The annual Vantage Hospitality conference kicked off this morning and today is all about helping the company’s hoteliers be more successful in their own businesses. They’re focusing on giving its mostly mom and pop hotel owners a chance to learn the big strategies that can make a difference to the bottom line as well as those small tips that can really help hoteliers get better rates while driving customer satisfaction.
Vantage Hospitality is of a course a membership
based organization they dub a Freestyle® Brand Affiliation model, which the company’s executives say offers hotel owners the resources of a hotel franchise
and the freedom of a membership
model. Its affiliated members have a chance to vote on all future issues and programs Vantage would like to implement, a strategy its President and CEO Roger Bloss says gives hotel owners a chance to choose their own destiny without the parent brand forcing policies and programs on them.
Vantage has more than 1,100 hotels with several brands including its economy segment Americas Best Value Inn and Canadas Best Value Inn as well as its midmarket focused Lexington Collection.
According to Bloss, it’s not the rules that matter most but forging strong relationships. “It’s about friendship that leads to healthy partnership relationships,” Bloss told conference attendees this morning during a general session. “We started the company that way and it was culture from day one. We won't ever deviate from that philosophy and we are so proud to be here and have you [hotel owners] as part of our team.”
It’s a philosophy can that be seen throughout Vantage’s entire corporate culture and one that Bloss is extremely proud to promote. Bloss is also one of the most visible CEOs at a brand conference. He can be seen constantly working the crowd to ensure his hotel owner customers are happy and are able to speak with him about anything they feel important.
In fact, tomorrow Bloss and COO/CFO Bernie Moyle will be hosting a Town Hall style session dubbed “All Access” where owners are able to ask them anything they want in a public forum. (Editorial note: I’m actually hosting this session and the one rule I was given was to make sure the crowd asks challenging questions as Bloss felt there were too many softball questions asked at the 2012 conference. Rarely do you see a CEO wanting to be so frank with his hoteliers and it should be an interesting and informative session.)
During the past year the economy segment saw an ADR increase of 3.6 percent growth, according to STR, which is higher than the midscale and upper midscale segments. So people at this event are happy. But to make sure they have more opportunity for success in 2014, Don Landry of Top Ten Hospitality Advisors shared how he sees the hotel industry going and how hoteliers can find more success in what is expected to be a record breaking year.
He feels Revpar as an industry will go up at least 6 percent, which is in line with other industry estimates we have seen, and sees rate going up twice the amount of inflation. That’s climbing at about 4 percent he said.
Here’s a great lesson for all hoteliers out there he thinks will help companies make a big difference to their bottom lines in 2014. He said to train the front desk staff to ask these two questions:
- What brings you to the area?
- How did you pick my specific hotel?
“This will tell you where demand is coming from and what you are doing that is working. Then you can go fish for where the demand is coming from and do more of what is working,” said Landry.
He is also a proponent of what he calls CARE Service:
Communicate: Train staff to communicate and make eye contact with guests. Smile and talk first otherwise it is not hospitality, he said.
Anticipate: If someone orders French fries can you anticipate they want ketchup? So he says it is easy to anticipate that guests might need basic information such as needing directions, or wanting to know what restaurants are nearby or even they would want a WiFi code. “Anticipate and give it to them in advance,” he said. Incredibly, I have been to many hotels where the folks behind the front have no idea. And they presumably live in the community!
Respond: You have two choices, fix it or get someone that can fix it or make it better, when it comes to a problem. “You cannot ignore it or say you cannot do it,” Landry explained.
And, Enthusiasm is contagious. “It costs you nothing. Catch your employees doing something right and compliment your staff in front of your guests. Your staff will live up to that expectation. If you say ‘Harry behind the desk knows every restaurant in the area he would be glad to help you’, that employee will strive to improve service and live up to that standard.
He also added one more tip, which brings us back to the notion of friendship. He says hotel owners should put their picture on their business cards and give out 100 a month in the community.
“People do business with friends and if they have a card with your picture they are your friends,” said Landry.