The essential building block on which a business decision-making process is based, is the Management Reporting System (MRS). A well thought out and designed MRS will enable an organization to quickly assess the relevant actionable data to arrive at a decision.Some of the hallmarks of 'best-in-class' management reporting systems include:Dashboard - like functionality. Like modern military pilots where key performance data is displayed on the screen in front of the pilot, the information being presented needs to be evident to team members without their having to go out of their way to obtain it.Modeling. 'What if' forecasting adds a significant depth of understanding and alternative action visualization. This should include the interactive ability to adjust the assumptions in the model.Benchmarking. The information provided should include analysis of industry and competitive metrics to highlight the opportunities for improving performance.Risk management. The team needs to have a clear picture of the cost of risk mitigation strategies.Exception Reporting. In an environment where the business is tracking large volumes of base data, the reporting system should incorporate performance parameters where results which are outside of these levels are flagged and highlighted.Humans do not always feel comfortable with change, and the management reporting and decision-making processes used by teams are no exception. They tend to be based on 'the way we have always looked at it', or are 'limited by the capabilities of our software'.Peter Drucker once stated, "Knowledge has to be improved, challenged and increased constantly, or it vanishes."In this Twitter era, this has never been more true.
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Hotel Solutions Partnership and Spanish Architectural Firm LPA in Strategic Alliance

The Hotel Solutions Partnership ·22 January 2013
LPA's team specialises in environmentally sensitive development in warm climates. They address the dilemma of building a mixed-use development that incorporates a resort in a pristine landscape, whilst maintaining its beauty and bio-diversity. Their design encourages beaches and existing fishing and agricultural businesses in and around a resort to flourish. Solutions will typically include some or all of the following: green roofs, permeable pavement options, strategies for recycling waste and off-grid solutions. LPA's services have been developed for hotels and resorts located in the temperate zone, between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, where average temperatures are above 20 degrees C.LPA is authorised to use BREEAM(r)*, an environment assessment method and rating system for buildings. There are now 200,000 buildings with certified BREEAM(r) assessment ratings and around a million registered for assessment since the method was first launched in 1990. Ian Graham, founder and CEO of Hotel Solutions Partnership, said, "We are pleased to be partnering with LPA. With this alliance we are extending our areas of expertise for hotels and resorts located in warm and hot climates. We are also adding the fields of bio-climatic design and ecological and sustainable development to our sustainability expertise. Whether building new hotels and resorts or operating existing ones, our clients have a very broad range of services and advice that can be uniquely sourced from Hotel Solutions Partnership and its strategic partners."Juan Palop-Casado, co-founder of LPA commented, "With Hotel Solutions Partnership we will provide a solution to owners and operators of hotels and resorts which is differentiated in the market because of its depth and breadth. Our services will span initial assessment, to concept, brand and operational advice, asset management, architectural design, sustainable development and implementation support."*BREEAM(r) sets the standard for best practice in sustainable building design, construction and operation and has become one of the most comprehensive and widely recognised measures of a building's environmental performance. A BREEAM assessment uses recognised measures of performance, which are set against established benchmarks, to evaluate a building's specification, design, construction and use. The measures used represent a broad range of categories and criteria from energy to ecology. They include aspects related to energy and water use, the internal environment (health and well-being), pollution, transport, materials, waste, ecology and management processes.
Article by Ian Graham

Unleashing innovation

The Hotel Solutions Partnership ·20 December 2012
Those of us fortunate enough to have worked at the Damascus Sheraton Hotel in Syria have been pained by recent events. However these circumstances have brought some of us back together again after many years of separation.Valentino Bertolini and I worked there in the late 1970's when we were both at the beginning of our careers. Valentino now leads Starwood's cluster of hotels in Florence, Italy. My wife and I were vacationing nearby recently so we passed by and had dinner with Valentino and his wife Francoise. Our dinner conversation served to prove how close we still are after all these years and also allowed Valentino to show off his rooftop restaurant.Yes, rooftop. Received wisdom has it that one should never build a restaurant on a hotel's top floor. How do you get food and staff up there? How do you get the townspeople not only to come into the hotel, but also up to the roof? How do you get planning permission? It is madness surely!!Here is a glorious example of how one of our industry leaders, Starwood, has created and sustained an environment of encouraging innovation in which Valentino was able to succeed.Very occasionally, a hotel restaurant can be much more than just a place to eat. In the best cases, a restaurant can transcend its original remit and become a brand of its own, its reputation growing beyond the walls of the hotel. It becomes a profit centre and adds value to the hotel. SESTO, a rooftop restaurant on the 6th floor of the Excelsior, a Westin hotel in Florence, challenges our received wisdom.The hotel is a historical building which dates back to the 14th century and is located in Piazza Ognissanti overlooking the Ponte Vecchio, the Arno River and the surrounding hills. The restaurant is on the 6th floor and occupies an area of about 900 m2, of which 500 is indoor and 400 outdoor. In the historical part of Florence, buildings normally have a maximum height of four floors, and with some exceptions have a 5th, but no private buildings have a 6th floor. To conceive of a restaurant up there is truly thinking outside the box.There was a massive multi-year challenge in obtaining permission to build such a place from the local authorities.The vision was to build the most spectacular food and beverage facilities in Florence: a place with spectacular views, a fine dining restaurant, and a sophisticated bar and private room for high-power events. In short a place that would become the 'talk of the town'.The sides of the restaurant are made of glass and offer a stunning 360deg panorama of Florence. It is open to hotel residents as well as non-residents and patronised by local Florentine guests. There is a separate all purpose room that can accommodate up to 80 people and is used for weddings, cocktail parties, luncheons and dinners. There is a bar with its own terrace and also a cantinetta (wine cellar) which offers a choice of about 400 labels from different Italian and French regions. The bar serves mainly as a cocktail bar and is open from 12 noon to 2 am. The restaurant can accommodate about 50 guests indoors and an additional 40 outdoors.Valentino and his team wanted to create something outside the classic restaurant template where there is only one table top and set up. At lunch time they use place mats that are different indoors from outdoors; and in the evening tablecloths are used with greyish candles, but on special occasions they are changed to chocolate brown. There is a complete change in mood from day to night.They have three to four different types of table arrangements throughout the restaurant in order to add to the experience. The same applies to the chairs, which are arm chairs with cushions of different types, shapes and colours; basically there is no standardisation. The menu also changes and the service is attentive and stylish, without being too formal. The restaurant has a separate independent kitchen brigade that is fully dedicated to the restaurant, with its own chef who has more a restaurant rather than a hotel background. This is essential to guarantee exceptionally high standards.In order to cater to the specific conditions on the sixth floor, there is an A la Carte kitchen for the preparation of hot, cold and pastry items which is almost fully independent from the restaurant and bar. Some of the very basic preparation, like fish, meat and vegetables, is done in the main kitchen on the ground floor. For the banqueting rooms (on the sixth floor) the food preparation is also done in the main kitchens on the ground floor, but by a different kitchen brigade with its own chef, and taken up plated by trolleys and served. There are two service lifts. At the moment of service, in order to avoid delays, one lift is blocked for the sole use of the sixth floor. The daily wine cellar, fully refrigerated, as well as the liquors and soft drinks' stores, is located in the restaurant on the sixth floor. The main beverage stores are in the basement.The collateral and the menu cover have been developed to take into account the restaurant's close proximity to the Arno river, as well as Florence's handicraft tradition. The menu cover is like that of a book; the paper used is textured in a way that echoes the movement of the Arno's water when the wind is blowing.The entrepreneurial instincts of Valentino, the Starwood corporate executive, has enabled him to work with each of (a) the city of Florence, (b) the brand champions, and (c) the staff, to dream of and then deliver processes that few others could.Starwood decentralised its decision making. Starwood and Valentino had to be failure tolerant and had to learn to venture in new and different directions as the project proceeded. There had to be a culture in which Valentino and his team were purpose-driven.Here is a marvellous example of how innovation can be fostered even within the largest of our industry giants.Is your hotel business capable of fostering such innovation? I hope so.

