|By Kristin Finan, Houston
ChronicleMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 05, 2012--If you've ever stayed a night at a poorly run hotel, you know what a horrible experience it can be, from the bad service to the shoddy accommodations to the subpar amenities. With 20 years in the hotel industry, "hotel fixer" Anthony Melchiorri feels your pain. So much so that in each episode of his new show, "Hotel Impossible," he's taking it upon himself to go into a struggling hotel, identify its key problems and come up with a plan of action for its owners. We recently spoke with Melchiorri by phone about the show, which debuts Monday on the Travel Channel.
Q: Why did you want to do this show?
A: I thought about the concept three years ago, and I was very passionate about it. I wanted to show we have some really hardworking people in this industry, that's really what appealed to me. From the day I wrote my first sentence about this show I said I want to help people, what I do is valuable to people. I realized that a couple of years ago. I have a skill set that can help people.
Q: How do most owners respond to you when you show up?
A: Typically these owners recognize their shortcomings. It's a great opportunity for someone to come in and improve their business. We do some research, but I never meet the owners, and I never go to the hotel until I show up (to shoot). I have an understanding of maybe how I can help them, but a lot of times I get there and see something else that's more important and work on that. I know where they are, and I know what the reviews are saying about them, but I've never seen the owners or been to the property.
Q: How important is it for owners to read online reviews of their hotels?
A: It's like air. You need air to breathe. In the hotel business, you need to know what your customers are saying about you to breathe. Looking at reviews is important. It's critical. It's paramount. You need to know what's out there. When I'm a general manager, every single online review goes immediately to my BlackBerry. I respond typically within minutes. Every single negative comment is dealt with and spoken about, and every great comment is celebrated. Comments are my fuel. One of the things that happens is people get tired of listening to me because I talk a lot and I'm passionate. If a customer is speaking, I don't have to speak.
Q: What common mistakes do hotel owners make?
A: What hotels are doing wrong is what most businesses do wrong. They think about location, about how much (they are) going to make and they forget about the people who clean the rooms, the people at the front desk. They start making assumptions about the team ... (As an owner) are you giving them a fair shot? Are you giving them the money to do their job? I'm going to protect your employees from you.
Q: During shooting, did you encounter any situations that made you want to give up?
A: If I throw my hands up it means call the funeral director. I will never throw my hands up, and I will never walk away from an owner -- as long as you give me a chance to talk to you. Have there been issues too big for me to tackle? Sure. Instances where you say, "We're going to fix this, and I'm going to show you how to fix this other item. I can't fix that now, but if you fix these items, then you'll have the money to fix this item. If you don't get to that, you will be out of business." Sometimes I give them big things and I walk away, and sometimes it's very small things that are killing the business.
Q: Do you ever completely shut a hotel down?
A: No, we don't shut the hotel down. We'll shut down parts of a hotel, but hotels are living, breathing things that can't be shut down. Hotels never close. What I do is I go in and I shut down rooms, restaurants, certain areas, and I go about fixing what I see are the problems.
Q: What's your favorite thing about the show's concept?
A: What I really get excited about is the change -- you can see people change, owners change, you see the business is going to be OK. That, every time, gets me emotional. There hasn't been a time when I haven't been emotional about it.
Q: You shot in cities such as Miami, La Jolla, Calif., and Montauk, N.Y. What are some of your favorite cities?
A: I absolutely love Rome -- the people, the food, the sense of history in that it's been around so long. They just get it. They get life. I've just been exposed to La Jolla, and I really, really like it. And New York City. There's not a day that goes by that I don't appreciate the city I live in.
Q: What is your mission through this show?
A: My hope for the show is to show the hardworking people in the industry. I hope (viewers) see how hard people work. I also hope they get tips on how to choose hotels wisely. We want them to be successful, but we also want the customer to find value for their money. We want to ensure that we're giving customers insight into how to choose a good hotel.
Q: What do you hope people take away from the show?
A: I just want people to not only enjoy the show but take away that if you take care of people, your business will be taken care of.
(c)2012 the Houston Chronicle
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