Monday, October 31, 2011

Travel/Leisure 2011 Hospitality Awards


Singita Grumeti Reserves (Saskwa Lodge, Sabora Tented Camp, and Faru Faru Lodge), Tanzania
Santorini Greece
Crystal Cruises
Singapore Airlines
Virgin America
Micato Safaris
Rancho La Puerta Fitness Resort & Spa Tecate, Mexico

Sofitel Queenstown Hotel & Spa New Zealand

“It’s clear that remote and exotic destinations—places that convey a sense of authenticity and adventure—are ruling the day once again in Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards,” said Nancy Novogrod , editor in chief of Travel + Leisure. “The top ten hotels overall are African camps and lodges; resorts in India; a property in Chiang Mai; and a luxury lodge in Montana. The top cities overall span the globe—Bangkok, Florence, New York, Istanbul, Siem Reap, and Sydney, to mention a few.”

Has anyone been to these award winning properties?

Hospitality Service much better in India?

During my last visit to India, I opened my eyes to how hospitality products and services should be managed. I was really taken aback. Coming from North America, I see hotels in India as true leaders in the industry, and there's a lot that can be learned.
The service there is outstanding. I stayed at the Courtyard in Mumbai, and was treated like royalty starting from the bell man to the room service attendant. Even when some requests are not honored, the employees inform with a humble apology on their face. They do not expect a tip, as do North American employees. The norm in America, as I have seen countless amount on times is if you dont tip good, the employees treat you bad. While in America, you might hesitate to confront your server about getting cold food in fear of bad service or a frown from the server, the same can not be said in India. Your attendant empathises with you, and even when a unreasonable guest is demanding, they keep their calm and make the situation right. Their behaviour was so genuine that even I would be a happy with a average product. I guess it comes from the great Indian norm, treat all guests like family. May all Americans learn from this.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Are hotels dependent on Third Party Wholesalers?

By Third Party wholesalers, I am referring to Expedia,, orbitz, priceline, etc. All of these sites claim to offer discounted hotel rooms. The truth is, all franchises offer lowest rate guarantee on their own websites. Thus, all rates are supposed to be in parity-no website has the edge over others in terms of rates is concerned. Then why do most people use third party websites to book hotel rooms rather than going to the Franchise website if they offer the same rate? Third party websites take an average of 20% of the rate as their fee, in other words, the hotel loses out on 20% on room revenue every time an consumer elects to book from an third party website. Franchises get a lot of royalty ( a lot!) from franchisees, and are still not able to market enough for the consumer to purchase rooms through the main hotel website. I see a very viable solution to this. Consumers go to third party sites so that they can see multiple hotels at a time, and choose within that site, rather than going to each individual hotel website, saving valuable time. If a company like Progressive insurance saw this, and implemented rates of all its major competitors on its site to bring traffic straight to them, why don't hotel franchises? People who are only looking for hotel rooms should be coming straight the the hotel website, and be given the luxury of comparing rates as they do on third party websites. If only all franchise owners joined hands and pressured their well paid franchises, we could see this happening. And soon, third party websites will have to look elsewhere to find business.

Companies expect to pay more for Airfares and Hotel rooms next year

"Companies are attuned to the importance of travel and boosting their budgets in the face of higher rates so they can keep their people on the road. Critically, travel buyers recognize that as rates climb, the best defense is a good offense. Buyers are working to identify savings and protect their budgets through strong travel policies and strategic negotiations with suppliers heading into 2012." said Jim McMullan, GBTA president and CEO.

Highlights from the GBTA Annual Industry Pulse Report include:

  • With the exception of domestic car rentals, buyers expect average airfares and hotel rates in North America to rise between 3% and 5% in 2012. Buyers expect average rates/fares to rise between 4% and 6% in Asia Pacific.
  • Buyers expect domestic airfares to increase the most in 2012:

o North America – 5% projected increase to average fare of $487

o APAC – 5.3% projected increase to average fare of $412

  • Buyers also expect fares to rise in other airfare categories:
    • International economy – N.A: 4.4% to $1,193; APAC: 5.1% to $1,146
    • International business class – N.A.: 3.9% to $4,929; APAC: 4.6% to $3,535
  • Projected increases for domestic hotels (N.A: 4.1% to $165; APAC: 4.9% to $181) and international hotels (N.A: 3.3% to $262; APAC: 4.4% to $618) are not far behind.
Ready or not, prices are going to soar, however can the economy keep up?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Will the Hotel Market ever recover?

US citizens used to spend more and save less before the recession. Now, they cant spend, because they dont save. Companies, who laid of thousands of employees, are now managing with less people who provide the same productivity as before. People realized they could curb their luxuries and spending habits and adapt to the failing economy to survive. Even if the US economy wakes up, the American people are not going to freely spend their hard earned money anymore. The new mantra is to save money and survive. The leisure market in hotels has stalled to a new low, and while business travel is trending up, the amount of business travelers have shrunk. Less business with too many rooms in the market. Until, a future generation comes up, who did not have to witness the sufferings of the current economy, I believe the Hotel market is not recovering to its pre recession levels. Its a tough road ahead, my fellow hoteliers. So put a brake on unneccessary spending and get a great management team to keep your P & L statement green. Any opinions?

Should companies keep traveling?

"There's a link between travel and a company's top-line growth," said Alicia Tillman, vice president of global communications marketing services for American Express' global business travel.
In an earlier AMEX survey, the company found that companies that utilize business travel estimate that they won over roughly 50% of their perspective customers through face-to-face contact, compared with just 31% without in person meetings.
"Despite emerging technologies that can serve as alternatives to travel, nothing really replaces what you gain with those in person interactions," Tillman said, noting that travel is seen as a competitive advantage and helps build client relationships.

