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Showing posts from April, 2010

Thoughts about an After-Event Event

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Amie Parnes at POLITICO.com interviewed an event planner in Dufour & Company Productions, the event planning company in charge of the MSNBC’s “afterparty” after the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. The purpose of this article is not to describe the detail of this “after-event” event. Instead, I would like to discuss what it really takes behind the glamour of event planning.

· Event planning means hard work. Even for a “small” MSNBC reception after the “big” White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the event planners in Dufour have been working diligently for six months to finalize every detail. One can imagine how much time and efforts it will take to plan a real “big deal.”

· “Events aren’t really just events … Events typically have a purpose.” Some organizations plan an event just because they are doing that every year. In this case, professional event planners need to help an organization to re-define the purpose of an event and work towards to the goals.

· “Most important business …

Suggestions of Managing Social Media (Daniel Edward Craig)

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Daniel Craig provides some useful advices of managing social media for hotels at HospitalityNet.org and Hotel-Online.com. I agree with him for the most part, except for the first two ideas.

· LESS IS MORE. Certainly, a company should spend its resource wisely and focus on a limited number of selected channels. For independent hotels or restaurants, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube may seem plenty. However, I believe picture-sharing media like Flickr and Snapfish are also important. A hotel or restaurant may find advantages over others by having some “searchable” pictures online --- the key here is to label every picture with the right “key words.”
· SHOULD YOU START A BLOG? Daniel says no, but I argue that blogs may still play an important role in communications, especially in the corporate level. Marriott and McDonald’s are using blogs to communicate with captive audience (including internal and external customers) about their strategies and policies.

· LISTEN FIRST. Listen to what peopl…

Armani Hotels & Resorts: Another Luxury Boutique-Style Brand

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Years ago, the luxury fashion icon Bulgari opened its own boutique-style Bulgari Hotels & Resorts in Bali and Milan. In February, W Hotels hired a corporate Fashion Director to oversee the styling and retail collections of the brand. Today, Giorgio Armani opened its first Armani Hotel in Dubai and is planning to open a second one in Milan in 2011 and a third one in Marrakech in 2012.
Armani brand, no matter as a fashion icon or a hotel/resort product  promotes luxury lifestyle. Here are some facts of the Armani Hotel in Dubai:

· Located in Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.
· Designed by Armani (of course).
· The property has 160 rooms, 8 restaurants, a spa, a lounge, and a chocolate & flower shop.
· Rates range from 4,000 dirhams ($1,100) to 40,000 dirhams ($11,000) a night.
· A table in “Armani Prive,” a nightclub equipped with the world’s biggest LCD screen, costs 3,000 dirhams.

I expect Armani Hotels & Resorts also sell Armani’s signature retail products. It is …

The Big Money behind Tiny Foods

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Bruce Horovitz at USA Today reported that Houlihan’s just introduced 23 small-plate items and California Pizza Kitchen rolled out small cravings items that top at $4.99. In the past several years, restaurants have been trying to put small items like mini burgers, bite-size dessert, and sampler platter on the menu. “Downsizing” becomes another big trend in restaurants because tiny foods can bring in big bucks.

Downsizing items can appeal to customers in a variety of ways. For example:
1. Smaller portion can make “unhealthy” choice become less “harmful” --- people may feel less “guilty” or more comfortable by having small portion of snacks or dessert.
2. Smaller portion often means a smaller price tag --- this sounds perfect during recession.
3. Customers may feel more willing to try new bite-size items --- finally, people don’t need to find somebody to share food or dessert with them.

Of course, down-sizing does not mean “cheap.” Plate presentation and the quality of food are still very im…

Travel Game Changer - What does Google's potential acquisition of ITA mean? - GLG News

The Magical “Like” Button from Facebook

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A simple Facebook’s “Like” button can create a huge business opportunity for a company. Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook offers free “Like” button to other websites, allowing its 400 million registered users to rate if they like the content they read. Then, the users’ endorsement of a content, together with a hyperlink to the website, will show up on their Facebook pages.

Companies always want to understand who their existing and/or potential customers are. Facebook can help marketers accomplish this goal by profiling users’ data. Now, with the “magical” “Like” button, marketer can also gather “more explicit information” of a person’s preference about a brand, a product, a service, and more.

At this point, Facebook has not launched any new “ad-targeting products in conjunction with the service.” The power of the “Like” button comes from the built-in connection between a company’s website and Facebook. A user’s approval of a content may get the attention from his/he…

Nation's Restaurant News: Restaurant Results Show Consumers Dining Out Again

By Sarah E. Lockyer @ Nation's Restaurant News

(April 22, 2010) First-quarter reports from public restaurant companies rolled in this week and have highlighted a long-awaited return of guest traffic after nearly two years of eateries losing customers who have been reluctant to spend.

Restaurant executives from McDonald’s, Chipotle, The Cheesecake Factory and Brinker International all said they have begun to see increased traffic trends, leading to same-store sales improvements and increased bottom lines.

