Features

Hotel Concept of the Month: Dimpsey


Slightly different to the usual designs featured in this section, Dimpsey is a five-star luxury retreat and is described as an “all-in experience helping busy people to get some quality time together”. The glamping-style hut aims to leave its guests feeling “rejuvenated, relaxed and reconnected”.

The unique concept is run by couple Emma and Andrew Warren and is located on their small farm – shared with cows, sheep, a few chickens and a goose named George – on the Blackdown Hills in Somerset. It has been the winner of the Small Business Sunday award as well as picking up gold in the Glamping Business of the Year category at the Tourism Awards for Bath, Bristol and Somerset towards the end of 2016.

Speaking about the the concept, Emma comments: “The idea of the glamping experience is to chill out and reconnect with each other, and we have geared everything around making that happen – so from relaxing music to snuggly beds, hearing the owls hoot at night and watching the animals during the day, we’ve totally got chill out covered.”

The 18-foot long hut features a double bed, seating, kitchen area and a bathroom with a shower and flushing toilet. Designed and kitted out to feel like a luxury hotel, Emma and Andrew have ensured that all of its styles are from British designers. Other features include a hot tub, garden oven, logs for the log burner and fire pit, as well as welcome tray and eggs, bacon, butter, milk and bread for breakfast.

Despite its relatively small appearance, the owners of Dimpsey say that it always surprises people with the spaces that it offers. “We wanted the ability to have bunk beds with the top bed folding away and being unobtrusive when not in use – as well as a concealed ladder,” says Emma. The top bed fits perfectly against the wall when not in use and the ladder can be tucked away in a wall slot.

Meanwhile, the bottom bunk is a daybed and has space underneath for storage baskets, while a number of cubby holes are recessed into the wall with power sockets hidden in them. Also featured is a ‘wall bed’, which folds down out of the wall fully made. During the day the space is a bench and tables and then at night the table drops and the bed folds down.

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Responding to the demands of conscientious travellers


Sustainability within the hospitality industry has come a long way since the arrival of in-room suggestions to reuse towels and save water. Hotels and other hospitality businesses are increasingly taking a more mature approach that incorporates socially responsible practices as well as sound environmental and economic policies.

As public awareness and consumer confidence in sustainability grow, the pressure is on for the travel and tourism sector to walk the talk – according to Booking.com’s 2018 Sustainable Travel Report, 87% of global travellers say they want to travel sustainably. In 2019, we can expect to see hospitality companies implementing more innovative practices to benefit people and the planet as well as financial performance, while also ensuring that guests are aware of their good deeds.

Sustainable tourism: The big picture

Government and public support for the promotion of sustainability across industries has been mounting in recent years. In 2015, 193 nations agreed to work towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, a set of 17 goals designed to ensure a better future for all through the introduction of significant changes by 2030.

Representing 10.4% of global GDP and supporting one in 10 jobs worldwide according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the travel and tourism sector has the potential to make enormous social, environmental and economic contributions – a fact that travellers increasingly recognise. The United Nations captured this zeitgeist in declaring 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, a campaign which has spread further awareness while spurring businesses and travellers to embrace ethical policies and actions. More recently, the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has developed a statistical framework for Measuring the Sustainability of Tourism (MST) to be adopted as an international standard in 2019.

From green to transparent: The proof is in the report

As going green becomes mainstream, it will take more than claims of good intentions for businesses to convince conscientious consumers. Transparency will become even more important in the future as ethical travellers seek evidence to back up messages of corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Leading the way are hotel groups such as Nordic Choice Hotels, Scandic Hotels Group and AccorHotels, which have set new industry standards in CSR transparency by releasing annual public reports and other detailed information on the sustainable practices they follow. Notably, the most effective brands focus not only on their environmental impact, but on their impact on society; for example, Nordic Choice’s “WeCare” sustainability approach highlights six areas of action, which include local social responsibility, ethical trade, diversity and initiatives against child trafficking.

Making a big difference through small habits

In addition to knowing the facts and figures of a company’s CSR approach, socially minded travellers want to see such measures in action. Millennials in particular care about supporting brands that resonate with their values – a 2015 survey conducted by Nielsen found that 73% of those born from 1977 to 1995 are willing to pay more for sustainable goods, compared to 66% of all global consumers.

The banning of plastic straws is one clear example of how hospitality brands have responded to changing consumer attitudes. “Single-use” was declared Word of the Year 2018 by Collins Dictionary, which noted a four-fold increase in use of the word since 2013. Growing public concern about the environmental damage caused by single-use plastics has led businesses to rethink everyday practices. Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, McDonald’s and Starbucks have all launched initiatives to phase out the use of plastic straws, and we can expect to see more businesses replacing single-use plastics with eco-friendly alternatives in 2019.

Social commitment and travelling with purpose

Innovative brands are also highlighting their engagement with social causes, often resulting in a more authentic experience for guests, who play an essential role in making these community initiatives possible. For example, Good Hotel London combines premium hospitality with a social business concept. The floating hotel docked on the River Thames provides long-term unemployed locals with hospitality skills, on-the-job training and a full-time salary. Afterwards, trainees are redirected to permanent job opportunities in the local economy.

