Keeping humanity in the hospitality industry
Family-owned hotels are key to the future of the hospitality business. Seychelles is no different to many other tourism destinations where today it is accepted that family businesses have created their very own niche and are sought after by the discerning travelers.
Properties such as Denis Private Island, Bird Island, Domaine de La Reserve and Domaine de L’Orangeraie, Sunset Beach Hotel, L’Archipel Hotel, Carana Beach Hotel, Indian Ocean Lodge are all rated among the top Seychelles Hotels and are all family owned and managed.
Running a hotel is very much like running a big family. Every day there will be something new. Perhaps today the internet is down, tomorrow you’re awarded some prestigious award, next week an unexpected family member is arriving where the hotel is full, or one day the police are at the door to speak to one of the family members.
Good or bad, one cannot deny that the industry keeps you on your toes and if hospitality runs in your blood, excitement abounds. But keeping a finger on the pulse involves a lot more than just aiming for a smoothly run household. Remaining relevant demands that hotels keep their finger on the pulse of what guests’ needs are and what they will be in the future.
Often family firms look to larger organizations for direction on how to approach a problem or a situation they face. However is it perhaps time for larger organizations to take more notice of families? Often smaller establishments have the agility needed to adapt quickly, to keep on top of evolving value systems, and changing guest expectations. The ability to nurture personal relationships and create a certain tactility around the experiences they offer guests.
According to Laurence Guinebretiere, the General Manager at the family-owned Hotel Bel Ami in Paris, “Working for a family where the owners are hands-on allows us to respond faster to the changing needs or requirements that we see. In doing this we try always to remain one step ahead of what guests might need.”
The sense of home
When travelers spend a lot of time on the road with business, for example, the last thing they probably want is a business hotel, and this is clear when we look at the success that Airbnb has had in attracting business stays. The idea of staying in a space that has a more homely feel is something that appeals to the human in all of us.
Family-owned hotels already have the opportunity to bring a certain familiarity to the experience of staying there — and often they do this quite well. Getting this right, however, is not a simple paint by numbers exercise.
It’s in the silent moments rather than the choice of elevator music where the opportunity exists to connect with guests and make them feel at home.
Another hotel group that’s family owned is Nobis (who is also a part of Design Hotels), and Cecilia Mauritzson, the Managing Director at their Nobis Copenhagen hotel, agrees that the right staff and service excellence are some of the highest levels of luxury. “Today some hotels entirely do away with check-in staff to cut down on service and optimize the process. This pared-down approach makes guests appreciate good service even more, especially at a luxury hotel where this can be a strong differentiator.”
People buy people
A big part of getting the feeling of home right is delivering just the right amount of service. We all hate that waiter at the table who’s providing “service by numbers” and can’t get the message that you’re on a date and want to be left alone. And then there’s that perfect evening where the service was just sublime, you almost didn’t know it happened, if it wasn’t for the extra glass of wine that came on the house.
The first step in getting the service level right is the ability to gauge what a specific situation demands. This judgment is a crucial skill, and because of this, it’s of utmost importance to bring people on board who understand this. The specifics of your business can be taught, but people need to have the right skills to start with.
Mauritzson continues “Being able to provide service as effectively as possible is key. Guests want hotels to make their lives easier and expect requests to be dealt with in the best manner possible. When the team has a better overall understanding of different areas of the hotel’s operations, they can be more efficient in assisting guests.”
Changing direction for big ships
When the time has come to tack course, how can larger hospitality groups learn from families and what can they do to implement some changes in their organizations?
1. Flat structure & small task teams for faster decision-making. The last thing you want to do is submit a budget to corporate for buying new clothes hangers. Having a flat structure and the ability to act quickly is crucial for effective operations in this day & age.
2. Create micro brands. Even within large hotel groups, individual hotels already offer something different just based on each location. Why then try and create cookie-cutter hotels? Take these further and build on the unique aspects of each hotel to create mini brands.
3. Get closer to the guests. Find ways to give a more personal touch. A welcome letter from the GM, for example, is such an easy thing to do. But the key is to find out what makes them choose your establishment and focus on that.
4. Communicate a clear positioning. Even though guests might choose your group for loyalty points, there will be different drivers for each booking. Was it only the best price, the location, or a specific service offered. Identify this and communicate this alongside the group’s message to ensure you attract the right guests.
5. Agility and the ability to adapt to changing customer expectations is arguably one of the critical assets for businesses moving forward. Even though agile ways can be complicated to implement into larger organizations, it’s the small movements that can help to avoid the iceberg.