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VISTA® Hospitality Gets to Know Its Customers at Annual Conference

Annual event convenes in Nashville to build on momentum for continued
brand growth, camaraderie and focus on creating new heightened
industry standards for fair franchising

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NASHVILLE, TENN. – JULY 2, 2008— VISTA® Hospitality Solutions (http://corporate.vistarez.com), head quartered in Murfreesboro, Tenn., recently held its 2008 National Conference at the Radisson Hotel at Opryland located here. More than 100 attendees came together with one common goal: “Know Your Customer.” 

“As a brand, VISTA® believes that the industry spends far too much time studying the competition rather than studying the customer,” said VISTA® President Ramesh Gokal. “Therefore, the focus for our second annual event is to ‘Know Your Customer.’ The best way to achieve that goal is to talk openly with our guests and all the people that interact with our guests – these are the people who stay in our hotels; work in our hotels; manage, own and operate our hotels; book rooms in our hotels; market our hotels online; and represent our industry on a national association level.”

Using an informal TV talk show format, Gokal, together with VISTA® Executive Vice President Kelly Harvel, played hosts to a variety of guests and conversed with them regarding their expectations and experiences in hospitality. 

First they welcomed two frequent travelers from Nashville to discuss, among other issues, the impact of rising fuel prices on current and future travel plans. Jim Oliver, President of Old Hickory, Tenn.-based AIMedia (www.aimediasolutions.com), said: “I travel 30 to 35 weeks out of the year, and although the market is volatile, due to the nature of my business and the need to meet with our customers, travel is inevitable.” AIMedia Solutions specializes in the sales of media manufacturing and project management services related to products such as audiocassettes, CDs, DVDs, videocassettes and the associated print/packaging materials that are used to make finished products. 

John Vaughn with Nashville-based Girtman Group said: “The hotels that my company chooses for us to stay at have to be near the location we are working. Travel for me is an essential aspect of the service we provide our customers.” Having been in business 20 years, Girtman Group services accounts within the commercial door and lock industry nationwide (www.girtman.com).

Discussions with the panel of travelers revealed the following:

  • Although the market is volatile, travel is still inevitable. 
  • Travel will be consolidated by region and elective trips will be curtailed.
  • Location and convenience will remain key when selecting a hotel. 
  • A comfortable bed, Internet connectivity (wired or wireless), access to business services, and a knowledgeable, friendly staff top the list of expected services. 
  • Lack of quality towels still an irritant at many mid-priced hotels.
A conversation with hotel employees Candi White and Matt Brown revealed the following: 
  • Most common guest requests include: Internet access, fitness facility, guest laundry, business services and airline boarding-pass printing capability.
  • Biggest guest complaint: Unclean rooms / bathrooms
  • Biggest irritant – guests smoking in non-smoking rooms
“It was empowering for our owners, managers and operators to hear travelers say that they expect hotel staff to be courteous, empathetic, responsive, and reactive to requests,” Harvel said. “Having heard from the source, many of our customers said they will certainly continue to stress the importance of these criteria to their staff as soon as they return.”

Nick and Sue Patel, Snay Patel, and Mark Tucker took the stage to represent hoteliers and operators. Ray Ashman, Vista’s Operations Support Director (OSD), also joined the group. The hoteliers identified the top challenges they face today as:

  • Maintaining customer satisfaction, room cleanliness, brand consistency, and rate parity
  • Managing customer expectations, which continue to rise as consumers get smarter
  • Retaining employees
  • Keeping everyone aware that a negative guest experience can result in negative online reviews
Ashman explained that his sole function was to help the Vista hoteliers succeed and recommitted Vista’s promise to visit each property every sixty days. 

“One bad customer experience reported on an online review site can result in hundreds of lost room nights and revenue,” Gokal said to attendees. “VISTA® corporate checks and tracks all property ratings on these travel review sites daily. We do this because we are plugged into today’s reality. We use technology and resources in ways that other brands may not be set up to handle yet, and as such we can do things more efficiently and quickly than our larger competitors. After all, we are now in the world where the fast eat the slow versus yester year when the big ate the small. Our attitude and activities enable us to remain accountable for our guest service.”

Representatives from the brand’s Central Reservations and Internet marketing group were then brought on stage to identify the top questions asked by potential guests. Also discussed was the brand’s e-commerce strategy and tips for enhanced search engine optimization.

