The last truly memorable hotel stay I had was a two-night stint at the Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi. Sure, the fully renovated property was a beauty, its lobby awash in polished marble and the spacious guest suite well appointed. But ask me to paint those details in a few months time and I might find it difficult to fill in the canvas.
What I will always remember, however, was the service.
Indian hospitality in and of itself is something to behold. The country benefits from complementary cultural norms and a more liberal wage scale that allows for nearly two times as many team members on site than a similar hotel here in the U.S. or in Europe. The sheer manpower that results is felt in every aspect of the stay. By the time you exit your cab and make it to the front desk, it’s not unusual to encounter as many as 10 associates—smiling employees executing the check-in procedure with clockwork precision.
My Radisson Blu Plaza experience was enhanced even further given a prearranged meet-and-greet with affable GM Javed Ali. The guy is an old-school hotelier through and through, and he made me feel like royalty. (As he does every guest he encounters, from what I observed.)
Beautiful properties come and go, but service is forever. Any hotelier worth his or her salt will tell you so. So will guests.
Yet there persists a myth that only the most stunning, expensive properties can knock a guest’s socks off.
“You don’t need a million-dollar pool or bathrooms lined with quartz,” said Michael Cascone, president and COO of Forbes Travel Guide. “You just need to train your people.”
Cascone should know. He oversees perhaps the most authoritative hotel ratings system in the world. These are the folks who assign their prestigious star ratings to hotels (a process previously overseen by Mobil), and I was fortunate enough to see the fruits of their labor during an awards reception at the Montage Beverly Hills earlier this week.
The Montage Beverly Hills, host of the Forbes Travel Guide Global Star Ratings Announcement, is a jaw-droppingly gorgeous hotel. But it takes a lot more than looks to earn one of the company’s coveted 4- or 5-star ratings. (Credit: Scott Frances)
Before that event, I was able to pick Cascone’s brain about the Forbes star ratings system and its lasting legacy on the industry. Again, it all comes down to service, he told me. About 550 standards are evaluated, and 70% of them are service oriented. A well-maintained lobby is important, sure, but more pressing in this ratings module is how attentive and welcoming the associates are in that lobby, he said.
Yes, most of the 5-star award winners—there are only 76 of them in all—fall near the upper echelon of the luxury segment, but that’s because these properties have the means to invest most heavily in training.
That’s not to say lower-tier hotels are unable to satisfy and delight guests. One need only turn to another ratings system, TripAdvisor, for proof. Take $79-a-night Jerry’s Motel, which is one of the top-ranked hotels in Los Angeles on TripAdvisor. The property’s team controls what it can control and provides an unexpectedly great service proposition for guests.
The smartest people in this industry will tell you success lies in the basics: clean rooms, comfortable beds and service. Treat your guests well, and they’ll remember you for it.
Now on to the usual goodies …
Stat of the week
€240,000 ($): The average value of a hotel room across Europe is €240,000 ($314,860), unchanged on 2011 levels but up from €215,000 ($282,082) in 2010, according to the “2013 European Hotel Valuation Index,” published by HVS London.
Paris still tops the valuation chart with an average price of €660,000 ($865,910) per room, followed by hotels in London (€625,000 per room, or $819.991), Zürich (€492,000 or $645,497), Geneva (€451,000 or $591,674) and Rome (€353,000 or $463,106).
Quote of the week
“So much of what I’ve done before has prepared me for this challenge.”
—Katherine Lugar, the new president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, as reported in “New AH&LA CEO promises strong leadership.”
Reader comment of the week
“The GM role is about adding value....Period. I like to think I add value to the lives of our guests and employees. I add value to the community and am motivated every day to add to what the hotel is worth. But it is a double-edged sword. Better performance = More profits = better valuation = potential sale = me out of a job (most likely). Hotel GMs should somehow be incentivized (financially) by a sale, rather than fearful. And that is THE fear among us GMs.”
—Commenter “A GM’s perspective” sharing an all-time common perspective among GMs in response to “Keys to profitability lie with the GM.”
I can’t think of another industry where the role most integral to the success of the business is often so undervalued. No wonder the majority of aspiring hoteliers I speak with want jobs in real estate and finance. It certainly beats long hours, comparatively low pay and no job security.
Email Patrick Mayock or find him on Twitter.
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