In Vienna, Magdas Hotel is dedicated to helping refugees overcome barriers to employment and social integration. Two thirds of the hotel’s staff are people with a refugee background, and the hotel celebrates this diversity, encouraging travellers and staff to interact. Meanwhile, beyond the hotel industry, Starbucks has made a commitment to hire 10,000 refugees worldwide by 2022.
As socially minded travellers continue to seek brands that reflect their values, many may also turn to volunteering as a way to interact with and contribute to local communities. Organisations like Adventure Alternative, WorldVentures Foundation, andBeyond and The Village Experience offer travellers the opportunity to work on humanitarian projects during their journey.

Entering the circular economy

Finally, the shift towards a circular economy system has the potential to transform the hospitality industry. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation defines a circular economy as one that is “restorative and regenerative by design,” as opposed to a linear “take, make and dispose” economy. It’s a model that resonates with the “leave no trace” ethos championed by nature lovers and the ideals of responsible travellers.

The exterior of QO Amsterdam, a hotel built on circular economy principles, features thermal panels that react to the outside climate to conserve the energy needed to regulate indoor temperatures. The hotel has also been designed with recycled materials, such as carpeting made from 100% recycled yarn previously used in fishing nets. And to reduce wastewater, QO has developed a grey water system in which all water that comes from showers and sinks is used again to flush toilets.

More sustainable innovations are on the way. Scheduled to open in 2021, Norwegian hotel Svart will be the world’s first energy positive hotel concept by the Arctic Circle. Reducing its yearly energy consumption by 85% compared to modern hotels, Svart will harvest enough solar energy to cover both hotel operations and the construction of the building.

For the future of sustainable hospitality, going in circles may not be such a bad thing.


Dr Dimitrios Diamantis is dean of graduate studies at Les Roches Global Hospitality Education, Switzerland; and Dr Alain Imboden the associate professor and Accreditation Officer at Les Roches.

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Legionella risk assessments done right


If you are the hotel manager, maintenance manager or property owner you have a legal responsibility and accountability to ensure that occupiers of your premises are suitably protected from water safety risk. You may have appointed, or been appointed as, the Responsible Person. This essential blog is aimed at helping you understand a little more of how a risk assessment can help you and what it must include.

A good risk assessment is a vital part of an effective strategy for the minimisation of risks associated with legionella proliferation in water systems within buildings. In this article we review what a Legionella risk assessment should include to comply with regulations and guidance.

Common failures

There’s nothing new about the concept of Legionella risk assessments but the approach to completing one can vary greatly. When working with clients invariably we review the risk assessments they’ve commissioned with contractors or consultants and often we find the same failings. In practice a report might fall foul of more than one of these mistakes:

Failure 1:  Non-assessment – These come in three types, first we have the “subjective assessment of risk” where there is no structured method of risk evaluation, such as a risk scoring matrix. Another example is the “Flawed assessment of risk”. Often when there is a risk scoring system it can be flawed or illogical, for example many assessors fail to consider occupant susceptibility. The third example may be hard to believe but we have seen examples of so-called risk assessment reports in which there is no indication of risk at all.

Failure 2:  Condition Survey – Badged as a risk assessment, condition surveys are typified by reports that focus on identifying every minor fault or defect and stipulating that all must be rectified regardless of the risk posed in each case, in some cases without a valid indication of risk at all [see Failure 1];  As a Responsible Person you may be encouraged to use the same company to carry out both the risk assessment and any associated remedial works. However, using just one company raises the possibility that the risk assessment will be partisan. For example, the assessor may suggest the need to undertake unnecessary remedial work, knowing this remedial work will result in the sale of additional services. Often these actions pass unquestioned, either due to a lack of time or knowledge on the part of the Responsible Person.

Failure 3:  Asset List – Exactly what it says, this is a catalogue that lists every outlet in the building;

Failure 4:  Wish List – Here the risk assessor places unworkable time scales on the risk minimisation actions and/or fails to properly prioritise their recommendations. BS 8580 indicates that risk assessors should be able to justify all of their actions and prioritise them according to risk, for any identified risk there might be short term actions to manage it and longer term actions to eliminate or reduce it;

Failure 5:  Half-a-job – The risk assessment in which not all risk systems are included i.e. air handling units, swimming pools, spa baths and those other risk systems listed HSG 274 Part 3. It’s important that the scope of the assessment is agreed before work commences.

To avoid these mistakes, it’s important to consider carefully your choice of provider, keeping the delivery of Legionella risk assessments separate from the contract to undertake any subsequent remedial work.

Identification, assessment and review of risks

The HSE reissued ACoP L8 in 2013 followed by the supporting technical guidance known as HSG274, which comes in three parts:

  • Part 1 – The control of legionella bacteria in evaporative cooling systems;
  • Part 2 – The control of legionella bacteria in hot and cold water systems;
  • Part 3 – The control of legionella bacteria in other risk systems.