With such a strong focus on customer service, Gokal said he is confident that VISTA® will grow its current hotel portfolio to 50 hotels in the short term. His goal is to achieve 400 hotels representing 28,000 guestrooms by 2013. 

“We believe that our ‘CUSTOMERized’ franchise program, that promotes a relationship of mutual commitment, accountability, and flexibility, will quickly correlate into profitability and success for both the brand and the hotel owner,” Harvel said to attendees. “Instead of dictating to you, our customers, about what you must do, we encourage your willing participation. You know what we expect at a minimum. If you do this, plus what the market dictates, then you will be rewarded for your efforts.” 

Harvel reminded its customers of the significant several differences between Vista and other franchise companies, including: 

  • No liquidated damages – Customers can leave the VISTA® system with or without cause with an established annual mutual window;
  • No inspections – VISTA® instead tracks quality through guest complaints; 
  • No standards changes – VISTA® will not mandate brand changes without the approval of its customer advisory board and willing participation of its customers; 
  • No vendor exclusivity; VISTA® will only require specifications compliance; 
  • No property improvement plan – Customers determine if VISTA® should consider the property application based on pending “improvements” or “as is”; 
  • No vague impact policy – VISTA® offers a clearly defined area of protection based on business protection; 
  • No underwriting of programs – VISTA® will not make a profit for itself at the expense of the customer.
Gokal restated for its customers that the VISTA® Performance Guarantee – VISTA® will deliver a mutually agreed upon reservation performance or we will refund royalty fees paid in that year is – is all about doing the right thing. 

“It’s about who we are and what we do to affect real and meaningful change in the franchising environment through flexible agreement terms, mutual commitments, customer service and support, and guest satisfaction,” he said. “Again we invite all franchise companies (regardless of segment) to join us in changing the experience for hotel owners for the future betterment of our industry. After all, hospitality is about doing the right thing.”

Laura Lee Blake, of the Asian American Hotel Owners Assn., commended VISTA® for its effort to make radical changes toward the improvement of fair franchising.

“VISTA® is turning AAHOA’s 12 Points of Fair Franchising into 17 points through its new Fairness Doctrine,” she said. “We commend them for their efforts and hope to see more hotel companies step up and be accountable. The lodging industry has come a long way…but we have further to go.”

Top 10 Predictions:

Gokal concluded the first day’s event by offering his Top 10 Predictions for the lodging industry by the year 2013:

10. Total hotel energy efficiency priority in design and renovation
 9.  Hotels change the way they are doing business to offer experience versus need.
 8.  Wireless telephone systems will be the norm in all guestrooms.
 7.  Alarm clocks will no longer be available in guestrooms.
 6.  Guest bathrooms will become larger, even if it means guestrooms are smaller.
 5.  Guests will be able to select, make reservations and check-in from their automobiles.
 4.  Online reservations will double as will air travel.
 3.  Hotels will feature electric car plug-in recharging stations in parking lots.
 2.  Franchise contract terms will be shorter and terminations will be easier.
 1.  VISTA® Inns and VISTA® Inns & Suites will have arrived as a mid-tier national brand.
The second day of the annual event was filled with individual and group networking opportunities: Providing smart operating tools to the VISTA® franchisees (customers in VISTA® parlance); One on one appointments with Vista vendors; Reporting brand performance statistics; Brand awards; and, A gala function.

For more information on VISTA® Hospitality Solutions and the VISTA® Inns or VISTA® Inn & Suites brand, visit www.vistarez.com.

About Vista Hospitality Solutions
VISTA® Hospitality Solutions offers a unique branding proposition to mid-tier hoteliers throughout the United States, with an initial focus in the southern regions of the country. For franchise opportunities please call 615-904-6133 ext 105 or via email info@vistarez.com. You can also visit or websites www.vistarez.com and http://corporate.vistarez.com
 

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Contact:

Barb Worcester 
PRPRO
 440.930.5770
barbw@prproconsulting.com

Kelly Harvel
Vista EVP
615-904-6133 ext 103
kharvel@vistarez.com
 

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Also See: The VISTA® Inn & Suites Brand Offers Franchise Program that Empowers Hotel Owners to Operate with Maximum Freedom and with Minimum Dictates and Interference; Royalty fees Refunded at 100% if Reservations Performance Not Met / March 2008

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