How many double-queen rooms does a hotel need? How many single-king rooms? What about suites? A lot can factor into determining the guestroom mix at hotels; these industry experts walk you through the process.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Many factors go into determining the guestroom mix at hotels, such as demand generators, guest preferences and market location. Sources said all of those factors and more can help hoteliers decide the best room mix to appeal to different types of travelers and thus maximize revenue.
“We look at what is driving people to the city, what are they going to do while they’re there, to determine how our room mix shifts,” said Farrah Adams, SVP of hospitality at LBA Hospitality, a management company with 60 branded hotels comprising 6,252 rooms in its portfolio.
For example, she said double-bedded rooms are rented by families and leisure travelers, such as sports teams. King rooms are generally rented by business travelers or couples on weekend visits.
Dave Pollin, co-founder and president of developer-owner Buccini/Pollin Group, said that for his company, it starts with the brand. BPG develops only branded hotels from the ground up. It also has one independent hotel in its well that it purchased and redeveloped.
“The brands give us ideal direction,” Pollin said. “They’ll say, ‘Based on the demographics of our travelers, based on the demand patterns associated with this brand … here’s the recommended breakout between, say, double queens and kings.’”
Using that as a backdrop, BPG’s next step is to look at the development type. For a suburban prototype development, BPG will often follow the brand’s direction but overlay that with what’s happening in the local market.
For example, BPG is developing a Canopy by Hilton hotel in Bethesda, Maryland, which will contain 15 suites, including two presidential suites. This number of suites is more than what that brand would typically see in its room mix, but Pollin said there is a lot of social, military, education, religious and fraternal—or SMERF—business, which warrants that many suites.
“So that’s how we approach suburban,” Pollin said. “What does the brand say we should do, then we look to understand the local demand generators in the market and make an intelligent decision on the breakout.”
Shrinking square footage shifts mix
Urban settings and adaptive-reuse projects require a different approach.
“We’re subject to a lot more limitations on what’s possible,” Pollin said.
Double queen rooms require more square footage and are more costly when it comes to furniture, fixtures and equipment, he said.
“In an urban environment, we’ll typically be constrained on what we can do. We’ll pick a minimum number of double queens that we can ‘live with’ and try to accommodate that,” he said. “And even sometimes we’re not able to accommodate that based on the configuration of the site or other limitations that we might have, such as land uses.”
For example, BPG recently developed a Homewood Suites hotel in Manhattan. Pollin said the team wanted to have more double queens than they ended up with. However, they were constrained by the site in terms of square footage.
Adams agreed that square footage is at a premium in urban markets, which can cause the room matrix to shift at hotels in those areas.
As a result, Adams said she sees more single-bedded rooms featuring either a queen or king bed in urban areas.
“Urban locations are generally good for couples traveling or single business travelers,” she said.
And in general, rooms across the board are shrinking, Pollin said.
“It started in urban areas … but then the brands got comfortable with becoming more efficient,” he said. “So now you’re seeing really nice suburban hotels being developed with smaller rooms because now everyone knows that you can have a great experience in fewer square feet.”
“Developers know we need to be really efficient, so if we can get an additional 20, 30, 40 rooms into a hotel, that makes a project feasible that might not otherwise be,” he added.
Pollin said that this trend will continue long term as land becomes more expensive and difficult to come by.
While sources said a hotel’s room matrix depends on the specific property, they identified some possible best practices when it comes to determining the mix.
Adams said LBA errs on the side of doubles. She cited the Orlando, Florida, market as an example.
“Orlando is one of the top convention cities for the country, but also huge for Disney and Universal and several things family-related,” she said. “We look at hotels in areas like Orlando and err on the side of doubles. And then look at the capability of connecting rooms or family suites.”
The thought process of favoring doubles comes down to considering the business mix of all travelers in the market, she said.
“Even a traveling salesman that’s only going to be in town for a day or two is not going to be put off by having two beds in their room,” she said. “You can rent a double-bedded room type to a single person. You cannot rent a king room type to a soccer team or a baseball team that needs to have double occupancy or four kids in a room.”
That said, Adams wouldn’t have an entire hotel comprise double rooms. It’s important to have the right mix, she said.
“If I think I’m going to need more than 50% doubles, I might go to 60% or 70% doubles,” she said, adding that double rooms are more expensive to furnish and become cost-prohibitive if there are too many in the mix.
“You also wouldn’t want to be known as only having one room type in the whole hotel,” she said. “You want to have a variety in room types.”
Adams said guestroom variety is important so that the hotel can accommodate all types of guests, whether they are families or single travelers. She said the company also takes into consideration how the guestrooms will be laid out and whether they will have connecting rooms. Some hotels also have great views, and Adams said it’s important to take that into consideration when determining the room matrix and placement of guestrooms.
When it comes to the financing side, Michael Harper, VP of operations for Stonehill Strategic Capital, said there’s a lot of faith in the developer.
“We look at it. We don’t put as much emphasis on it as perhaps the franchisor does. They’re looking at it more from a revenue-management standpoint,” he said. “I’ve never killed a deal because of the room mix.”