The ACOP L8 and HSG274 suite of documents, offers advice on managing water systems. Including the need to carry out a risk assessment to identify the risks and the means to control them.  The HSE have detailed a checklist in each of the HSG274 documents outlining the most common requirements when assessing risk, some of the more interesting requirements include:

  • Details of management processes;
  • Assessment of the training and competence of those associated with risk management and those involved in control and monitoring activities;
  • Identification of roles and responsibilities;
  • Evidence of proactive management and follow up to the previous risk assessment;
  • An assessment on the validity of the schematic diagram.

Plainly, risk assessments are not just looking at water systems! Service providers must ensure that the requirements detailed in the HSG274 checklists are included in their risk assessment methodology.

To further compliment the guidance, the HSE refers to the British Standard Institution’s BS 8580:2010 ‘Water quality. Risk assessments for Legionella control. Code of Practice’.  This standard is applicable to any premises or work activity where water is used or stored that could cause a reasonably foreseeable risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria. The methodology of the standard covers risk assessments completed for the first time, review and auditing of control measures.

Risk assessments completed to BS8580:2010 methodology should include the following:

  • An assessment of:
    • occupant susceptibility;
    • management processes;
    • processes for monitoring data;
    • record keeping;
    • inherent risk and actual risk.
  • A repeatable means of assessing the level of risk, such as a scoring system or matrix
  • A comparison of the assessed risk to the acceptable level of risk
  • Recommendations designed to reduce the risk to the ALARP level, as required.

Again, this is not an exhaustive list, but here we’ve highlighted the need to consider the level of acceptable risk. ALARP should be considered for each water system as it may vary. This encourages a more pragmatic approach to managing the risk from Legionella bacteria helping to ensure that resources are neither wasted nor under-deployed

Legionella risk assessment reporting

To complete the process the assessor will prepare a formal risk assessment report. BS 8580:2010 indicates that reporting should involve the following:

  1. Firstly, if the assessor identifies any imminent dangers these should be communicated urgently to the responsible person without waiting for the written report.
  2. The written report be clear and unambiguous in its findings and should detail:
    • The results of the risk assessment including tests, measurements, checks and recommended remedial works;
    • An explanation of the scope of the assessment;
    • Identify the key people including duty holder and the responsible person;
    • Be sufficiently detailed to allow an understanding of the key issues and actions required to control it the risk;
    • The report should be written in such a way as to be readily understood by the intended recipients.

Managers will primarily be interested in what they need to do following the risk assessment. For this reason, the report should contain detailed recommendations, listed in order of priority with a suggestion of the reasonable timescale for completion. Using this information, a plan can be developed for implementation taking account of the available resources and the requirements of the risk assessment.

Summary

When it comes to these assessments and what they should include, there is clear guidance from both the HSE and BSi that is applicable to all Legionella risk assessments wherever they are carried out. Hospitality & leisure premises are no different in this respect. The manager responsible is required to check the competency of risk assessors, including external service providers. BS 8580:2010 states that the assessor should have “specialist knowledge of Legionella bacteria, relevant water treatment and the water systems to be assessed” and that they “should be able to demonstrate impartiality and integrity”.


This feature is from the Water Hygiene Centre 

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Hotel Concept of the Month: Montcalm Royal London House


Montcalm Royal London House first opened in October last year and has been steadily adding new facilities to the property since then, with its spa, events and meeting space, and  ninth-floor private suites opening earlier this year.

Situated close to London’s Liverpool Street station and Shoreditch area, the 253-bedroom hotel marks a remarkable transformation from an imposing mid-century office building into a stylish five-star property with unique and striking views of London’s City skyline.

The property is owned by Montcalm, which has a collection of individual five-star properties in London including M by Montcalm Shoreditch, The Montcalm London Marble Arch, The Marble Arch by Montcalm, London City Suites by Montcalm and The Montcalm at The Brewery London City.

Montcalm Royal London House has been renovated to include statement copper pipe lighting, exposed brick walls mixed with original reclaimed parquet flooring, silk-lined corridors, feature staircases and turquoise leather stools.

Bedrooms in the hotel are furnished with bespoke feature designs, with a particular focus on state-of-the-art technology. Bedrooms include 18 junior suites, 14 master suites with 55-inch TVs, nine studio suites with kitchenettes for long stays and five business suites.

Also included are ‘Two Palm Suites’ with private balconies overlooking the Shard and other iconic landmarks in the capital. All rooms feature a pre-order pillow menu, in-room Nespresso machines, in-room aroma of choice, as well as Elemis and Hermès toiletries and a private butler service on request.

With a particular focus on technology, the property claims it will be the first hotel in the UK to offer 10GB bandwidth capacity on demand. Meanwhile, the bedrooms will be furnished with iPod docking stations, smart 55-inch TVs and a complimentary handy smartphone service (a company featured in our Ones to Watch feature on page 27), giving guests unlimited 3G internet data and free local and international calls to selected countries.

Facilities in the hotel include two restaurants; two bars; meeting and event spaces that can cater for up to 300 guests or smaller events of around 60; and its ‘Urban Spa’ which features Versace wall tiles, a swimming pool, jacuzzi, two treatment rooms, a sauna and a steam room.


