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Showing posts from January, 2010

Resort --- A Fading Word in the Lodging Industry

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Once upon a time, “resort” is associated with luxury, high-end life style, vacations … Who would think “resort” is a bad word? Changes occurred when the public found out AIG planned a $400,000 retreat at a St. Regis resort in 2008. President Obama also encouraged Corporate America to cancel their retreats and meetings in resorts. All of a sudden, many companies and organizations, especially those who received bailout money, revised travel policies that discourage or even prohibit resort stays.

The U.S. lodging industry employs 1.8 million workers and supports 7.5 million additional jobs. Cutting resort stays makes a direct impact to resort operations. As a result, close to 18,000 American Hotel & Motel Association members wrote to the President and stated their proposition. Later, President Obama acknowledged the contribution of the lodging industry. However, this effort has not removed the resort stigma. How do resorts react to this issue?

More and more resorts drop their “resort” …

iPad Tablet in Hotels? Are We Ready?

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Several days ago, we discussed the impacts of iPhone Apps to hotel operations (http://linchikwok.blogspot.com/2010/01/how-will-iphone-travel-apps-change-our.html). On January 28, Apple introduced its newest innovation --- iPad Tablet. What does Tablet means to our business?

According to the suggestions of Terence Ronson at Hotel-Online.com, Tablet will be used to enhance hotel operations, such as the following:

1. “E-Reg” cards with signature capture will replace traditional registration cards;
2. E-menu with pictures will be used, and guests can read wine reviews with external links;
3. Housekeeper can capture maintenance issues and submit the maintenance request via Tablet;
4. Sales and Marketing staff can travel with Tablet for presentations and make reservations directly with Tablet.

These functions all sound great, but my question is how will Tablet really make a difference in operations? In fact, existing technology already allows us to capture guest e-signatures (e.g. when we sign ou…

Have You Seen the Recovery for the U.S. Lodging Industry Yet?

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Finally, I found two pieces of “positive” news this week. On January 26, Jeri Clausing reported a rebound in luxury hotel segment (Travel Weekly); Deena Beasley of Reuters suggested a slow recovery for the U.S. hotel industry. Here are some of the statistics put up by these two analysts:

· Demand of luxury hotels “increases of 5% to 8% in each of the last six months” (Clausing) --- positive.
· RevPAR is expected to decline of 1.1% by PKF and 3.2% by Smith Travel Research (RevPAR fell almost 17% in 2009; Beasley) --- still suffering, but just not as bad.
· Occupancy rate will increase from 55.1% to 55.4% according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (Beasley) --- heading to a good direction with a tiny improvement (.3%).
· Corporate accounts are still controlling their travels (Beasley) --- not that positive.
· Compared to business travel, leisure travel has fallen less severely (Beasley) --- not that positive.
· The market has a demand for “family-oriented get-together” packages and “affordable luxur…

Adding More Supplies to Current Lodging Industry --- Is It a Threat or an Opportunity?

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In today’s class, a student presented a January 19th’s article in New York Times. According to this article, almost 100 new hotels are scheduled to open in the U.S. in 2010. New York City alone will add 46 more properties. While hoteliers are already struggling to fill their existing rooms, why will developers add more supplies to the market?

Students recognized the market’s “hysteresis effect”--- many of these hotels were under construction before 2008 when the market had an occupancy rate of 85%. Thus, the recession will not stop the supplies until 2011 or after. Students wondered how this “hysteresis effect” would affect their career opportunities when they graduate and enter the job market in 2011 and beyond.

Recession seems a threat to many people because it is often associated with fewer demands in a more competitive market. However, I argue recession could also bring a life-time opportunity to us. How so? When everyone is trying to sell everything in the market, developers may be…

Under the Boutique Hotel Concept, Independent Hotels May Now Join A Franchiser's Family

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Hotel franchisers such as Hilton and Marriott are known for its high-quality service with strict brand standards. If an independent hotel with “unique” characteristics wants to join the family and utilize a brand’s existing reservation system and marketing network, it may have to make changes and become a “standardized” hotel. Thanks to the newly-introduced boutique hotel concept, these independent hotels do not have to sacrifice anymore.

