During our recent two-week sojourn in Europe—a trip that took us from Nice to Paris to London and then the surrounding countryside—my wife and I soaked up more culture and experiences than we have in the past two years. We also learned quite a few lessons along the way, perhaps nowhere more so than in a car navigating the roadways in England. (I foolishly opted to drive instead of taking public transportation for the last leg of the trip.)
Among the most lasting of these lessons about life abroad: Roads are narrow, street signs are few and far between, and roundabouts are EVERYWHERE.
I fancy myself a pretty good driver, and I’m happy to report I only got stuck in one roundabout just off the M25. It was during rush hour, mind you, and I only missed the exit once—although our companions who we picked up in London, my college roommate and his girlfriend, quickly compared my driving skills to that of Clark Griswold. (I should have left them on the side of the road.)
So despite my best efforts, the driving was stressful. I was in unfamiliar territory, didn’t have a GPS and was still adjusting to navigating on the (ahem) wrong side of the road.
During one particularly tedious leg, we got lost trying to find our hotel in Nottingham. Our directions, which I proactively printed out ahead of time, were wrong. To make matters worse, the hotel was relatively new and had yet to gain awareness in the community. (Read: No one knew where it was.)
So when we did finally locate that blasted needle in the haystack, I was a bit irked. When we pulled up and saw no discernible signage for parking, I became angry. It was only after I parked illegally out front and checked with a friendly front-desk associate that I learned the hotel parking lot was back the way I came, to the left, around the roundabout, off the fourth exit, up and over the highway, past the hotel again, to the right and to the right again.
Not wanting to put my wife and our friends through the misery of trying to find this place, I dropped them off and headed out by myself. Twenty minutes later, I finally found a parking lot, but it was only after I pulled in that I saw the pay meters were covered that I realized this particular lot was closed.
It’s at this point that I should offer my sincerest apologies to anyone within a mile radius at that particular moment in time. Like little Ralphie, I said the mother of all swear words. More than once, actually. My mother would have been ashamed.
In any case, I drove back to the hotel, stormed up to the front desk, and asked the frazzled front-desk associate why in the world she would guide a guest to a parking lot that is no longer in service.
“You went to the wrong one,” she informed me. “You were supposed to turn into the parking lot for the mattress warehouse. We share the back portion. Although you can’t see it from the road because of the divider wall.”
Suffice to say, I eventually found my way. Although I doubt I’ll ever find my way back to this particular hotel.
This wasn’t the exception to my experiences. I can’t tell you how many times I encountered a front-desk associate who lacked complete awareness of the world outside the property’s front doors. Did I expect them to be walking Google Maps? Of course not. But when a guest asks where the parking lot is, or for walking directions to a nearby eatery or the nearest pharmacy so he can pick up some aspirin for his wife, I do expect them to be able to provide some direction.
This is even more important for us in the Northern hemisphere with the summer travel season in full swing. The idea of warm weather and school vacation is inexplicably tied to the open road. In the States, for example, motorist group AAA predicted 34.8 million Americas traveled 50 miles or more during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. That’s a lot of families and friends packing up and venturing away from home.
That’s also a lot of potentially harried guests showing up at your front desk looking for some relief. Make sure your front-desk associates are armed with the right information so they can provide the right answers in a quick and timely manner.
Leave them to their own devices, and those guests might never find their back to your hotel down the road.
Now on to the usual goodies …
Stat of the week
This one comes compliments of Steve Hood, senior VP of research at our parent company STR: April 2012 was the first time since December 2009 that running 12-month ADR outgrew running 12-month occupancy.
Why is this significant? The data wonks at STR use 12-month running averages to remove “noise” and seasonality out of the data. In the summer months, for example, occupancy and ADR typically increase because of an influx of leisure demand. But that doesn’t mean the metrics as a general rule are showing improvement across the board and throughout the year. Changes in 12-month averages provide a clearer look at broader changes in the market.
Thus, when the 12-month ADR increase outgrew 12-month occupancy in April, it signaled an important turning point for the industry.
Quote of the week
“When I started (in the industry) 20 years ago, you rarely saw a female in the roles that we all aspire to now. Strangely enough we had an opening for a GM, and I was asked if I could take it on temporarily. I always kind of laugh. It was really a fluke.”
—Lara Latture, executive VP and principal of The Hotel Group, discussing her ascension up the managerial hierarchy in “Breaking the glass ceiling.”
Shameless plug alert: My colleague, Alissa Ponchione, did a fantastic job highlighting the state of women in the hotel industry and their emergence as a force in consumer spending. She also highlighted six very worthy C-level female executives. I encourage you to read all the coverage in her special report, “Leading Women Executives.” If you have any worthy candidates to complement our existing profiles, please email Alissa at email@example.com.
Comment of the week
“Seriously, quit whining and start adapting to cost pressures. I am for the 20% VAT.”
—Commenter “Jose” responding to “UK hoteliers call for VAT reduction.”
Email Patrick Mayock or find him on Twitter.
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