This feature first appeared in the March 2017 issue of Hotel Owner

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The Project: Westin Palace Madrid


PROJECT BRIEF: Complete renovation of all 476 bedrooms

BUDGET: Undisclosed

INTERIOR DESIGN: Areen Design

LOCATION: Madrid, Spain

Give us a quick brief of the project and its timeframe?

Andrew: The hotel is known by all the locals as ‘The Palace’, and it’s an iconic hotel, a bit like Claridge’s in London. It was a very prestigious project for us as a company and for Eugenia as a Spanish speaking, almost native, so we were very pleased to take it on. Our brief was to renovate all of the property’s 476 bedrooms. The property is right in the middle of Madrid, it overlooks the Prado Museum. The biggest challenge of the project was the budget, not so much the timeframe although that was quite tight. We have just completed stage one of the renovation.

Eugenia: The renovation is being completed by floors, so we finished the third floor and now they are about to start with the sixth floor at the end of the year. The property renovated the public areas only a few years ago, so this project was specifically focusing on the bedrooms.

Andrew: The whole project is a rolling renovation over the next two years. The owners are a company called Host Hotels, which used to be Marriott, before it split into two seperate companies.

Was there a specific brief in terms of designs?

Eugenia: What we tried to do with the design was to take some very specific ideas of the Spanish culture. For example, with the carpet design we took some of the traditional Spanish patterns and applied these to a larger scale across the carpets and also the headboards. We did some successful embroidery on the headboards, and luckily we found a company to do this in a traditional way. We took our design ideas from the Spanish culture and the result was quite successful.

Andrew: It was also about helping to revive the existing craftsmanship and artisan industry and we wanted to make sure that was reflected in the contemporary interior.

What was the overall cost of the project?

Andrew: We aren’t able disclose what the fit-out cost was, but let’s just say it was extremely tight. We also handled the procurement of this project and our colleagues in the procurement department had to hunt far and wide to find supplies that could fulfill the budget. Some of the furniture came from Egypt, and other pieces came from all over the world.

Eugenia: Despite that, a lot of the manufacturing was also Spanish. The lighting company, the company that did the embroidery and others were all Spanish companies.

The property is very grand – can you tell us a bit about its history?

Eugenia: The property was actually built as a hotel and has been operating for around 105 years now. It was one of the first buildings to be built with reinforced concrete and it has a big stained-glass dome above one of its restaurants, which was the first of that kind in Spain at the time. It’s a very famous hotel in Madrid, it’s the hotel where Hollywood stars stay. If you have ever been to Madrid then you will know the hotel.

In terms of the process itself, did you have a clear structure of how each phase would play out?

Andrew: The project manager is coming here soon to discuss the implementation of the next phase. We lay it out beforehand, but the point is wherever or not the client chooses to adhere to that is a different matter. Although saying that, the whole project should be finished by the middle of next year.

When the refurbishment was actually taking place, were there any unwelcome surprises, or hair-raising moments?

Andrew: Unusually no. It wasn’t a major intervention, we weren’t taking down ceiling or pulling up floors – that’s when you start finding problems in old hotels. There were no major surprises.

Eugenia: The renovation was quite big, but we didn’t have to change the layouts of the rooms or anything like that. We changed all the items in the rooms, we changed all the carpets and the wallpapers but we didn’t rearrange the layout so there were no major structural interventions. The electricals in the hotel were all very old, so it was quite challenging to change all of that and make it up to date, in terms of new connections, the internet and the IT.

Andrew: We did all the design work for that, we drew it all out, located these things and specified the various electrical outlets.  

So there were no hurdles in terms of planning permission and the local authority?

Andrew: No, and there were no asbestos issues or anything like that either. It is an old building but these issues didn’t arise during the renovation.

How does this project compare to some of your previous work?

Andrew: It went relatively smoothly compared with some of our other jobs. We have done a lot of renovations in the last two years or so, in various European capitals, and this one was pretty straight forward. The client is very business-like, and they had a professional project manager. It was professionally organised, with a professional team, and what people don’t necessarily appreciate about a soft renovation is that you still need a team of several consultants to make the whole thing work. Even though you are basically only doing cushions and curtains, you still need a project manager and an electrical engineer.

What about in terms of scale?

Andrew: We’ve done much larger. We are currently consulting the contractor on a 10,000 room hotel in Saudi Arabia. We also worked on the world’s largest Holiday Inn in Mecca, which is 1,250 rooms, which is about to open now. At the other end of the scale, we are helping out on a small boutique hotel with 18 rooms in the Ivory Coast. We are working with the architect there, so we work on a broad range of projects.

What advice would you give for smaller independent hotels taking on refurbishment projects?

Andrew: Don’t do it. Seriously, I would advise hotels to make sure they have the right professional team in place because they will save you money in the long run. Whatever you are paying in professional fees, you will get back in the cost of the project and the time you save. It will be more efficiently done and will be finished faster, which means your renovated rooms will start earning you more money sooner.


This feature first appeared in the May 2016 issue of Hotel Owner.





