Mr. Brickman

Architecture & Design

Best Practices: Five Landscape Strategies for Improving Your Guest Experience on Hotel Grounds

By Scott B. Brickman, CEO, Brickman

Among the many challenges for busy hotel executives is trying to develop new ways to improve the guest experience. From complimentary breakfasts to in-room entertainment, the hospitality industry has earned a reputation for identifying market trends and quickly implementing ideas designed to make a guests' stay more comfortable and enjoyable. Whether a vacation destination for families, or a respite for weary road warriors, hotels serve many different purposes but are unified by the commitment to create a positive experience for each guest.

One of the best ways to create a positive guest experience is through the use of smart landscape maintenance. A good way to start thinking about your hotel's landscape is through the eyes of a guest. What do visitors see when they first arrive at your property? Is the grass green and inviting? Are the flowers colorful and do they make an impact? Are trees overgrown and/or obstructing pathways and windows? Providing a fresh and inviting landscape is the best way for your hotel to make a great first impression, and create a positive experience for your guests even before they walk through the doors.

To make the process easier, below are five strategies for hotel executives to consider when thinking about how to enhance the guest experience through landscape maintenance:

1. Have a Plan - First, it is important for hotel executives to consider how the property communicates your brand to your guests. If particular colors are an important part of your corporate image, you need to think about what kinds of plant colors will best compliment your property. Additionally, you should consider the environment in which your property is located. Is it a pastoral country setting or is it more urban and edgy? The answers to these questions will help establish a framework for how to best achieve your landscape maintenance goals. Once you have defined your goals, a simple cost analysis can help determine if keeping an in-house grounds crew or outsourcing to a commercial landscape maintenance provider is right for you. With a plan in place, create performance measures to make sure your landscape maintenance plan remains on track and can continuously meet guest expectations.

2. The Balancing Act - One of the things that makes hotels great is that the guest experience can change with the seasons. After all, a family of skiers visiting a resort during the winter will have a much different set of attitudes and expectations than during a summertime visit. Much like the personality of the hotel, the hotel landscape is seasonal and needs to adjust to changes throughout the year. To that end, it is important to develop a balanced landscape maintenance strategy to ensure that the grounds never appear to be in a state of seasonal transition. Minimize the impact of seasonal transitions by taking a gradual approach to change and by continuously improving your landscape maintenance practices.

3. Outdoor Attractions - It is not uncommon for guests, after enjoying a pleasant dinner or drink in the hotel restaurant, to stroll along the hotel grounds. In fact, many of the best hotels across the country and abroad are paying special attention to how outdoor amenities such as gazebos, lighted walkways and well manicured paths can enhance the guest experience. A special feature in your landscape, such as a butterfly garden or meditation space or even a wedding garden, can become an attraction in itself and greatly enhance the guest's relaxation experience.

4. Water Features - Water is a dynamic element that can greatly enhance the guest experience at your hotel. Outdoors, water can be controlled to create a serene and peaceful environment for your guests. The sounds of water can be used to tune out background noises such as a busy street. Used in a lobby, water moving at a fast tempo can create a sense of excitement for your guests. While subtle, water features can be of great value to your hotel and greatly enhance the guest experience.

5. Assembling the Right Team - If, after a cost analysis, you decide that outsourcing landscape maintenance is the right decision for your hotel, there are many different factors that you should consider before selecting a partner. Foremost, you may want to consider that the lowest bid does not always provide the greatest value for your property. Known in the industry as "mow, blow and go," many low-priced landscape maintenance providers lack the experience and technical skills to keep your hotel looking its best over time. Choosing a contractor with in-house experts, like designers, horticulturalists and arborists, will add value to their maintenance service and ensure your landscape not only looks good, but stays healthy, which will ultimately reduce your long-term maintenance costs. Additionally, it is important to consider references. When putting work out to bid, it is fair to ask potential partners if they have performed similar work for other hotels and that other hotel executives are willing to endorse their work.

For busy hotel executives, creating and executing a comprehensive landscape maintenance plan may seem like a lot of extra work. After all, with so many different aspects of running a profitable hotel, there are a lot of other factors that can enhance the guest experience that may seem more pressing. But, strategically, there are few decisions less important than how your landscape will influence your guest's feeling about your property over time. When focusing on the long term profitability of your hotel, implementing a comprehensive landscape maintenance program is a worthwhile investment.

Scott Brickman is CEO of Brickman, the largest commercial landscape maintenance firm in the U.S. Brickman provides landscape maintenance and snow removal services to a wide variety of hospitality and hotel clients across the country. Mr. Brickman joined the Company in 1986 and in 1998 became a Director of the Company and was appointed Chief Executive Officer. His tenure with the company includes serving as a project director and a regional manager, and prior to 1998 he had responsibility for the Company's Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Southeast operations. Mr. Brickman can be contacted at 301-987-9200 or scottb@brickmangroup.com Extended Bio...

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