Read more: http://www.nrn.com/article.aspx?menu_id=1368&id=382410#ixzz0lsVvs3UF

Green Hospitality

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Going green is the one of the big trends in hospitality industry. When April 22, the 40th Earth Day, is around the corner, three students in my Hotel and Resort Operations class presented a topic on green hotel concept in class. They showed us numerous green practices of Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in LA and Orchard Garden Hotel in San Francisco. Here are some examples:

· Using organic bath products and sustainable amenities;
· Adopting an energy control system;
· Promoting “reusing towels program” to guests;
· Using energy-efficient appliances;
· Recycling;
· Separating food waste to produce organic fertilizer;
· Using recycled materials in constructions;
· …

These two hotels benefit from these green practices by saving operation costs and gaining marketing advantages. When hotel chains follow this trend (many of them do), green practices will bring more impacts to the environment. For example, Hilton introduced a LightStay system in 2009 to assist properties in calculating and an…

Investing in Lodging Stocks in China

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Jim Cramer (Mad Money) talked about lodging stocks, like Starwood and Marriott, several times. Today, I would like to discuss my opinions of purchasing lodging stocks in China.

Many international hotel chains only operate full-service or luxury hotels in China. Even a Courtyard becomes a full-service hotel brand in China, many of which operate a minimum of two restaurants, serving Chinese and Western cuisines from early morning till late evening. These international hotels meet the needs of international businessmen, but they might not be the first choice for Chinese domestic leisure travelers.

Majority of Chinese domestic leisure travelers may prefer a budget, clean, and accessible hotel to an international 3- or 5- star hotel, which had made budget hotel a niche market in China roughly 10 years ago. Budget hotels become more and more popular in China over the years. Chinese budget hotel owners can compete with international hotel chains with fewer capitals and lower operation (servic…

What Is Your Decision in Managing Room Rates under Unexpected Circumstances?

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Tens of thousands, likely millions of, travelers are stranded in airports around the world due to the volcanic eruptions in South Iceland. Saturday, I heard news about people who live close by Newark Airport extending their kind assistance to stranded passengers. They offer their homes to those extremely-exhausted travelers for showers and even a nap.

This morning, I also heard another piece of news about hotels charging outrageous rate to those travelers. For example, a hotel in Hong Kong Airport increased its room rate from €250, to €460 in the middle of the day, and then to €800 in the evening. A hotel room in Sydney Airport changed its rate from $150 Australian Dollars ($138 USD) on Friday to AU $350 on Saturday. I understand how revenue management works in a hotel, and I know better that managing a hotel is running a business. There is no way that a hotel will, or should, offer a free room. I just wonder if you are managing an airport hotel, how you would control the room rate in …

In-Flight Food

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It seems nobody cares if an airline serves free in-flight food anymore because we all know how good the food is. While airlines want to cut costs, quick service and casual dining restaurants in airport locations are pocketing more money from travelers. A recent survey reveals that 19% of leisure travelers and 21% business travelers bought a meal or snack on a plane in 2009. When a flight did not offer a free meal, only 6% travelers would purchase food on board, and 56% would buy it in an airport.

Airlines have a profit margin of 50-80% in alcohol sales. However, for every $10 sales of in-flight food, airline can only earn 5 to 10 cents. Regardless, airlines want to offer better-taste, in-flight food again (for a price of course). Healthy food/snacks are available in Air Canada and Alaska Airlines, and are tested by United Airlines in certain locations. American Airlines partners with Boston Market. Even JetBlue is planning to sell food in selected long-haul flights.

Customers benefit f…

A New Smartphone (not iPhone) App for Event Planners

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The Perfect Date, an event planning and marketing firm, introduced an event planning app for smartphones in Google’s Android Market. This app has two functions. One is a meeting space calculator, assisting people in determining the space needed for a particular venue or the number of people that can fit into a space. The other is a budget calculator, allowing people to include all expenses related to an event and calculate the average cost of each attendee.

This app seems handy for professional event planners when they are away from their office and need to make a quick decision. I expect this app will become very popular among brides and bride moms. Another highlight is that this app does not target iPhone users. iPhone is so dominate in the market now, but I like to see The Perfect Date uses another channel. Competition is a good thing.

Last (nevertheless), I have to admit that I was quite disappointed in the Android Market when I tried to find out more information about this app. The…

Renaissance Is Bringing the “Boutique Style” to Syracuse

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Today, I invited Britney Bubrowski, the HR Manager, and Shin Lee, the Revenue Manager of Renaissance Syracuse Hotel to speak in my Hotel and Resort Operations class. They presented very informative information about their career paths, job responsibilities, as well as, the hotel’s plan of going “boutique style.”