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The apprentice affect


The hospitality sector has a variety of exciting and challenging apprenticeship programmes for those interested in a career working in a dynamic and fast-paced industry.

The vast majority of hotels provide a range of different services to guests and customers, and can therefore offer a range of promising opportunities for potential apprentices – everything from catering and communications to event management. The industry is particularly appealing to apprentices due to its good long-term prospects and excellent scope for progression.

Much has been made of the skills shortage in the UK, and hotels are finding it difficult to recruit the right people with the necessary skills they need to fill their existing vacancies and drive the business forward. Taking on an apprentice solves this problem. Apprentices are young, enthusiastic and eager to learn, and hoteliers are able to train them to fill a specific role.

Positive Outcomes offers a range of qualifications that are suitable to the hospitality sector. From a hospitality qualification itself, which covers specific requirements in food production, food services, accommodation services and front of house, to customer service qualifications, business administration, event management and leadership. There are many options out there to suit a full range of hotel staff positions.

Hotels, like many other businesses, have been quick to recognise the benefits of hiring apprentices. Re-skilling and upskilling, in particular, are of massive importance to hoteliers, and apprenticeships have proven not only to be a great way of developing new staff, but improving existing staff also. By offering and investing in apprenticeship programmes, hotels not only offer young people the chance to forge a career in the hospitality sector, but they can develop a strong workforce that has the necessary skills and, as a result, can make a positive contribution to their bottom line.

This view was supported in a report conducted last year by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CBRE). The CBRE found that, on average, apprentices in the hospitality and catering industry delivered a positive net gain of £5,896 per annum to employers. In comparison, the average per annum net gain for hiring apprentices across England was found to be £1,670, which, while still a substantial figure, serves to highlight the added potential for hospitality apprenticeships.

At Positive Outcomes, as an organisation that has worked with apprentices for over 20 years, we have found that it is best for businesses to have in-place a structured and well-planned apprenticeship programme.

Apprenticeships give hotels the chance to play an active role in shaping their workforce and tailoring their skills so that they fit the business’s specific requirements. Investing in apprentices is a cost-effective way for hotels to grow talent, improve their workforce and create a dedicated and committed staff. Apprentices are also able to learn from the best practices of established staff, while employers are able to take charge of polishing the “soft-skills” needed to thrive in the hospitality industry.

It’s important to note that there has been a positive shift in the perception of apprenticeships over the last few years, with many young people now pursuing apprenticeships rather than considering higher education and university. They have fast become the go-to option for those looking to begin their career in a particular industry, as they offer the opportunity to both earn and learn.

We have seen a surge in demand for apprenticeships throughout 2016 – statistics released by the House of Commons earlier this year reported that there were 492,700 young people starting apprenticeship programmes, an increase of 12% compared with the previous year. This follows on from the government’s pledge to create three million more apprenticeships by the year 2020.

It is important that hotels view apprentices as a long-term investment, both in terms of their development and their contribution to the business.

Although there is a small upfront cost when hiring apprentices, there are subsidies available in the form of government grants. This is something we hope will be made clear upon the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, which comes into effect in Spring 2017. All employers, both those required to pay into the levy and those that are exempt, will be able to benefit from additional payments, including £1,000 when they take on and train apprentices aged 16 to 18.

This is of particular importance to hotels, as the government will cover the full-training costs of apprentices between the ages of 16 to 18 years old, for businesses with less than 50 employees. This also extends to 19 to 24 year olds that have been in some form of care or have an education or healthcare plan.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the core aims of the apprenticeship levy are to, one, help develop young people and, two – crucially – to help develop businesses themselves. The UK has a much-publicised skills shortage, and the levy is just one of the tools aimed at fixing that, while apprenticeships themselves offer a much bigger part of the solution.

Our apprentices are all work-based, performing tasks and taking on roles that directly contribute to the business, all the while developing skills beneficial to both themselves and their employer.


This  feature first appeared in the January 2017 issue of Hotel Owner.

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Profile: The first and only female GM in Saudi Arabia


When asked how she ended up becoming the first and only female GM in Saudi Arabia, Hessa Al Mazrou is emphatic: “Because I deserved it.”

She has had a long history in the hospitality industry, initially with the Al Hokair hotel group. She originally started off in the PR and communication field in 2004, noting that she has always been a “marketeer by nature”, but has now held a position as GM for over two years within the “exciting” hospitality sector.

Al Mazrou is a part of the ‘Women at Accor Generation’, a 10,000-strong global network that was launched to “overcome gender stereotypes, promote gender equality and offer support to women within the Accor Group”. The hotel brand recently re-launched the scheme in November of this year, renaming it to ‘RiiSE’, and confirmed its desire to “promote diversity and renewed its commitment to diversity and inclusion”.

During the first few months of 2017, Al Mazrou reveals, she was offered the opportunity to become GM of Novotel Suites Riyadh Olaya Hotel, which she says was given as a “challenge to prove my capability”. One of the biggest aspects that she felt she had to overcome was proving that she can “run the position perfectly and compete with the other men in this field”, and adds that first impressions from some guests is still often surprise. However, she firmly believes that it is a “nice surprise”, and has found “great support” from the guests who offer her “luck and encouragement”. “Comments like these from my guests definitely make me feel even more encouraged to work,” she adds.