13 Tips for 2013 | By the team at Hotel Solutions Partnership

The Hotel Solutions Partnership ·20 December 2012
A number of our team have come together at this time to share some ideas and tips for 2013 with you.We are a rainbow network.It's not the red or the yellow that makes the rainbow beautiful and powerful. It's when you put all the colours together that it becomes beautiful, because of its diversity.In our network each consultant brings his or her own authenticity, his or her own truth, yet it is the combination sitting side by side, that gives our clients a complete and powerful solution. We are proud to be part of the global hotel and resort industry. Like the industry we are a part of, we are optimistic about the future and we are learning continually from each and every step that we have taken over our long and varied careers.1. ReviewSuccessful hotel/resort change depends on the financial department working closely with the Change Manager. A monthly review of revenue and costs, often three weeks after the previous month, is too little, too late. Consumables expenses, personnel costs, etc. must be reviewed at least weekly, if not daily, to keep them under control. This requires a proactive approach from the finance department so it will take responsibility for the cost structure and warn of expenses that might derail plans.Petra Deuter, Spain2. UnderstandDon't let your accounting systems dictate the nature and presentation of sales and marketing information. You need to understand trends and 'blips' in your key marketing data. Exporting data to a spreadsheet and organising it to show trends including graphs, can be a major help in focusing on success and failure.Alastair Stevenson, UK3. CommunicateIt's often the first comment we hear from team members, "no one tells us anything around here". Review and reignite your communications strategy using a focus group of employees, not just the HR department. Ensure every employee knows the company vision and how they fit into it. Remember every employee needs to be a valued member of a winning team on an inspired mission.Mark Godfrey, England4. TrainNothing matters if the guest doesn't return. Focus on adhering to your brand promise, guest satisfaction, and operational excellence to gain financial success. Implement hospitality training on all levels, even back-of-house, because front-of-house can't provide great service without getting great service from partners in the back. Inspire guest service in others through servant-based leadership.Doug Fiedler, living in and working from the USA5. QuestionAn effective way for a non-financial leader to review their business's financial strength is through a better understanding of their balance sheet. This can be done through the use of a predetermined set of questions. A good example would be "Can you show the cash flow forecast process to me, does it show an adequate amount of working capital?"John Healy, USA6. PeopleReal growth harnesses the human factor. Know your guests and understand their requirements. Think social. Partner with bloggers, who promote the destination and your property. Always employ high quality talented, service-orientated staff who are enthusiastic, respectful of guests, colleagues and management. Build relationships with correct interactions.Ewa Kossakowska, Poland7. SleepThe core proposition is that your guest gets a good night's sleep. Make sure you overnight in a number of your hotel's rooms to experience the quality of the mattresses and linen, the light switches and the lighting levels in all conditions, the blackout and the sound insulation and see for yourself the cleanliness, the smell, and the touch of the bathroom amenities. And make sure your sales staff does the same so they can sell it effectively.Ian Graham, UK8. ContentPut content at the centre of your 2013 digital marketing plans. Own and control your content and make sure you are distributing it to the sites and channels most likely to reach your desired customers, or result in a transaction. Never before has original content been of such a high value to the search engines, making it your opportunity use your own content to improve your organic rankings. Be aware of all the places you may have digital content displayed: your website, social media platforms, affiliate sites and business partners. It's your content - own it!Gideon Dean, USA9. PeopleSuccess in hotels and resorts is about winning the game of people and understanding their reasons to stay. Maintain and increase the reasons that make you the choice for your clients. Whenever you make an adjustment or change to your product or service that you feel is needed better meet customer needs, make sure it strengthens your competitive strengths, and weakens your competitors' weaknesses. The key success factor in hotels and resorts is at all times understanding the nature of the experience you are selling.Manuel Sanchez, Spain10. TaxesActively manage your after-tax profits rather than, or as well as, EBITDA. Engage with your advisors to better manage your VAT, payroll and corporate taxes and thus improve your business's overall effective rate of tax. And remember that your government's / state's strategies in respect of visas and taxes will provide you with cross-border advantage and disadvantage that will inform where you deploy your sales and marketing effort.Milos Neumann, Czech Republic11. GuestsThe real secret to sustainable success is how you treat the guest once they're through the door. You need an abiding commitment to quality, service and the people you have the privilege to lead. Done correctly, efficiently and appropriately, this practice will lead to repeat business and a true commitment from the guest to you. As one guest said, "now that I have found you, I'll never go anywhere else".Duncan MacArthur, UK12. InnovationIf you watch only one cookery programme on TV this year. make it this one...http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodePeter Fitzgerald, UK13. DiversityDifferent perspectives improve thinking and outcomes. Two heads are better than one!From all of us at Hotel Solutions Partnership around the world, we wish you a happy holiday season!
Article by Petra Deuter

