How to boost your bottom line before the dust settles
By Aaron Gordon
Today’s hotel owners are spending more money than ever before upgrading their properties. A 2017 study from the NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism found that capital expenditures within the U.S. hotel industry had reached $6.85 billion, marking a 30-percent increase in the span of a decade.
With capital spending on the rise, hotel owners are in position to capture an even greater return on their investment by contemplating the branding and marketing implications of their renovation projects.
While each hotel property brings its own unique set of opportunities and challenges, we have identified a common set of factors that every ownership and management team should consider before construction begins.
Begin crafting your story early
There will always be a segment of your clientele that’s content with a comfy bed and a hot shower. But more and more, guests are craving hotels that go beyond the expected to deliver a memorable experience. Your renovation is a chance to reset that narrative.
This might mean further aligning your brand with the destination itself, offering new programming, or introducing amenities that will wow even the most discerning guest. Prior to construction, it’s critical that you develop your hotel’s story and that you’ve devised a plan to communicate that story when work is complete.
Begin by convening your full team – that includes your architects, interior designers, hotel management, PR and marketing firm, and social media agency – to brief everyone on what’s planned for the property and solicit input for how to maximize results. This way, your communications consultants can get to work developing the story and planning their strategy well in advance of completion.
Listen to your guests
Your customers are the best gauge for deciding what will (and won’t) work at your new-look property. By including consumers in the initial stages of the planning process – through focus groups, electronic surveys, and personal outreach – you can reinforce the idea that your team puts its guests first while avoiding costly missteps down the road.
For example, you may have strong ideas about the layout for your updated conference center, but the meeting planners and clients who will ultimately use the facilities may have an entirely different vision for how to effectively plan the space. That input has the potential to deliver a significant revenue boost over time.
Beyond the practical value of collecting customer feedback, this also is a smart practice from a customer service standpoint. Your clients will appreciate your guest-first mindset and come away knowing that your renovation is all about them.
Focus on F&B
From enlisting a celebrity chef or rolling out a novel dining concept to introducing a new lounge or cocktail program, your food and beverage program can be instrumental in refreshing your brand and generating incremental revenue.
Use this opportunity to consider what will drive additional traffic and generate buzz. Think beyond the traditional three-meal-a-day restaurant model and determine what’s right for your market and property from an operations, service, and branding standpoint.
At the newly relaunched Havana Cabana Resort in Key West, owner DiamondRock Hospitality is mixing things up by serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner from an Airstream trailer that has been converted into a full-service food truck stationed poolside. It’s the perfect fit for a Cuba-themed property set in a tropical destination. Plus, the food truck is an efficient use of space and resources, and the concept has created invaluable marketing and social media exposure.
Your guests may come from all around the world, but there’s no substitute for building a loyal following of consumers in your own backyard. By seeding your hotel’s clientele with locals, you’ll create an army of brand ambassadors and open the door to recurring, long-term revenue.
A renovation is a chance to reintroduce your property to the very people who pass by each day. Enlist a digital marketing agency to stage an event for social media and lifestyle influencers, consider inviting journalists and bloggers to tour the property or spend the night, and charge your sales team with canvassing nearby businesses.
More likely than not, your faithful base of local customers will serve as a magnet for out-of-towners. After all, one of the most frequent questions asked of the hotel concierge is, “Where do the locals hang out?”
Don’t forget the little things
Renovations are expensive, time-intensive endeavors. Millions upon millions of dollars can be spent moving walls, installing new flooring, and swapping out furniture. But when the dust settles and you’re ready to reopen, it’s critical that you pay attention to the finer details that can make or break the guest experience.
Are your restaurant and bar menus up to date? Have your wayfinding signs and marketing materials been refreshed to reflect changes on the property? Do you have budget left over for soft costs, such as technology upgrades, a professional photo or video shoot, website updates, or new amenities that will pack a punch?
At the newly renovated Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort, management rolled out a fleet of Peloton bikes, which are a perk for guests looking to stay fit during their stay. Additions like these can bring a big branding boost for a relatively small price.
Use your renovation as a retraining opportunity
In an era of online reviews and digital influencers, every moment counts – from the time a reservation is booked to a guest’s final departure (and even the days that follow).
A hotel renovation is the perfect time to assess whether you are maximizing these touchpoints and tweak your operations accordingly, all with the goal of ensuring customer satisfaction and laying the groundwork for repeat business. Don’t be afraid to examine the protocols you have in place, identify areas for improvement, and begin the process of retraining your team.
Communication often plays a vital role in this process. By emphasizing how you interact with guests before, during, and after their visit, your customers will come away knowing their business matters. It doesn’t take much to make an impact. An email from the front desk prior to arrival, a text from housekeeping on day one of a stay, or even an engaging comment on social media can send the message that your guest is your first priority.
Ultimately, the goal of any hotel renovation is to stay competitive in a changing market landscape, while increasing occupancy, ADR and RevPAR. An integrated communications campaign and an appropriate dose of foresight and planning can go a long way toward winning new business and growing your bottom line.
Aaron Gordon is a partner at Schwartz Media Strategies, a public relations, marketing, and digital media firm that develops integrated communications campaigns on behalf of hotel owners and operators.