GROWING OPPORTUNITIES IN SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi Arabia has long faced criticism for its stance on women’s rights, but as a result of its ‘Vision 2030’ plan there has been a slew of widespread initiatives to increase the participation of women in the workplace. Other changes include women being able to join the military, drive, and visit sports arenas and cinemas.

Al Mazrou says there is a “huge number” of opportunities for women who “want to be a leader in the hospitality sector”. She also believes that her experience sets a good example for other women aspiring to enter leadership roles. “I think the leaders in this sector such as AccorHotels, Al Hokair and other hotel chain businesses want to give opportunities to Saudi women if they are willing to take up the challenge”, she says.

Al Mazrou believes there is “no one who will give you a chance if you don’t deserve it” and says she considers herself “very eager to learn and to take up challenges”. She points to her family as main source of inspiration, and says it is with their support that she was encouraged to realise her full potential. She goes on to say that the hotel industry is a actually a very “feminine zone by nature”, and women really have the opportunity to show their “feminine signature within and through the service that they provide”.

Worth mentioning are the events Al Mazrou has participated in for women’s empowerment. The first was in November 2017, in Abu Dhabi, where she gave a speech about her experience and story of becoming the first female Saudi GM. She says she was greatly supported at the event and “felt a great amount of pride”. Another was in the city of Jeddah, during the first few months of 2018, and was the second edition of AccorHotels’ Women’s Empowerment and Integration Forum which looks to inspire a new generation of young Saudi women to reach the “highest level” of professional development. “It was very special for me as I had a opportunity to speak with other Saudi women working for AccorHotels,” she says, “and I was yet again filled with a great amount of pride when they said they see me as a great role model. I was so happy when I heard that.”

Overall, Al Mazrou says she was “delighted with the opportunity” and considers herself to have been “very lucky to get such a chance like this”. She adds that Accor has supported her with “knowledge, kindness and training”. She also says she couldn’t be “more proud working with such a great team”, adding that senior staff members have always given her their full support. “They also have the best intentions when it comes to my learning and training, and I believe AccorHotels are different when it comes to the service and how it facilitates their guests. It has been an outstanding experience working with them.”

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Al Mazrou thinks women have to believe more in themselves and their capability. “You have to work to prove that you deserve the position you are aspiring to. We have an arabic quote, which translates to ‘the more you work, the more you get’.” She hopes to eventually become a GM for a British hotel in Saudi Arabia, and concludes by saying she wishes to continue to be a “great role model for other Saudi women”, and set “a good example for them so they can achieve even more than what they are doing now.”

BACK IN THE UK

Closer to home in the UK, Jacqui McMillan is also a member of the Accor’s ‘RiiSE’ scheme, and is based in the “male-dominated environment” of Canary Wharf. McMillan originally began her career with AccorHotels as a rooms division manager at Novotel Glasgow in 2000 and has also held general manager positions at Ibis Glasgow City, Novotel Glasgow, Novotel Bristol and Novotel Reading and recently as GM of Novotel London Blackfriars.

Having worked in Canary Wharf since April of 2018 she notes that due to the “nature of the businesses that are here” some guests and business people she meets “assume they are going to meet a man”. “I have walked down to say hello and introduce myself to them you can actually this look on their face which is like ‘oh really, you’re the GM?’,” she adds. McMillan says that there is this assumption that GM of Canary Wharf “should be a man in a shirt and tie”, so high end contractors looking to work with the the business often “get a shock”.

This is just one of the challenges she says women in leadership roles can face in the UK, and recalls two years of her career when she was working in London for Accor as one of the only female GMs in the mid-scale sector. She notes that this made things “very interesting in meetings”, as it could be a “genuine challenge at times to be heard as a woman”. “When you are in a room with 14 guys they can be just like peacocks. Whereas for women you tend to sit back just a little bit more, but in turn are able to listen more. We don’t need to be the loudest person in the room.”

However, McMillan is adamant that there are inherent strengths women have such as the ability to “better engage with their male and female staff”. She can also tell when she walks into a hotel if the property is managed by a man or a woman. She adds with a laugh: “You can tell immediately, and I am not the only one who thinks this.” Attention to detail is one of “strengths that we have as women”. “I think we can see things that other people don’t, and it’s not just about something being pretty.”

Is being done by the hospitality industry to appoint women to leadership role? “We are getting there, but a lot of companies still have a long way to go.” However, she says this shouldn’t stop anyone, and it is always about “pushing yourself” and “never being afraid of doing something that you don’t think you can do”.

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The detrimental effect of a ‘silo mentality’


Hotels and hospitality businesses often excel at diversification and multi-channel offerings, attracting unique and diverse customer bases to each service.

Most commonly this means having a restaurant and bar to capitalise on a guest’s overnight stay, but other major infrastructure examples include health spas and leisure facilities, meeting and conference spaces and even self-catering units within the grounds. Each can attract its own customer base with unique service needs and pricing structures, so in response hotels frequently create departments or teams to specialise in each service, giving guests and users the best possible information and experience.