Managing the Board and employees during strategic change

The Hotel Solutions Partnership ·29 November 2012
As companies struggle to survive in a challenging financial environment, many hotel and resort operators find it difficult to focus on and implement key policy changes, however much they are needed. This article examines how these businesses can successfully drive and manage strategic change, at both board and employee level.Insight and foresightStrategic change managers require many skills and qualities. But foremost they need insight; an objective, global view of a business's current performance, the strength of the competition and the market potential.They also need the foresight to distinguish the desirable from the achievable.What does the hotel or resort really need? Is it a quick win or can the business wait to see a return on its investment? For many of the parties involved, the quick win may look more attractive, but a good change manager knows expediency does not always go hand-in-hand with sustainability. Any proposal should aim to build the brand as well as the business.Finding a change championSo already we've established that a strategic change manager needs astute financial and operational judgment and the ability to create viable, visionary business solutions. But this is only half the battle.To translate vision into action, they should also be a 'change champion'. Strategic change may challenge the business's current plans and conventions. I know from my own experiences of leading change programs that a change champion will need finely tuned interpersonal skills to persuade board members, employees and shareholders to sign up and support it.The strategic change manager should be decisive, honest and clear. It's important to communicate at each level - board, employees and shareholders - conveying the plain facts using language the people involved are familiar with, avoiding jargon or spin. Faced with potentially career-changing developments, they will want a clear explanation of how they can benefit from helping the project succeed, what would happen if it fails, and any input required from them. To bring everyone on board, the change manager needs to be passionate and articulate and capable of maintaining this level of communication throughout the change period.Seeing it throughA strategic change manager is naturally a leader, instigating original and even radical ideas that create and exploit opportunities. Like all good leaders, they should inspire by example - passing on their knowledge, and encouraging others to contribute. Employees can be incentivized by offering training that will support their career progression as well as facilitating the project, and if appropriate, using bonus schemes that reward them as the project reaches each landmark stage.If the business's present structure hinders change, the change manager will need the confidence to take difficult decisions such as overcoming resistance, resolving internal conflicts and if necessary, thinning out overstaffed departments or removing those unable or unwilling to accommodate the new policies. They'll also be adept at identifying and recruiting talent, from within and outside the business, bringing in the finest quality candidates to help achieve the strategy's aims. They should also demonstrate a commitment to the future of the hotel or resort, by setting up a succession policy that secures business stability.The change programs I have been involved with have highlighted the importance of managing expectations. It's important to explain that the benefits of strategic change may not be seen straight away; the Board, employees and shareholders often expect change managers to deliver rapid results. Their expectations can be unrealistic, but the wise change manager appreciates that the project can only be deemed a success when all parties are satisfied.Choosing the ideal change managerAny hotel business with an executive manager possessing all these qualities, plus the time to take on a strategic change role, is very fortunate indeed. Of course this person will know the business and competitors well and can 'hit the ground running'.However, it's highly likelysuch a talented person will already be fully utilized within the organization and won't have the additional capacity required for this demanding task. Diverting them from their existing duties could be disruptive and possibly counter-productive. And co-workers may find it difficult to accept them in the new role, especially if they are personally affected by the change manager's decisions.Keeping your options openAlternatively the business can call on external resources. This could mean recruiting a new manager, or bringing in an expert to coach a suitable existing employee, who will become the strategic change manager. This second route is time-consuming, but has the advantage that the employee will benefit from a thorough understanding of the business. And even after the change process, he/she will be a real asset to the organization.Another option, which offers several benefits, is to hire a consultant or interim manager to implement the strategic change. As an independent expert, they can make wholly objective decisions, divorced from company politics. Their recommendations will be focused on the business's priorities, not clouded by career considerations. And they will be able to bring the specialized skills and devote the long hours necessary to see the project through.Pierre Wack, who pioneered the use of scenario planning, maintained that planning for change was not determined by formal analysis and statistics, but by insight, complexity and subtlety. There are many uncertainties about strategic change. The only sure fact, is that sooner or later, your hospitality business will need to deal with it.
Article by Alastair Stevenson

