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Elevated Experience

BITAC Panel Cites Personalization, Customization As Keys For Independent Hotels

By Dennis Nessler | August 3, 2021

Customization and personalization were cited by hotel veterans as the keys to enhancing the overall guest experience and creating a memorable stay.

Speaking earlier today during BITAC Independent Live 2021 at The JW Marriott in Marco Island, FL, the hoteliers took part in a panel discussion entitled “Elevated Experience: Independent Hotels Leverage Unique Guest Offerings To Excel.”

Tom Luersen, President, Greenwood Village, CO-based CoralTree Hospitality–which has nearly 20 properties in its management portfolio–kicked off the discussion by detailing how his company goes about trying to create an authentic experience for guests.

“My phrase is ‘uncommon experience.’ Instead of having a cookie-cutter approach to a guest’s arrival, stay, dining experience or wellness experience, we try to customize that. If we can build a relationship with our guest, that’s where we start. It becomes an empty canvass,” he said.

Mark Williams, President, Coakley & Williams Hotel Management Company–a third-generation management company which has nearly 50 properties in its portfolio–amplified the point.

“Customization and personalization grows in direct proportion to the knowledge of our guests,” he said, adding that the company’s independent properties include glamping locations.

“It’s just about training our team members to observe and ask questions to our guests when they’re checking in to help tailor that experience to them,” he added.

Ken Cruse, co-founder and CEO, Soul Community Planet, elaborated on the holistic hospitality company’s comprehensive approach.

“The way we think of experience is that it’s our job to help people continue on the personal journey that they were on before they came to our hotel. We provide an excellent wellness opportunity and an opportunity to integrate with the community in which the hotel resides,” he said.

Roger Bloss, President, Alternative Hospitality, also emphasized the wellness aspect as part of the overall experience.

“Our hotels and resorts are about health and wellness and combining that with entertainment. People can have different experiences throughout the resort. Our hotels focus on health and wellness around the cannabis plant and we educate people on how they can immerse themselves in this wellness area, as well as the recreational side,” he said.

Meanwhile, the panelists all agreed that labor–both retaining the current workforce and finding new qualified personnel–remains a top challenge for the industry.

Williams noted labor challenges can make it particularly difficult to “recognize, remember and interact with guests” and maintain that personal relationship which is critical.

“It’s hard having stability and consistency in terms of staff. Having that constant in-flow and out-flow of people makes it hard to build that stability,” he said.

Cruse, for his part, referenced the company’s coastal Oregon property in Depoe Bay where it has taken more of a proactive approach with the guests.

“We tell them we’re trying to scramble to get services back to where they were before COVID, but to please bear with us. We kind of fall on our sword before the guests arrive at the property and that seems to help a little,” he said.

Luersen put the current labor struggles in context.

“There’s not been an easy solution. In my 35 years I’ve never seen anything like it. We focus really on retention. We’ve implemented things like recognition and achievement bonuses. We focus on the quality of the employee,” he concluded.

Dennis Nessler

Dennis Nessler is Editor-in-Chief of Hotel Interactive, parent company of Hotel Community Forum. Nessler brings more than 28 years of editorial experience to his position, including some 17 years in the hospitality industry. As part of his duties, Nessler not only covers the industry editorially but moderates various high-level panel sessions at hospitality events and frequently conducts one-on-one interviews with C-level executives.

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