Departmental working has its advantages – specialist expertise, efficient processes and proactive customer service can all combine to give the best possible customer experience. It’s not flawless though and its very strengths can be the harbinger of inefficiencies, created by ‘silo mentalities’ in strategic operation decisions and the departmental workforces. A silo mentality is one where different departments, teams or team members operate their top and bottom line in isolation to other departments; it most commonly occurs as a natural side-effect of resource specialisation and it has financial and customer service implications too.

It’s something our assessors see all the time in visits to multi-discipline businesses; processes and procedures which foster a silo mentality, and which cost businesses in terms of added value income, productivity and wasted resource.

Statistics for the actual costs to hospitality businesses are hard to come by – no one has taken the time to quantify these hidden costs – but looking further afield to the list of Fortune 500 companies, and it’s estimated that these 500 businesses alone lose $31.5bn (£24.7bn) per year by failing to cross-pollinate knowledge and processes between different departments, and that implementing strategies to eliminate silo working would boost productivity by up to 30%. Even if hospitality costs were a fraction of this that’s an astounding figure.

Most commonly, our assessment visits highlight the process disparity in hotels with MICE facilities, and leisure or spa facilities. Processes, training and staff mentality all contribute to lost earnings through silo working, most likely because these are higher ticket items than overnight stays and therefore a dedicated team is understandably deemed essential.

This works fine until such point as departmental team members are unavailable for whatever reason – sickness, holiday, on-site event management etc. At this point, the entire process often collapses, with no other department or employee willing or able to take responsibility, or in fact contributing in any way to departmental transition. The processes and training which are being omitted relate specifically to what happens when your dedicated manager/ employee is not available. What is the customer experience then?

Reflecting on their recent experiences and the mystery shopping and assessment calls my team has made; on average, the assessor is only able to get a direct, immediate response to their question in one in eight calls (12%), and of the seven where the person is unavailable, only two go on to provide a suitable answer within 48 hours (28.5%). Three in eight didn’t respond at all (37.5%) – most likely due to communication breakdown between the teams – and four in eight didn’t receive full details of the request that was made in the first place requiring repeated information from us as ‘the customer’ (50%).

Of the calls where a MICE team member was unavailable, not one reception team were able to answer even basic details about conferences, and there was no clear process for recording information and requirements, or a clear expectation for when we could expect a response.

Not only this, but anecdotally, customer feedback also cites poor cross-pollination of services, including no automatic inclusion of information or incentives for delegate room booking, F&B booking for delegate evening meals, or cross-pollination with available spa treatments etc. Almost entirely in every case, the service that was offered was limited to only one or two aspects of the full hotel offering – a seriously missed opportunity.

On the flip side, businesses which have deliberately made shifts to reduce the impact of silo working are reaping the rewards in commercial income. It starts with establishing a common vision, particularly linked with sales, which may include a core financial target, collective performance measures and rewards, and strategies for supporting cross-departmental knowledge and support. Formalising strategies to handle not only positive customer interactions, but also interactions where dedicated team members are unavailable are essential.

Targets and processes are all very well, but then you must also identify opportunities to increase contact between departments. Short-term ‘work-experience’ for customer-facing staff members to visit and work in every department is a great start, as are strategic meetings which pull team members together and assess them against the common goal work too.

Mystery shopping can help too; both an external resource calling into your team, but also an internal resource too. What happens when your reception team need to book a conference – can they get all the answers they are looking for, and how long does it take. A great learning experience for both sides.

Finally, it’s time to look at the tech. It’s easy to opt for the best, simplest or most expert platform for your specific offering, but in doing so, it can easily create departmental divides.

Two questions you need to ask yourself; first, do other teams have access to the platform that hosts a particular function of the business? Even read-only access can suffice. Second, do they know how to use it and should they? Access and training can provide access to all the necessary information to support even basic introductory sales, but are easily overlooked.

Once you’ve sorted the staff aspect of tech, you can also consider how traceable your cross-pollination is. Do all the different platforms assign their own reference number, and if they do, how do you link up a conference with the delegate bookings and delegate spend?

How do you track this financially, and are you operating nominals which track both the F&B spend and the fact that it came specifically from a MICE experience?

I’ve focused largely on MICE, but the same applies to spa and leisure facilities and other big-ticket items too. Planning and tracking the customer journey for each type of guest, and then identifying opportunities to cross-pollinate into other marketplaces should be top of your agenda. Here’s to making more money from the guests you’ve got in the business, and not just the new ones you need to attract.

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Want a nap? There’s an app for that


When discussing technology with hoteliers it is easy to fall into the trap of asking what new devices are being adopted within the business, forgetting that customers bring their own bewildering array of ‘solutions’ into the property without us having to lift a finger.

I suppose an early example was the mobile phone itself, rendering vastly expensive BT systems almost redundant. Maybe the TV will be the next item on the scrapheap, although screen size is probably important enough to keep good kit in place for a few years yet. So far guests continue to rely on their hosts for hot water and food, at least.