Today, seven independent hotels of the Kessler Collection, which represent upper-upscale and luxury properties with “unique” personalities, joined Marriott’s Autograph Collection and became part of many boutique hotels under the Marriott brand. Autograph is the newly-developed boutique hotel concept by Marriott. Unlike other Marriott brand, while Autograph emphasizes Marriott’s high quality, it allows each property to keep its “unique” characteristics. As a matter of fact, Marriott is not the only franchiser who has made this move.

Starwood introduce…

Who Shall We Trust In Terms of Hotel or Restaurant Reviews?

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Last week when I was in New Orleans for the Special Event Show, a friend of mine suggested me to try a restaurant because it has a “five-star” rating. I checked the review myself. It is indeed a “five-star” restaurant, but this “five-star” rating comes from one single reviewer. I asked myself: How can I trust this review? I don’t even know that person who rated the restaurant.

In real life, people usually need to spend substantial amount of time and efforts to build “trust” among coworkers, teammates, and friends. Have Internet and social media changed our lives already? How would my friend trust a straighter without a thought?

According to a news article by Ed Perkins at Hotel-Online.com, there are two sources of hotel reviews. One category contains the reviews of professional travel writers and appeals more to travel agents because it costs $249 a year for subscription. The other category consists of reviews submitted by ordinary travelers and it is free. I checked out the free websit…

Free WiFi, Here It Comes

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Last Monday, I posted a discussion about WiFi service. I asked: When will full service hotels offer free WiFi service? Today, Marriott International, Inc released an update of its Chicago Marriott Oak Brook Hotel. This property just finished a renovation and started offering complimentary WiFi service in all public areas. How exciting!

U.S.A. Today suggested travelers under economic downturn may seek more “value” in their hotel stays. For example, more travelers choose to stay in hotels that offer free breakfast. Not all full service hotels offer free WiFi yet, but this Chicago property is moving forward. It is no doubt that recession has been pushing hoteliers to package their products with “exceptional value” for travelers.

If you want to read my last Monday’s post, please visit http://linchikwok.blogspot.com/2010/01/when-will-full-service-hotels-offer.html

References:
U.S.A. Today: http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/travel/2009-12-29-hotel-free-food_N.htm
Yahoo!Finance: http://fin…

An Upgrade of Holiday Inn – From Logo to “Human Bedwarmers”

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Holiday Inn, a 52-year old brand under Intercontinental Hotel Group, is going through the process of changing brand image. Its head-to-toe makeover includes logo, curtains, linens, beds, shower heads, and more. Guests can now choose firm or soft pillows on each bed. These are just some standardized upgrades, aren’t they?

In January, the brand introduced the idea of “human bedwarmers” in its London and Manchester locations. Before guests jump in their beds, they can have “human bedwarmers” --- which are real human beings dressed in “special, top-to-bottom-covered sleeper suits” --- warm up their beds. Holiday Inn believes a warm bed would allow guests fall asleep faster.

Here, I am not going to ask the question of whether people would like the idea of having somebody else warm up their beds before they go to bed. I know I don’t like it. However, I am glad to see the efforts Holiday Inn is making. The new concept definitely creates a more contemporary feel and appeals to younger guests, a…

How Will iPhone Travel Apps Change Our Lives and the Way We Do Business?

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There is an app for almost everything. Would you agree? We have seen apps for bidding room price (Priceline.com), visual tours of a spa and a hotel (Fourseasons; with call-for-reservations functions), making or changing reservations with special requests (Choice Hotels and Omni Hotels), checking into their rooms up to 48 hours in advance (Hilton; with apps for different brands). What else can an app do for us?

Hyatt Regency Greenville, S.C. introduced an app to enhance guest service experience. It serves as a concierge in the hotel, allowing guests to see photos of the room service menu, search and get directions to nearby attractions, and order amenities. Room service? Is it necessary? According to the hotel’s Director of Sales and Marketing, 80% of their guests use their handhelds to get to their hotel; the usage of guest services portal has increased by 300 – 400%; moreover, guests who use apps for room service spend 17 – 20% more compared to those who do not.