Sales and Marketing Reviews

The Hotel Solutions Partnership ·29 November 2012
- but they don't have to be. They should be based on a review of planned activity and expenditure. The S & M manager must be able to report successes and explain failures. Examples could include promotions, the resulting cost and revenues, sales contact with top 20 clients and the value of bookings received, exhibitions attended including the cost, and the enquiries/bookings received. It is only on the basis of this level of rigorous assessment that decisions to repeat activity can be made.5. Are we going to achieve the next period's sales budget?This is an area where the S & M manager needs input from reservations, C&B etc. as they should be tracking the pattern of advance bookings and so should be aware of the adequacy of bookings in relation to budgets. The key question for S & M is, "if achievement of budget is in question, what can S & M do to remedy the situation for the current or subsequent periods?"6. What are the key activities and expenditure for S & M in the forthcoming period?"In common with question 4, the response here should list actions and the results they should deliver as a basis for subsequent evaluation and be directly associated with specific market segments. For example:How many sales calls to which market sector with the aim of securing XXX room nights in periods X/Y/Z.An e-mail promotion to 500 past mid-week leisure guests with an offer of XXX aiming for 25 bookings of a three night stay worth PSXXX.Attendance at a wedding fair costing PSXXX aiming to increase wedding enquiries in the following two months from an average of XX per week to YY per week.7. Taking what we've learned about the business in the last period, what S & M actions should we include or remove from next year's plan?It is always best to have a rolling S & M plan rather than simply writing it once a year. At the end of a period, management is usually best placed to know what should be considered in the same period the year following. This may be to guard against facing the same negative variances discussed above, or to help ensure that activities judged as successful, are repeated.There is nothing revolutionary about the list of questions above. However we have rarely come across hotels where the process is approached with sufficient rigour. It is down to the whole management team to work together to make this process work well, and when it does, all will feel in more control of the business.Our recent experience indicates that such reviews are frequently lacking in the detail that is needed and that Sales and Marketing Managers too often operate in isolation from other members of the management team. Most significantly, the hotel accountant is frequently not involved enough. Often thought of as the "numbers people", their input is fundamental to helping everyone understand what is going on in the business. When accountants are asked to provide numbers to help manage the future of the business, rather than simply reporting on what has happened, everyone benefits. When a team works closely together, everyone has a better understanding of what is happening in the business, As a result, the team also feels in greater control.In these examples we have concentrated on room sales as the most important contributor to profitability - too often an excess of time (and money) is spent on less profitable aspects of the business.The basis of this process and all effective planning of sales and marketing is the detailed segmentation of the business. Everyone in the management team must be aware of the mix of business that is being sought and delivered. In the case of room sales, simply splitting the business between leisure, corporate and function isn't enough to be helpful - you have to know what is expected from every identifiable business segment related to the business sector as each needs a specific sales and marketing approach. For example, leisure businesses may need to be split between individual short breaks, mid-week promotions, family holidays etc. For this to work effectively, S & M has to work with the accountant to match the business mix with the numbers and with front office and reservations to track the business when it comes in. It is essential that the business has a budget based on realistic segmentation and an S & M plan focusing on each segment.

Energising hotel management teams to enact change with hoteldoctor

The Hotel Solutions Partnership ·28 November 2012
If your profits and market share are under threat, hoteldoctor will give you the edge when it comes to minimising any damage from the economic downturn, helping you optimise your turnaround plans.In the current economic climate, independent owners and hotel management companies are working hard to generate revenues and control costs with even more vigour. Developed by the Hotel Solutions Partnership to give owners and operators of hotels an independent view of the business, hoteldoctor provides pragmatic, impartial advice for a fixed price. The service will help you look at every aspect of your hotel or resort business, identifying where you need to focus your efforts (and those of your distribution partner(s).It is likely that a business assessment adopting the hoteldoctor format will suggest both strategic and tactical changes - these are likely to be in the areas of operational excellence, asset management and brand management. The hotel management or leadership team will see opportunities to build revenue, profit, guest experience, employee engagement and much more - taking our experience, skills and knowledge, and monetarising the information acquired.Our work is always tailored to the hotel's product and positioning and is likely to include:Revenue:Costs and cash flowsOrganisation and peopleCompetitive positionAnalysis of trend of (a) food and beverage revenue, (b) rooms and (c) spa revenuesReview of channels of distribution for all revenues including websiteReview of key accounts, segmentation, sources of business, reasons for stayingReview of key account management, sales and marketing action plansReview online and offline customer satisfactionReview of historic P&L cost centres, with a focus on cost of food & beverage and labourReview of balance sheet and cash flow(if possible) benchmarking P&L on a per available room and per occupied room basisReview Capex plansReview organisation chart and senior job descriptionsInterview leadership, management and other team leadersReview performance management programmes and any rewards programmesReview staff satisfaction surveyVisit competitor hotelsVisually review front and back of houseUndertake customer journeyReview customer satisfaction surveysIn a turnaround situation, the upside impact on profit following a hoteldoctor assignment can be substantial. In a recent case, the client's profit uplift repaid its investment in our services 15 times within six months.Independent hotels, management companies and hotel owners will both benefit particularly in situations where the Board believes there is room to improve. But the hotel operating team will also benefit by being exposed to best practice, independent advice and to highly knowledgeable advisors.As a client said earlier this year after being asked, "So was it worth it?" he replied robustly: "Without a doubt!! Now we have to use it to move the business forward."
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Hotel Solutions Partnership and Braemar Golf Announce Strategic Alliance

The Hotel Solutions Partnership ·14 November 2012
Hotel Solutions Partnership and Braemar Golf are proud to announce an exclusive strategic alliance which offers integrated golf, hotel and hospitality advisory services to owners and operators of resorts which incorporate golf facilities. The services offered include initial assessments / audits, concept recommendations, strategy development, brand options, membership structures, operational and asset management solutions and implementation support.Ian Graham, CEO of Hotel Solutions Partnership, said, "We have partnered with Braemar Golf recently on two projects and have all enjoyed working as a single client facing team. It is evident to us that together we have vast experience of working as part of a wider 'project team' including owners, operators, master planners, architects, etc. As a client facing team, we know that Hotel Solutions Partnership associates and Braemar's executives have contributed positively to turnaround situations as well as to concept creation opportunities. Just as Hotel Solutions Partnership associates live and breathe hotels, Braemar's team has a deep understanding of golf and importantly its successful commercial operation."Keith Haslam, Managing Director of Braemar Golf, added, "Braemar's Founder, David Dean, has a huge wealth of experience in hotel and resort development and management and therefore working on golf projects with a hotel or resort element has been a natural fit for us and this alliance with Hotel Solutions Partnership will allow us to leverage further the value and expertise Braemar can bring to clients."David added, "We are passionate about golf and genuinely understand the commercial realities of the industry and the challenge of creating and managing golf facilities where they are part of a wider hotel or hospitality project."Braemar Golf is an international golf services company based in St Andrews with its roots firmly based in the heritage and traditions of the "Home of Golf". The company has taken a knowledge and experience of delivering great golf experiences and used it to support and manage high quality golf developments in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa as well as China and the Pacific Islands. Braemar Golf is owned and run by its management team and offers clients a personal commitment, integrity, attention to detail and tailored approach that will create a mutually beneficial working partnership.Hotel Solutions Partnership is a network of 25 independent consultants living and working around the world. It is a virtual team of peers, all completely independent. Members are strategic thinkers and domain experts. Each has had many years of experience working in hotels and hotel company regional and corporate headquarters with considerable cross-border and independent consultant experience. As individuals and as a team, they have worked in more than 110 countries. Recently, Hotel Solutions Partnership has delivered assignments in Bali, Belgium, Ireland, Mongolia, Poland, South Korea, Spain and the UK. All the team are sensitive to cultural differences and diversity and this enriches their work. The scope of the team's advice and recommendations include actionable operational and branding advice and implementation support around the world.Together we are a great resource for pragmatic value adding advice for owners and operators of hotel-led golf resorts, as well as golf resorts with hospitality elements.For more information, visit our Strategic Partners page or call our USA toll free number at 1 (800) 806-0481 or our UK central office at +44 (0) 845 481 2628. To contact Braemar Golf call +44 (0)1334 478578.
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Hotel Solutions Partnership announces a dramatic expansion into The Americas.

