Beyond Reconstruction - Tips for Keeping Guests Happy During Renovation
By Michael Goldstein, President & CEO, Packard Hospitality Group
As the hospitality industry continues to evolve, offering new and exciting properties and products, hotel guests inherently expect more of the hotels at which they stay. They are consistently looking for better accommodations, enhanced amenities and a more comfortable hotel environment. This often leads to either occasional large-scale renovations or smaller, more frequent renovation projects to enhance a property's offerings.
Many properties can not afford the luxury of closing down operations during renovation. As such, one of the biggest challenges that hoteliers across the country face is how to effectively complete either type of renovation while staying profitable and keeping the hotel property open to guests. A quick Internet search shows many disgruntled guests who were unhappy with the quality of service provided to them at various hotels where they stayed while construction took place. They have posted their unflattering experiences and reviews on popular sites where other potential guests are likely to read and be dissuaded from staying at that particular property. Many of the guests' complaints could have been easily resolved, or altogether avoided, had the property adequately planned or known how to deal with guests during a renovation.
The following steps and actions can be taken by an hotelier to maintain order, lessen the impact of construction on the guests, and create a more positive environment for everyone involved, including hotel staff.
The most critical step to any renovation project where guests are involved is creating a detailed plan to follow. The general manager, general contractor, property manager and possibly even the owner, should be involved in the planning process, working to determine how to properly plan for the renovation and how the various construction projects will be scheduled as to not interfere with a guest's stay.
The overall goal of the plan should be presenting guests with a satisfactory product in an atmosphere that is virtually untouched by construction. Because every event, setback, and group booking can't be predicted at the beginning of the construction process, the schedule/plan will need to be flexible enough to be modified multiple times throughout the construction process, if not each day.
Put Guests First
When undertaking the renovation of a property, all considerations should be taken to finish the construction without disrupting a guest's stay, event or schedule. Not only is it important to coordinate getting people into guest rooms and working through the process of check-in and check-out, but it is necessary to be concerned about interfering with the plans of those guests who have ongoing engagements and are staying or meeting at the property for multiple days. The longer-term guests often have specific or different needs that are overlooked when planning for renovations. Although difficult, it is important to make all guests as comfortable as possible so they will want to return to the property in the future.
Create a Buffer
The expectations set by management for a property's progress and profitability during renovation greatly impact how well the project is perceived by both hotel employees and guests. Most likely, the construction will impact income. A good manager who is prepared for that eventuality will understand the limitations set by the construction and will work within those constraints to create a positive experience for all involved. He or she can then appropriately direct the scheduling of rooms, banquet facilities, and public spaces for the use of guests in a manner where they will not be affected by construction.
For example, we are in the process of planning the complete interior and exterior renovation of a hotel property in Los Angeles. During the renovation, we expect high occupancy and many guests. To ensure they will be satisfied with their stay, we are isolating the construction at all times to two of the hotel's 12 floors. The scaffolding will be on the outside of those floors while demolition and renovation will take place inside. We plan to start at the top, working on the 11th and 12 floors, but we will leave the 10th floor completely vacant as well, to ensure guests won't be bothered by the work we are doing.
A similar scenario should be considered throughout the entire construction process so that there is a buffer between guests and the work being done - a property shouldn't schedule a meeting in a boardroom when carpet is being installed in the next room over, or give rooms to an airline crew that needs to sleep during the day when construction is taking place on the floors above or below them. In fact, sometimes it may even be necessary to clear the schedule completely if the work that needs to be done will interfere with hotel guests. It is never acceptable to generate income at the expense of a guest who will be extremely unsatisfied with the service received.
Live up to Obligations
A complicated task, but one that is important throughout the construction process, is living up to every commitment made to hotel guests for banquet functions and room blocks. Even if the planning is well-thought-out and consistent through the entire process, management must still be prepared for the occasional surprise. Groups that blocked 50 rooms might suddenly require 70, and management and staff alike must be dedicated to accommodating the guest and living up to any commitments made.
We recently completed a hotel renovation that due to construction delays ran through the peak season. To meet the demands we had committed to, it was necessary to schedule management, housekeeping and maintenance personnel throughout the night. As soon as the contractor turned a room over to us, we worked around the clock, punching them over so the required rooms would be available the next day for the groups that were coming. It was important to live up to our commitments and equally essential that in doing so, our service and end product wasn't compromised. ** **
The hotel staff plays an important role during construction. They meet the guests, make them feel comfortable, direct them to local destinations and resolve any problems they may have. It is the hotel employees who have the opportunity to communicate the new changes to visitors in a positive way. The staff should be instructed on how to handle various complications that arise from construction. If they maintain a positive, understanding demeanor, many hotel guests will feel assured and taken care of, and in turn will be more understand if they are inconvenienced.
Find a Good Contractor
Lastly, but certainly equally essential is finding a good contractor who is familiar with the hotel industry. The contractor must understand the unique situation and various constraints of working in a hotel while it remains open. If the contractor is not experienced, then construction, staging, complying with brand standards, and meeting franchise expectations, while also appeasing current guests, can be catastrophic. On the flip side, if the franchise approves of the contractor, and if that contractor understands the traffic flow through a hotel, the necessity of meeting room obligations on time and how to keep guests and employees safe throughout the construction process, the entire renovation will go more smoothly.
By following the above mentioned criteria and choosing the proper general contractor, having a flexible, but well-thought-out plan, creating a positive, comfortable environment for staff and guests, leaving a buffer between guests and construction zones and meeting all commitments made to guests, the affects of the renovation on hotel guests can be minimized for overall success.
Michael Goldstein is president and CEO of Packard Hospitality Group. He has over 25 years of experience in hotel development, including new construction, renovations, franchise negotiations and brokerage. He currently manages more than 24 hotels, resorts, restaurants and multi-family residences throughout the country. He holds a BA in Hotel and Restaurant Management from La Salle University. He is a member of American Hotel and Lodging Association, California Hotel Association and a licensed real estate agent in the state of California. Mr. Goldstein can be contacted at 858-277-4305 or email@example.com Extended Bio...
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