If I were a company owner that required my employees to do a lot of traveling, I would definitely be interested in utilizing virtual meeting spaces-cost efficient technology to offset the traveling cost. On shorter flights, flying first class would not be required, as it is debatable whether a relaxed person in first class is more productive than someone sitting in economy class. Also, corporations give out a blank check for business travelers to choose the best hotels in the market to stay in. I would pre negotiate a rate for my company before lettting my employee us the company card to unnessary pile up points for their personal benefits. There are slew of other ways to cut traveling expenses. This is just the start. Any one disagrees?

Is the STAR Report a useful tool?

To nearly everyone involved in the hospitality business, the STAR report is the periodic answer to the question, “How did the hotel do compared to our competition?” Yet I challenge conventional thinking by asserting that the STAR report is not the best tool to value your competition or a property you are eying to purchase.

For example, Property A being number 1 in occupancy compared to 5 other properties in its STAR report, one can not jump to the conclusion it is the best in its market. Property A might have the least rooms out of its competition, therefore, occupancy will look higher. If property A has 100 rooms and sold 75 - it is 75% occupied, however if Property B has 200 rooms and sold 120-it is 60% occupied. However, Property B sold almost twice amount of rooms as Property A. In a different analysis, if Property B was showing higher occupancy, then its figures are probably being boasted by Out of Order/ Maintenance rooms that show less inventory. There are always ways to tweak your occupancy to look better that the competition. Average Daily Rate (ADR) is a more productive measure to look if your property is selling around the same rate as the competition, thus not leaving money on the table. However, ADR can be manipulated depending on how third party vendors such as, are taking their cut upfront or billing at the end of the month. I can go down the list on the pros and cons of STAR Report- justification why STAR report can be only a informative tool, however not a great tool to measure success.

I believe in the bottom line: Holding the GM accountable for ROI is you’re held accountable for a measured return on each dollar invested, then you’ll question each and every expenditure to ensure that it’s an optimal decision. Any questions or concerns?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Overall Satisfaction with Hotel Brands Decline

Prior to the economic downturn, hoteliers improved their offerings, increasing satisfaction with the overall guest experience as well as cost and fees satisfaction. Subsequently, during the recession, hotel chains reduced prices to stimulate demand which continued to improve satisfaction with cost and until higher rates began driving satisfaction back down in 2010. Hoteliers also made cutbacks in staffing levels, services and investment in the property to reduce operating costs during this period, which led to the deterioration of satisfaction with the broader guest experience.

"As guests have been coming back, so have their expectations," said Stuart Greif, vice president and general manager of the global travel and hospitality practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "Hoteliers, like many businesses, are feeling the strain of trying to maintain lower cost structures until they see more sustainable levels of demand. There is danger, however, in allowing their product and service to continue to deteriorate. It is critically important that hoteliers focus on improving the guest experience. If not, they risk losing customers, market share and financial viability." Any tips for hoteliers on how to tackle this issue?

Bailouts for Small Businesses?

"Over the past decade and a half, America's small businesses have created 65 percent of all new jobs in the country," Obama told about 150 employees in a warehouse at a storage business filled with rows of boxes three-stories high.
"These companies are the engine of job growth in America," he said. "They fuel our prosperity. And that's why they have to be at the forefront of our recovery." Judging by what the President says, one would think that small businesses should have been in the forefront of receiving bailout money. Wrong. Wall Streets big financial Institutions/Banks and Insurance Companies have received maximum bailout money. The bailout to the banks were meant so that, they could free up from bad debt, and start loaning money to small businesses again. Instead of the money rotating back to small businesses, the money stalled in the pockets of CEOs who took unheard of bonuses during this time of crisis. Insurance companies, although their unfair practices in charging people extra premium for even walking the wrong way, came out green from the bailout. While small business owners are worried about survival, the government has not done anything to address the sector, which drives the most jobs in our country. All these presidential debates are just becoming monotone, just tell the people what they want to hear, and then forget about them. There has to be a way for all small business owners to fight for their share of the bailout. Any ideas on where to start?

IPADS, Smartphones present issues for Hoteliers

Now, more than ever, customers are complaining about the slow internet speed in hotels.

It is mainly due to broad use of iPads, mobile tablets, and smartphones which are heavy users of video streaming. “The iPad is the fastest-selling device in consumer electronics history, and because of it the demand placed on any public place Wi-Fi system has gone up exponentially in the last year and a half,” said David W. Garrison, the chief executive of iBAHN, a provider of systems for the hotel and meetings industries.

While travelers are unhappy about slower connections, the real pressure is to hotel owners, who are still limping financially due to a weak economy. While most hotels offer free hi speed connections, the new mantra is "free is not enough, the consumers want free and fast." As a hotel operator, I have no choice but to increase bandwidth speed and open up more for our guests. In a time where rates for hotel rooms are getting lower, added expenses are bound to affect the bottom line more now than ever. What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Marriott Courtyard Inks NFL Pass

Marriott International said it has signed a multi-year deal making it the exclusive lodging category sponsor of the NFL and its Courtyard by Marriott brand the “official hotel sponsor of the NFL.” With Marriott being one of the most recognized faces in the hospitality industry, it is just fitting that it partners up with the NFL, which is the most successful sporting league in the USA. NFL has a huge fan following that ranges from business to leisure travelers, and with this new partnership, they will be closer to the game than ever. Marriott has once again proved that it resides at the top of the hospitality spectrum by engaging in strategic partnerships with successful enterprises like the NFL. Courtyard, generally considered for its focus on the weekday business traveler, now opens up new doors for itself to enter the leisure weekend market with this deal. Most games are played on Sunday. Lets see how the competition responds to this development