The Hotel Solutions Partnership · 1 November 2012
"Our goal is to help hoteliers, owners and operators unlock hidden strategic advantage in what they do and how they do it, resulting in improved performance, happier guests and more satisfied employees. Our talents and skills help clients in all aspects of owning or running a hotel, from strategy to tactical implementation. Our expansion into The Americas is a direct result of the success we have had in Europe, Asia and the Middle East," said Doug Fiedler, COO for The Americas for Hotel Solutions Partnership.Gideon Dean has joined the Global Council of Hotel Solutions Partnership as a Principal and shares a passion for the development of this business. Fiedler continues, "Gideon works mainly in the fields of online and social commerce, branding, media and content strategies and digital business evolution. He is equally comfortable at executive or hotel level engagements, with hotel and travel distribution and technology being his passion and key focus."Joining Doug and Gideon on The Americas team are:John Healy advises clients on lodging-related finance and accounting areas with particular emphasis on strategic growth and performance turnarounds. John has worked extensively in the United States, the UK, Europe and the Middle East. He is based in Los Angeles.Ranjit Gunewardane brings unique cross-border experience in all aspects of hotel technical design, engineering and property operating and maintenance processes. Ranjit has worked extensively in the United States, Asia, Middle East and Africa. He is based in Boston.Stephan Juliusburger's passion is creative and practical restaurant concept design, menu engineering and finding synergies to build sales, guest satisfaction and profit. His focus is concept creation and master plans for food and beverage areas. He has a wealth of experience in North America, the Caribbean and Buenos Aires. He is based in Miami.Bill Love advises on breakthrough operations and guest satisfaction strategies in hotels, resorts and timeshares. He is a specialist in management turnarounds and change implementation and is based in Orlando.Dennis Nau provides strategic advice to brands and helps develop creative, practical tactics. His strengths include strategic planning, leadership development, marketing and operations. Dennis is experienced in leading big boxes and repositioning city center and destination resorts. He has worked in the United States, UK, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. He is based just outside New York City.Mike Wrigley provides hotel consulting solutions across a wide range of technology issues including system research, start-ups, IT strategies, new-build infrastructures and project turnarounds. He has worked in the United States, UK, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.Fiedler said, "Each of our Associates brings a different perspective to improve our collective thinking and outcomes for clients. We all bring incredible learning from our executive and advisory experiences in leading hotels and hotel companies."Globally, Hotel Solutions Partnership now offers more than 75 areas of expertise and the collective knowledge and skills encompass almost all aspects of strategic and operational management of all types of hotels, resorts and hotel companies. Hotel Solutions Partnership works to quickly understand the client's requirements and deliver customized consulting solutions that improve sales, profits and satisfaction. Learn more about the advisory services offered and the other regional teams focused on the hotel and resort industry in the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe, Middle East & Africa, by visiting the website page http://www.hotelsolutionspartnership.com/The-Advisory-Teams/

