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 Are you ready for Business? – A Hospitality Recovery Plan
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By John R. Hendrie, CEO, Hospitality Performance, Inc., October 2005

When a natural disaster strikes, the immediate results are devastating.  We all have watched the events unfold in our Gulf Coast areas in awe and sorrow, with each day bringing extraordinary stories and sights of damage, distress and heartbreak.  We have also witnessed unbelievable courage and resolve to rebuild lives, communities and businesses, for with usual American “can do”, the vision of the future is attainable and bright.  However, each stage of recovery will be under the Media microscope:  successes will be showcased, missteps magnified and corruption and flim flam exposed.

With Tourism known as major economic driver for the Gulf Coast, the Hospitality Industry will play a significant role in not only the rebuilding effort but also what will become the new landscape.  Very heady times, representing huge investment, dedication, and vision!

But, what the most significant question now and for the foreseeable future is:  “How and what are you doing and are you open and ready for business?”  You may recall last year when the hurricanes blanketed the Caribbean and portions of the Southeast.  Information was scarce, uneven, and inaccurate.  Official spokespeople or Agencies were simply not believed.  USA Today was particularly vigilant in their reporting.  No amount of marketing dollars can sway the public mindset.  They are simply too smart, too wary, spin adverse and, often, too fickle - you are off the radar screen.  

So, this is a major dilemma, understanding that every move, announcement and action will be scrutinized, steadily, by various media concerns, some responsibly content directed, others moved to “yellow journalism”.  Yet, the Gulf Coast area does want the good news to flow, the various stages of recovery and reconstruction noted, towns safe, residents relocated back, and, for the Hospitality Industry,” Yes, we are open for business!”

At least six (6) constituencies make for a robust Hospitality Destination:

  1. The individual Hospitality Business (all Lodgings, Casinos, Restaurants, Attractions and Retail Stores).
  2. The Destination Marketing Organization (CVB, Chamber, Trade Association), representing the Hospitality community and often a Convention Center.
  3. The Meeting Planner, who directs volume business to the specific venue or Destination area.
  4. The ultimate Consumer – our Visitor.
  5. The infrastructure which supports the Destination in terms of private (taxis, parking lots) or public services.
  6. Purveyors and providers to the Hospitality Industry.
Understand that each group above has their own needs and faces their own particular unique set of challenges, yet their present and future well being are interwoven and mutually dependent. There needs to be a shared Vision and Commitment to this new Landscape!
  • The Hotelier wants to welcome back the Guest, the Restaurateur wishes to seat their patrons, attractions want the turnstile to whirl, casinos seek the sounds of slots, and retailers look for the foot traffic.  
  • The CVB wants to promote these businesses, and attract Visitors to town.  
  • The Meeting Planner is looking for quality accommodations, spacious meeting rooms, dining options, best value and price, and, of course, safety to meet their Group’s needs.
  • The Visitor, either leisure or group related, looks for some level Quality Assurance, as well as activities within their budget, as they decide where to stay, dine, play and shop.
  • The city “hum” and “buzz” wants to return to some normalcy.
  • Purveyors want to provide their goods and services.
Many Gulf Coast areas will be artistically creating a new Destination canvas. You will rise again! The choice of colors, the palette, with all the tints, shades and combinations, should be drawn from four strategic “wells”:
  • Brand Development and Marketing
  • Measurement/Research
  • Education and Development
  • Quality Assurance
Brand Development and Marketing:  This is the opportunity to refashion or design anew your Brand Promise.  Gathering talent from all sectors, you will create a concept which will be heard in a crowded, competitive Destination Marketplace.  The picture you frame will be defining, compelling, passionate and stimulate all the senses.  You will show your culture, history and uniqueness, permitting each participant to leverage their assets.  And, this consistent message will distinguish you in terms of positioning, advertising and marketing.

Measurement/Research:  This is ongoing –  your homework and your  report Card.  The data collected will demonstrate whether or not your marketing, your Performance, and Visitor Expectations have been integrated.  You will be able to allocate resources, identify “hot buttons” and Improvement Areas, and further establish Destination-wide Benchmarks.

Education and Development:  This aspect provides the opportunity to build Service capacity, upgrade skills and competencies at all levels, create Career Paths, better retain and attract talent, and establish Standardization of Excellence.  Some Destinations create their own “Institute”, while others partner with existing Hospitality Schools and Programs.  But, such a central concept is critical for immediate and ongoing success. Any Program, whether newly created to “kick off” your initiatives or support them long term, like Housekeeping Basics or Service Standards, should reside in this structure you have designed to move the Destination forward and upwards.  Additionally, you have addressed a significant social challenge by providing education and opportunity for your existing and returning populace.

The first step is an across the board “Ambassador 101” Certification process for the Private as well as the Public Sectors, particularly, as your Brand, your essence, becomes formulated.  The Community must become engaged, enthused and sold.  Whether you are a policeman, a cabbie, a parking lot attendant or the front line hospitality provider, you create that essential 1st impression.

Quality Assurance:  With this tactic, Standards are designated, they can be measured and rewarded.  Open to all sectors of the Destination, but focused primarily on the Hospitality Businesses, a QA Program evaluates product and service delivery, as well as physical conditions and environment.  Independent verification creates trust.

These four building blocks are essential to the Recovery effort, enlisting all community participation to build a new and better landscape, elevating the Visitor Experience by establishing a relationship, not merely a transaction. It will be memorable, they will return and you will regain prominence, but only hard work and superb product and service delivery will recreate that stature.  