Marriott acquired the Renaissance brand in the 90s. Since then, Renaissance has gone through several changes. If my memory is correct, Renaissance was branded by Marriott according to a property’ specific location and designed to provide guests “unique” experience. Actually, this idea is very similar to today’s boutique hotel concept. Afterwards, Marriott marketed Renaissance as a “boutique-inspired” brand. Now, Renaissance Syracuse is transferring into a “boutique-style” property, which would look similar to the Renaissance in Washington D.C. Such transformation will include not only guest assessable areas such as lobby and guestrooms but also the back of the house. Associate…

Hotel Indigo San Diego Is Now Equipped with iPad

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iPad was just released several days ago, but Hotel Indigo San Diego has already adopted iPad in guest service operations. Hotel Indigo is a boutique concept of InterContinental Hotels. The brand targets technology-savvy travelers. As a result, I feel using iPad in guest service (e.g. Concierge) seems a good match with Hotel Indigo’s image.

According to the GM of this San Diego property, iPad serves as a “digital guest book” that allows guests to stay connected with its associates, other hotel guests, neighbors, and local residents. As part of the newly-introduced “GuestPad” program, iPad allows guests to:
(1) find recommendations on local business,
(2) receive confirmations for reservations, and
(3) get directions.
In addition, hotel staff will assist guests in using iPad to post comments and questions on Hotel Indigo’s Facebook page and Twitter account. Its Facebook and Twitter content will also be fed on the hotel lobby’s widescreen TV. Guests will then receive additional advices from t…

Making Hotel Reservations Directly on Design Hotels’ Facebook Page

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In the last couple months, we often discuss the possibility of making hotel reservations on a hotel’s Facebook page. Today, Design Hotels may become the first hotel chain that accomplished this goal.

Most Americans might not have heard of Design Hotels because it has limited operations in the U.S. (Healdsburg, L.A., Miami, and New York City only). Yet, Design Hotels runs more than 180 properties around the world. As of 3:15pm on April 9, 2010, Design Hotels have 6,712 Facebook fans. By creating a platform that allows Facebook fans to make reservations directly on Facebook, Design Hotels bring their connections with their clients and fans to a different level.

I tried Design Hotels’ reservation tool on Facebook. After I selected the location and dates, I clicked “check availability.” Then, I was directed to the hotel’s webpage seamlessly. The rest is just some “routine” procedures I will find in a typical hotel reservation website. I cannot help wondering which hotel chain will be the ne…

Best Western: Another Hotel Chain Undergoing Rebrand

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Earlier this year, David Kong, the CEO of Best Western Hotels indicated that he is planning to categorize the hotels under a “tier system.” Today, Janet Harmer at CatererSearch.com reported a detail strategic plan of Best Western.

Best Western is known for its diverse portfolio. Many Best Western hotels are independently owned and operated. As a result, some of them are well-kept and provide exceptional guest service, and others may look old and boring.

According to Harmer, this rebrand campaign will take place in U.K., including “country house hotels, boutique-style properties in city centres, seaside establishments and a 12th-century castle.” Best Western acknowledges the unique personality of each property. The rebrand and follow-up marketing campaign will focus on fun and more importantly, “the distinctiveness of properties.” After renovations, hotels will host a variety of events and functions to create a new image and awareness of Best Western.

The results of rebrand may include: …

Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel & Conference Center (Sheraton SU)

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Today, SU’s Hotel & Resort Operations class and I toured Sheraton SU. We met with the executives and listened to their presentations about managers’ roles, career advices, and the hotel’s strategic plans.

Sheraton SU has an enthusiastic executive team and well-maintained facilities. No wonder the property’s GSI (Guest Service Index) scores top 5% among all Sheraton Hotels and Resorts in North America. Recently, the property won the 2010 Good Earthkeeping Award from the New York State Hospitality and Tourism Association (NYSH&TA) --- the embedded video shows how “green” this hotel is*.

As part of Sheraton brand’s $6 billion makeover plan, Sheraton SU is undergoing an over $3 million renovation in 2011. The hotel will use more environment-friendly materials and energy efficient appliances. I am glad to know that SU owns a hotel that sets high standards for the industry in terms of guest service and sustainability. I look forward to seeing the updates of Sheraton SU.
References:
Th…

Morton's Makes the Most of Social Media

An excellent example of using social media in restaurant business:

Morton's The Steakhouse uses Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to spread the word about the restaurant chain and its events, and to put itself in the middle of a potentially lucrative conversation.

Click the title to read the full article.

Restaurant Performance Index at Highest Level in Two Years

Restaurant Performance Index at Highest Level in Two Years: "PRESS RELEASE: (Washington, D.C.) Driven by a solid improvement in r..."

Video News: Hotel Makeovers

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Travelers can now find some new faces of several "old" hotel brands in Manhattan. We have discussed the new designs or expecting changes of Holiday Inns, Sheraton, W Hotels, Westin Hotels, Aloft, and Motel 6 before. This video shows the changes of these hotels. In addition, it introduces a one-penny hotel deal in the end. Have you stayed in any of these updated hotels? How was your experience?
References:
NY1.com: http://tinyurl.com/LinchiKwok04012010
Picture was copied from: http://tinyurl.com/LinchiKwok04012010P