Managing the Board and employees during strategic change

The Hotel Solutions Partnership ·17 October 2012
As companies struggle to survive in a challenging financial environment, many hotel and resort operators find it difficult to focus on and implement key policy changes, however much they are needed. This article examines how these businesses can successfully drive and manage strategic change, at both board and employee level.Insight and foresightStrategic change managers require many skills and qualities. But foremost they need insight; an objective, global view of a business's current performance, the strength of the competition and the market potential. They also need the foresight to distinguish the desirable from the achievable. What does the hotel or resort really need? Is it a quick win or can the business wait to see a return on its investment? For many of the parties involved, the quick win may look more attractive, but a good change manager knows expediency does not always go hand-in-hand with sustainability. Any proposal should aim to build the brand as well as the business. Finding a change championSo already we've established that a strategic change manager needs astute financial and operational judgment and the ability to create viable, visionary business solutions. But this is only half the battle. To translate vision into action, they should also be a 'change champion'. Strategic change may challenge the business's current plans and conventions. I know from my own experiences of leading change programs that a change champion will need finely tuned interpersonal skills to persuade board members, employees and shareholders to sign up and support it. The strategic change manager should be decisive, honest and clear. It's important to communicate at each level - board, employees and shareholders - conveying the plain facts using language the people involved are familiar with, avoiding jargon or spin. Faced with potentially career-changing developments, they will want a clear explanation of how they can benefit from helping the project succeed, what would happen if it fails, and any input required from them. To bring everyone on board, the change manager needs to be passionate and articulate and capable of maintaining this level of communication throughout the change period.Seeing it throughA strategic change manager is naturally a leader, instigating original and even radical ideas that create and exploit opportunities. Like all good leaders, they should inspire by example - passing on their knowledge, and encouraging others to contribute. Employees can be incentivized by offering training that will support their career progression as well as facilitating the project, and if appropriate, using bonus schemes that reward them as the project reaches each landmark stage. If the business's present structure hinders change, the change manager will need the confidence to take difficult decisions such as overcoming resistance, resolving internal conflicts and if necessary, thinning out overstaffed departments or removing those unable or unwilling to accommodate the new policies. They'll also be adept at identifying and recruiting talent, from within and outside the business, bringing in the finest quality candidates to help achieve the strategy's aims. They should also demonstrate a commitment to the future of the hotel or resort, by setting up a succession policy that secures business stability.The change programs I have been involved with have highlighted the importance of managing expectations. It's important to explain that the benefits of strategic change may not be seen straight away; the Board, employees and shareholders often expect change managers to deliver rapid results. Their expectations can be unrealistic, but the wise change manager appreciates that the project can only be deemed a success when all parties are satisfied.Choosing the ideal change managerAny hotel business with an executive manager possessing all these qualities, plus the time to take on a strategic change role, is very fortunate indeed. Of course this person will know the business and competitors well and can 'hit the ground running'. However, it's highly likely such a talented person will already be fully utilized within the organization and won't have the additional capacity required for this demanding task. Diverting them from their existing duties could be disruptive and possibly counter-productive. And co-workers may find it difficult to accept them in the new role, especially if they are personally affected by the change manager's decisions.Keeping your options openAlternatively the business can call on external resources. This could mean recruiting a new manager, or bringing in an expert to coach a suitable existing employee, who will become the strategic change manager. This second route is time-consuming, but has the advantage that the employee will benefit from a thorough understanding of the business. And even after the change process, he/she will be a real asset to the organization.Another option, which offers several benefits, is to hire a consultant or interim manager to implement the strategic change. As an independent expert, they can make wholly objective decisions, divorced from company politics. Their recommendations will be focused on the business's priorities, not clouded by career considerations. And they will be able to bring the specialized skills and devote the long hours necessary to see the project through. Pierre Wack, who pioneered the use of scenario planning, maintained that planning for change was not determined by formal analysis and statistics, but by insight, complexity and subtlety. There are many uncertainties about strategic change. The only sure fact, is that sooner or later, your hospitality business will need to deal with it.
Article by Doug Fiedler

Making "Sense" of the Guest Experience

The Hotel Solutions Partnership · 4 October 2012