However, right now it all comes back to information which is timely and certifiable.  When one says “they are open for business!”, what does this mean, at what level, and what condition?  At this point reputations and former “standings” are no longer reliable.  Throw the “four stars” out, the remarkable commentaries from Travel Magazines are no longer valid, former reviews or even plateau ratings by marketing organizations are irrelevant.  Many Hospitality Businesses are almost back at step one or two. 

What is needed today and tomorrow is a reaffirmation of the foundation of Hospitality – Hospitality Assurance Certification that reasonable, fundamental Quality standards have been met:  cleanliness, safety, security, comfort, acceptable service level and condition of the facility.  That is what your public wants to know.  That is what is important now and going forward.  This applies to ALL Hospitality businesses which “touch the Visitor”.  This is not merely a prescription; it is a business credo.  It has always begun with a commitment to Quality which is critical for the memorable Visitor Experience, whether you be in a recovery mode or well established.


About the author.  John Hendrie, of Hospitality Performance, a full service Consulting Consortium, considers the Visitor Experience the portal to Remarkable Hospitality. www.hospitalityperformance.com

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Contact:
John R. Hendrie, CEO
Hospitality Performance, Inc.
www.hospitalityperformance.com
978-346-4387
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Also See: Destination "Damage Control" Starts with that Single Visitor Complaint / John R. Hendrie /  October 2005 
Grappling with Progress, A Destination Denies Chains / John R Hendrie / October  2005
Promoting the Dining Experience by Matching Expectations / John R Hendrie / September 2005
The Gratuity Revolution / John R Hendrie / August 2005
Plotting His Travels; Some Bumps Encountered - Chaper III / John R. Hendrie / August 2005
Jacques Sets Up Shop or Jacques Joie Hospitality Advisory Establishes Rating Scheme / John R. Hendrie / August 2005
Thats So Jacques' / John R. Hendrie / August 2005
The Symbol of Hospitality, the Pineapple, Has Morphed to That of a Kumquat; Hotel Operators Focus on the Guest Becoming Secondary / John R. Hendrie / August 2005
Ready for Pluckin'; Hospitality Represents that Fat Roaster, Just Sitting there, Plump and Contented / John R. Hendrie / July 2005
Literally Every Destination Marketing Organization Is Under Duress; The Challenge to CVB's / John R. Hendrie / July 2005
A Smile is Really a Simple Thing – an Expression of Welcome, No Cost Involved / John R. Hendrie / July 2005
Lead the Trend to Becoming Guest-Centric; Demonstrating Behavior Not Normally Experienced by the Guest / John R. Hendrie / June 2005
Hospitality QED, That's Latin to Me! / John Hendrie / June 2005
Unless You Operate a Business in a Very Remote Location, You Belong to the Amorphous “Brand-Scape” /  John R. Hendrie / June 2005 
Maximize the Performance of Your Greatest Asset - Your Employees / John R. Hendrie / May 2005
Preparing for the Assault by Organized Labor on Hospitality / John R. Hendrie / May 2005
Customer Service - Panacea or Placebo / John R. Hendrie / May 2005
How to Even the Playing Field, As Independents Suspiciously Eye the Chain Hotels / John R. Hendrie / April 2005
Oh, What a Web We Weave! Pitfalls with Descriptive Language / John R. Hendrie / April 2005
Woe is We! We in Hospitality Have Lost Touch and Share the Responsibility for Consumer Cynicism, Angst and Ennui / March 2005
Moving the Guest Comment Card from Paper to Paperless / John Hendrie / March 2005
Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association Launches 'Total Quality Destination' and Presents 'Gold Star of Excellence Awards' / March 2005
The Evolution of Guest Room Amenities / John Hendrie / February 2005
Advertising Integrity; Framing the Visitor's Expectation Through Print, Signage & Internet / John Hendrie / February 2005
Hospitality Trade Associations:  What Have You Done for Me Lately? / February 2005
I Would Like to See your Hospitality Standards. Where Are They? Anybody Seen Them? / John Hendrie / January 2005
Remarkable Hospitality - the Road Map to Excellence; Exceeding the Expectations of our Guests / John Hendrie / January 2005
Are Your Guests Expecting Mediocrity with Your Hospitality Services? Move Your Level of Excellence to the Remarkable / John Hendrie / December 2004
Guest Services - A Tradition Diminished / John Hendrie / December 2004
Rescue from Mediocrity; The Decline of Service Etiquette - A Sequel / John Hendrie / November 2004
Offering Crushed Pepper Before Tasting the Entrée; The Decline of Restaurant Service Etiquette / John Hendrie / October 2004
Destination Marketing – How to rebuild your Reputation and the upcoming Season after the Hurricanes / John Hendrie / September 2004
Six Factors Which Dictate Success in Performing Destination Marketing / John Hendrie / September 2004
Influencing the Consumer to Book Business through Your Commitment to Quality / Aug 2004
Major Hotel Operators Have Rediscovered Hospitality Fundamentals by Revisiting the Guest Room / John R. Hendrie / July 2004
Destination Marketing 101: Take Care of Mom / John R. Hendrie / June 2004
Service Unions Combine, Presenting Huge Challenge to Hospitality Industry / John R. Hendrie / March 2004
What Value Quality? Most Hospitality Operators Use the Term “Quality” In their Advertising. What Exactly Does that Mean? / John R. Hendrie / April 2004


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