Obviously, apps have be…

How Much Do You Tip When You Pick Up Takeouts? --- Video News*

One trend we see today is many casual dining restaurants offer takeout options. Takeout business is actually doing very good in some locations. Why? Probably it saves time --- customers can call in advance and pick up their food later on their way home. More so, under recession, ordering takeouts may save customers a few bucks --- they may not order drinks, may tip less, or may not even leave a tip. My questions are: Do we tip when we pick up takeouts? And how much shall we tip?
* This video was downloaded from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0elpzKGsCq4; If you cannot play the video, please click the link and watch the video online.
According to the video, we should leave 10% extra for takeouts and 2 bucks for hotel housekeepers. Here is what I do: if I want my room to be cleaned during my stay, I will make sure I leave a good tip with a small thank you note. By doing so, I am very positive that my housekeeper will feel very much motivated to do her/his job and that my room will be cle…

Boutique Hotels = Unique Experience + Standardized High-Quality Service?

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At the time when many hotels are working very hard to fill their empty rooms with reasonable ADR, developers are also rushing in the boutique hotel market. Here is an example: Marriott has already marketed its Renaissance hotels as a “boutique-inspired” brand. Then, it is teaming with Ian Schrager to develop a new luxury boutique hotel brand --- Edition (http://www.editionhotels.com/). Soon, Marriott is going to operate an independent boutique hotel under the Autograph Collections (today’s Yahoo!Finance; http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Marriott-to-Announce-First-prnews-1272329350.html?x=0&.v=1).
I wonder: Why boutique hotels become so popular? Why people choose to stay in boutique hotels rather than other brands?
Traditionally, a successful hotel brand gains customers’ trust and loyalty with consistency. People love consistent and friendly service in different places, but at the same time, would it be boring if they see the same bathroom and same furniture over and over again? In ge…

When Will Full Service Hotels Offer Free WiFi Service?

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The question of whether hotels should offer free Internet service has been under debate between consumers and hoteliers for years. Hoteliers invest money in building the infrastructure for Internet. It seems reasonable that they charge guests Internet services. USA Today raised this question to us again. http://content.usatoday.com/communities/hotelcheckin/post/2010/01/marriott-hilton-sheraton-hotels-giving-away-internet-service-to-a-special-few/1

In today’s business, it does not matter if hoteliers’ investments have been paid off or not over the years; what really matters is what hotel guests want. According to the statistics released by the World Bank, almost 75% of the U.S. populations are Internet users. In addition, there are millions of iPhone or smart phone subscribers. Hasn’t Internet become part of our lives? Today, many quick-service restaurants and coffee shops offer free WiFi service to customers. Restaurants with free WiFi service may appeal to more Internet users. While c…

What Does It Take to Work in the Hospitality Industry? Staying Calm & Being Creative

Laurel Delaney (2010) suggested 2010 is the year of spontaneous innovation and small business needs to be creative in order to survive in a tough time. Here is a link to her discussion: http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/innovation/article/2010-the-year-of-spontaneous-innovation-laurel-delaney. It is no doubt that being inventive or creative is important in hospitality industry, but it should not limit to the year of 2010. Working in hospitality industry is fun, but also very demanding. People either love working in this field or hate it. Often, people like it because they can experience different customers and different scenarios at work. Every day is a different day, and they never feel bored. It is true. Very likely, hospitality professionals face “new” people with “new” problems every day. Even under the same scenario, one solution might work for one customer but not for the others. One key of solving new problems is to stay calm and be creative. Staying calm will allow us t…

The Special Event Show: 01/11/2010-01/15/2010

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I attended the Special Event Show 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. In addition, I completed a four day educational program and met with many event planning professionals. I heard many creative ideas in planning special events (profit, non-profit, association, catering, marketing, etc.). The followings are key “themes” I summarized from the workshops I attended:

1. Everything is about marketing and branding. It does not matter what means are used. At the end of a day, everyone wants to market his/her business as an excellent event planning company. Entering 2010, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogger are the buzz words in marketing and branding. The result? I am following the professionals and begin using these tools to build my personal brand. 2. The process of marketing and branding occurs before, during, and after the event. 3. A few key questions we need to ask ourselves of an event: What are purposes of the event? What message do you want to deliver to the attendees, community, and t…

2010 - I am entering a New Era

Over the years, I have been very reluctant to accept social networking sites. I keep telling myself I don’t have time to manage my “cyber life.”

Well, time has changed. Corporate America is utilizing social media for branding, marketing, and more. If I want to maintain connected with the real world, which I choose to, I had better get started and make good use of the tools that are available for me.

Here I come, I signed up a LinkedIn account, a Facebook account, and now a blogger account. While I am getting myself familiar with the social media, I look forward to seeing what this new era will bring to my life.