In any hotel or resort, the guest experience is made up of a series of impressions on the five senses. Let's explore what makes an outstanding guest experience in any part of a hotel or resort.One of the most interesting things about the hotel business to me is that each guest is so very different. What attracts one guest might totally turn another guest away. The trick in this business is to identify a delicate balance so that each guest is touched in some way by something that attracts him/her. When you achieve this goal, you start tugging at emotional heartstrings that bind the guest to your hotel or your brand. When you distinguish yourself at this level, guests will do everything they can to return.At Hotel Solutions Partnership, we use a "sense-o-gram" to diagram how effectively each sense is being used to create an outstanding experience. The outer circle indicates 100% effectiveness for each sense, while the inner circle indicates 0% effectiveness. A typical sense-o-gram begins like this:In most cases, the goal is to get to 100% effectiveness for each sense, meaning that your "score" should be at the outermost circle. There are exceptions, however. For example, let's examine the sense of smell.The obvious goal of the scent in a hotel room is to have no discernible smell. If the room is sprayed with a vanilla-scented air freshener, the guest might not like the smell of vanilla and therefore might be impacted negatively by it. So, in a guest room, the goal might be no smell at all and therefore no smell would rank at 100%. Let's suppose the guest is a VIP and the hotel manager has thoughtfully sent up a welcome gift prior to the guest's arrival. The platter is beautiful, with smoked fish, authentic bleu cheeses, and fruit. The room service waiter unwraps the platter and places a bottle of wine and glasses nearby. Four hours later, the guest walks into the room. How does the guest rate the scent of the room now? Right! Probably 0% because the smell of the food has overwhelmed the room!The Sense of SmellNeurologists have determined that the sense of smell is the most powerful "memory maker" in the human body. In fact, some studies have determined as much as 85% of what you remember is linked in some way to your sense of smell. Think back to your childhood. Do you remember the scents and smells when your mother was baking bread or cookies? The sense of smell cannot be underestimated. It can make a powerful statement about your hotel and the experience it offers.Smells should be appropriate for the venue. It is perfectly reasonable and expected that a spa should have a calming aroma. A steak and seafood restaurant should have an aroma reminiscent of grills. Should a bar have a stale beer smell or the aroma of an open floor drain? Definitely not!The Sense of Hearing Try this exercise in your own hotel lobby. Sit in a chair and close your eyes for a full 10 minutes and just listen to what is going on around you. Imagine you are blind and have only your sense of hearing to help you. What do you hear? These are the sounds your guests hear each and every day.Listen with 'elephant ears'. This means, make what you are listening to come alive in your mind. In your brain, imagine the scene with the people/guests, the surroundings and the things that are making the sounds. Are there things that are not appealing? Are there employee conversations going on that are inappropriate? Is there a loud fan, a squeaky door, static from a bad speaker in the lobby music? This is just a short list of things that should probably be removed to prevent offending a guest in the future.The Sense of TasteWhen you see a grapefruit, what taste do you expect it to have? Of course you'd expect a strong, acidic, almost mouth-puckering flavor. When you smell a freshly grilled piece of salmon as it is placed in front of you, what taste do you expect it to have?The composition of a plate should generally be balanced, meaning that something on the plate appeals to the taste buds for sweet, sour and salt (and for you foodies, Umami!). Balancing a meal or a dish with all of these flavors will make the experience more enjoyable for your guest.The Sense of TouchThis one is really interesting because it has a double meaning. The first meaning is the tactile sense of touch. When a guest feels the crisp, clean sheets of the bed, it is the tactile feeling he/she is experiencing. This tactile feeling must also be comfortable for it to be a winning combination for your guests.Consider the chairs in your restaurant or bar. Are they hardwood chairs without pads or upholstery? If they are upholstered, is the fabric clean and fresh, or sticky and worn? The second meaning of touch is the sense of emotionally touching the guest, tugging at his/her heartstrings. When you connect at this level, the guest will appreciate your experience at a new and different level. You will begin to spark an emotional connection and your guest will tell and re-tell the story of how he/she was touched by something that happened in your hotel or resort.The front desk clerk checks in an arriving guest. The guest is sniffling, coughing and suddenly sneezes and asks the clerk for a tissue. The clerk hands the guest a box of tissues and asks, "Are you feeling under the weather today?" The guest responds, "Yes, I've caught this cold and can'At shake it." The clerk hands the guest the key and explains where the elevators are located and wishes the guest well.After the guest leaves the desk, the clerk calls In-Room Dining and speaks with the manager, explaining the story of our guest. The clerk asks In-Room Dining to send up a hot tea complete with honey and lemon. The manager jumps at the chance and adds, "I'll have everyone in In-Room Dining sign a quick 'get well soon' card." The guest is duly impressed when such a thoughtful gesture is received.How does your hotel 'touch' each guest to create a personalized moment of unexpected, anticipatory hospitality? That is where the gold is in the hotel business!The Sense of SightDo yourself a favor and conduct an environmental walk-about in your hotel or resort. Act like a guest acts, but see everything. The walk-about should find anything that a guest might see as being 'out of place', or 'in place'.The walk-about should start where your guests typically enter the property. This means the driveway, entrance signage, landscaping and directional signs. As you approach the building, start at the very top and sweep with your eyes from left to right starting at the roof line and working down floor by floor.As you enter the main entry doorway, examine from the top of the entrance all the way to the bottom, sweeping from left to right. As you pass through the door, what does the lobby look like, starting at the ceiling and working your way down? Take it all in, looking for things your guests will see.On a recent environmental walk-about, one general manager was alarmed to see awards and plaques for exceptional customer satisfaction from his brand company for 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 displayed at the Front Desk. Since 2006, the hotel had not received such recognition. What do guests think when they see this? Is it 'out of place' to them? Probably!ConclusionOur goal at Hotel Solutions Partnership is to help you identify where your hotel or resort is currently on the sense-o-gram and help you define where you want to be. We can then design plans and actions for how to get you there. This is no easy task and requires independent third-party input in order to be truly effective. However when you accomplish the goal, you will reap many benefits from truly satisfied and loyal guests.Author: Doug Fiedler, COO, The Americas | Doug Fiedler provides advice in building quality, customer satisfaction and ROI for all aspects of food and beverage operations.
Article by Peter Fitzgerald

The Possible, the Practical and the Profitable - What cloud are we on?

The Hotel Solutions Partnership · 2 October 2012
The Big Issue Facing Hotel Marketing DirectorsA few large owners of online demand for hotel accommodation, commanding and securing the currently -topical rate parity, also ask for product parity, sometimes outperforming many hotels' own websites in selling the products. Whilst many hotels are experienced in regaining customers from their competitive set over time, winning back travellers from third party online suppliers requires perhaps a different set of skills and tactics when faced with the reality that the guest who checked out does and will use other properties and brands in other locations where we have no product for them to purchase.What happens if, as hoteliers, in addressing the latest way our customers wish to interact with our brand to the point of purchase, we uncover a need for significant change in processes, skills and the associated systems we have spent the last five years installing, understanding, mastering and operating if we are to preserve, improve or recover margin? Because we canWe live in a world of "e-duction", tempted and lured through educative marketing into wanting and subscribing to increasingly free access to more and more technology, applications and storage to digitally manage and enjoy our lives. Many of us repeatedly convince ourselves and our friends that we need to replace the way we perform simple tasks as a result of being showered with alternatives that can conveniently reside in our personal digital space; smartphone, tablet or desktop, maybe all three.. Having so much capability in a wallet - sized device can be as practical as it is consuming. All Features Great and Small ..... We now have smartphones where the monthly line rental for unlimited calls globally can be less than the cost of one transatlantic landline call we would have made several years ago. SMS was seen by many as a cost -saving alternative to the initially prohibitive cost of cell phone usage. Yet despite the improved financial economics of mobile phone usage, we too-often choose to silence ourselves with SMS and social media, increasingly "talking" without sound. On a device originally designed to transfer sound. Why? Because we can. We alter, improve, and distort the reality of our photos with Instagram and other enhancement apps. Why?.... because we can. We have stretched our HD TVs to cinema size, and then sought the same experience on a 5cm screen... because we can. Five years ago, a major cruise company announced at a European travel technology conference that the "real" launch of the latest addition to their fleet would happen simultaneously in Second Life. Yes, Second Life. Why? Narcissistic marketing? Customer retention or acquisition, buyer channel shift or the quest for an innovative marketing award? Or because it was possible? Maybe all of these..? It was indeed possible, and the brand gained significant media coverage, through first - mover status within its industry. Was it practical or profitable? Doubtful. How many people in a typical lift /elevator going more than ten floors make the journey without quickly checking their "phone"? At train stations, on trains, buses, lobbies, restaurants, we are constantly "checking out" (something or someone) or "checking in" somewhere. Is our growing addiction to Display taking over from Content as king? We are surrounded by sensationalism; a serial obsession with the new. I recently passed by the Renault showroom on the Champs Elysees, noticing two distinct, 100 per cent electric cars on display from the same manufacturer. One, the sporty Dezir had a crowd around it, most of whom were using smartphones to take photos of themselves to immediately onward share with friends the news of their proximity to the future-present. The adjacent vehicle, the Zoe, a more mundane urban car, had not one person admiring it; ...both vehicles feature zero carbon emissions and have exactly the same distance range of 160km.Breakthrough technology but without the sporty glamour. Buzz Lightyear had taken over from Woody as the public moved on from the reality of fully electric vehicles in search of the next thrill level of what kind of car can be designed adopting 100 per cent electrical power, even though it may be neither practical nor profitable to produce or use. As I write this Mr Zuckerberg, a founder of a company that has made so much more possible and practical in our personalised digital user interface with the world, agreed to hold on to his stock as it hovered around 50 pct of its launch price (partly due to the analysts' view that the increasing trend towards accessing the service through mobile devices thwarts the size and revenue from ad - screen real estate), we ask ourselves how hotels and hotel companies can balance the possible, the practical and the profitable to best satisfy shareholders. Where is the tipping point?Where is that tipping point at which "Alternative Life" , or whichever of today's online travel "digital environments or indirect channels " offer our previous and potential guests a superior ( read as "more enjoyable and satisfying, resulting in a purchase) interaction with our brand alongside those of our competitors, so often that it begins to show negative impact on our profitability, delivering a higher percentage contribution to rooms revenue than we generate through our direct channels? Evidence is growing that the way in which hotels have configured and operate current tools for channel management, revenue management, front office and branded reservation systems and marketing could be compounding this challenge. You can only put so much lipstick on a bulldog and hope it will still win the beauty pageant. A few large owners of online demand for hotel accommodation, commanding and securing the currently -topical rate parity, also ask for product parity, sometimes outperforming many hotels' own websites in selling the products. We know that travellers within the transient leisure segment wishing to shop and purchase accommodation online often favour third party sites and apps over hotel branded site; breadth of inventory, full range of product for all budgets, up to 240,000 hotels in over 40,000 destinations, displayed in a way many travellers prefer to view pricing ; soft search, flexible dates, calendared, full transparency displays for one - way and return flight and rail prices enabling them to clearly and quickly make an informed choice based on a convenience vs. fare matrix. They expect the same from hotels; a smooth and effortless blend, just the way they like it. The irony and the stingSo here is the irony of the reality; some third party online (hotel) marketers and booking engine providers can and do display their hotelier customers' contracted daily price and product parity in such a way that when combined with these providers' guerrilla expertise in regional markets and mammoth budget and resource in terms of search and content faceting, the customer is not only more likely to access the brand earlier on one of these sites but also find the shopping and purchase experience more palatable. And the sting? Such successful merchandisers, even without full inventory or product, can represent a clear brand admirably by insisting on good descriptive content, using quality images and featuring guest reviews and blogs from multiple sources, meaning that the brand promise up to the point of purchase has been met in a retail environment rather than direct purchase, despite the merchandiser not offering 100 per cent of the content found on the hotelier site. How much of what hotels spend in this area is "digital insurance" - making us visible everywhere in the SoLoMo world we believe our guests live in? Mobile is emerging as the dominant gene of the media confluence of Social, Local and Mobile marketing DNA. The Smartphone is perhaps the body. Attractive navigation between apps and mobile web offerings is as smart as the apps themselves. Finance is now beginning to ask the question of impact on profit rather than revenue as revenue flows from reliable third party taps whilst the monthly agency commission cheque covers a growing percentage of arrived reservations. So where does the solution sit if one is required?The ascendency of Revenue Management in hotels and hotel companies deservedly reflects the need to successfully manage the complexity resulting from marketing or sales decisions to work with certain online partners and balancing that distribution with direct to brand sources. Pricing, profitability and marketing often sit elsewhere in the organisation, as does the IT that governs the systems used to manage the hotel or hotel company. As IT, Marketing, and Revenue have taken turns on front stage in recent years, Finance, having listened to these functions and understood their roles, capabilities, environments and impact on the business more in recent years than ever before, will perhaps be next to take the floor. Who in the organisation will suggest, design and deliver the much - needed graduation from connectivity and supposed integration to congruency; a congruency built around the business objectives of the hotel or hotel company, pulling together all pillars of discipline- a meeting of minds, technologies, processes and competencies. An environment that includes goals based on the net revenue achieved per available room, once the true costs in marketing, channel management, and other distribution technology have been taken from the room rate sold, as much as it also looks at overall revenue. An environment where Revenue shares more accountability with Sales, Marketing, Finance and General Management for the profitability of the property or properties' room sales. As an industry, other than the guest service delivered, our systems, our data, our digital assets, and much of our brand direction is increasingly in the Cloud (s) in the hands of system providers, business partners and past and future guests.Strategies to evaluate the possible, convert today's impractical into tomorrow's practical and focused on profit.Successful hotel companies know when to challenge and call time on the way things are being done, spending more time down from the cloud and at the Leadership table challenging the impact of all distribution, revenue, IT and marketing decisions on profitability. For example, they wish to challenge revenue and marketing on when to seek better margin as much as total revenue. They question not only the technologies being used to deliver business objectives but how those technologies are being used, in relation to today and tomorrow's objectives rather than those of three to five years ago. Should there be a "second life" for all technology vendors or solution providers. Perhaps the discussions held at these tables and the execution of the strategy is best led by those who have worked with systems that were regarded as best of breed for the time, but can see how to improve the experience for those who "check out" the brand online, such that more of them "check in" online with the brand directly, whilst bringing positive impact on profit and loyalty from the steps taken to achieve this. A strong understanding and experience of distribution, sales, marketing, e-commerce, third party vendor relations, revenue, IT and finance is ideal. Resulting strategies evaluate the possible, pragmatically convert some of today's impractical into tomorrow's practical and are driven at all times by a focus on profit. Hotel Solutions Partnership is very comfortable at such meetings.
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Hotel Solutions Partnership Represented At HICAP In Hong Kong

The Hotel Solutions Partnership ·27 September 2012
Hotel Solutions Partnership team of hotel consultants knows just how important it is to fully understand the challenges facing our clients.Intelligent thinking, effective teaming and applied expertise form the foundation of the way we work with our clients, and the solutions we offer are tailored to meet the individual and special requirements of your hotel or hospitality business.Hotel Solutions Partnership's Asia Pacific team will be attending the conference so if you are interested in meeting them, please contact Katrina Craig, Chief Operating Officer, at katrinacraig@hotelsolutionspartnership.com or David Williams at davidwilliams@hotelsolutionspartnership.com.The Hotel Solutions Partnership has team members based in Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Manila and has recently formed an alliance with Ten Hotels & Hospitality Solutions to provide hotel consultancy services throughout the Indian Sub-continent..

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