I was astonished to learn that some people use a mobile app to help them sleep, or to be woken at the least disruptive time according to their personal sleep pattern. This is just one example of a solution being found, using software, for a problem we never knew existed. Meanwhile the basics can be relied on to frequently fail, such as train services and the many conduits under our roads that have to be dug up again and again. Oh, and milk cartons that are hard to open unless you’ve a pair of pliers handy.

My point is that nearly all of the technological advances happening around us are centred on things that can be controlled with a smartphone. Of course, development in one area can often spill over into other areas, a good example being batteries. The need to power heavy vehicles using re-chargeable batteries has led to massively greater capacity, meaning cordless vacuum cleaners and who knows what else around the corner.

So let us consider what hotels could benefit from and see if the market listens and comes up with the goods, accepting we already have many labour-saving devices in the kitchen and the office. How about a machine that can make beds; or one that silently re-stocks the bar during the night; a shower without those freezing initial seconds or light bulbs that never need replacing? Surely these are the kind of advances we need more than tablets on which to place a meal order than can be done perfectly well face to face?

Surely the most transformative new technology affecting our business is in hotel search and reservations. Yes, it does involve systems within the property but most of what’s required is in the hands of third party agents and the consumers themselves. Literally billions a year are being spent on advertising by the likes of Booking.com of which hotels are mere beneficiaries, or victims depending on your point of view. Soon we may see these disruptors displaced by even better apps and websites that use artificial intelligence to bypass what is currently a pretty unfair regime in which commission plays too great a part in the results served up to consumers. The march of progress is unstoppable and almost all of it will happen with or without our consent.

I once worked for a publisher who used his old-Etonian confidence to great effect, embracing new technology while sceptical of his employees’ ability to master it fully. Anything that came out of a computer such as an accounting spreadsheet, however innocent, sparked the same response “you know what they say about computers don’t you: garbage in, garbage out”. What he encouraged us all to do was question “facts” and use our minds to find better answers to problems. Sometimes we succeeded, and those answers tended to come with nothing more than a biro and a sheet of A4.

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Should you be using an OTA?


Q:I keep getting mixed messages about online bookings; should I offer them on my website, should I go with a dedicated OTA, or should I even bother at all?

A: We’re all a little bit sick of hearing about the recession and whilst it has been a negative time for many, it has also been instrumental in reshaping and redefining the hospitality industry in recent years. Not only are we seeing chains expanding more than ever before, boutique and unique hotel experiences have also been given an opportunity to thrive, ‘staycations’ have become fashionable again, short breaks are de rigueur, online travel / booking agents have boomed on a model of commission, and peer reviews have become the go-to advisory resource.

We are working and operating in a completely different industry to the one we were in ten or even five years ago, but these changes also bring an opportunity for you to exploit.When it comes to online bookings, there are a variety of options that you can choose from:

  • A membership with online travel or booking agents can facilitate online bookings for a commission-based fee, at the same time promising to deliver new customers through their national and often international marketing campaigns. They spend a lot on their search engine optimisation and that’s why you hear the complaints that their listing for your hotel appears above your actual website. They are great for driving new business, but can be an expensive choice if you haven’t exhausted other business opportunities first
  • Online booking widgets which offer you a subscription-based service to embed the widget in your website, thereby facilitating online bookings direct to you, but using a ready-made service. The benefit of these services is that costs are fixed and not dependent on the number of bookings you take, plus they’re really easy to embed. On the downside, costs are ongoing and will exist unless you decide to stop online bookings, so you need to account for the overhead
  • A self-built system specified to your exact number of rooms and requirements and synced to your reception diary. This will need to be built by a web developer with an understanding of CRMs and APIs and will have the biggest up-front cost, but once you’ve paid for it, it will have no ongoing overheads. What this does mean is that you own the system and aren’t at risk of rising prices or commissions

The only other option that you have is to ignore online bookings completely and offer traditional phone or email bookings only. The risk with this is that you miss out on bookings that you could otherwise have gained, simply by not offering enough choice and variety to users, particularly out-of-hours.

According to a Travel & Tourism Survey by the MHA, only 26% of hospitality businesses offer online bookings, yet of those businesses that do, 50% reported a year-on-year increase in direct online bookings. What I haven’t yet been able to do is quantify these survey results specifically for the UK, identifying what exactly this may mean for you in true financial terms, however internationally, almost 150 million bookings are made for travel each year, and just over 65% are made on the brand website for hotels or service providers, with just 19.5% made through merchant sites like Hotels.com and Expedia. 65% of bookings is a pretty big incentive to consider adding an online booking service.

Just like I said with last month’s article on mobile optimisation of your website, the ultimate choice will come down to you and should be dependent on your overall performance statistics and strategy. If an online booking service like booking.com is your automatic go-to and you don’t put much store in your own website, then direct online bookings won’t be your thing. If however you are working to build your online reputation and reviews and want to gain recognition, loyalty and word of mouth referrals, then your need for an online booking system will be much higher!

One final point that I should add is that it is entirely possible for you to ‘mix and match’ the services, introducing a booking agent as well as an online booking portal. If you do, make sure you track where visitors book from, ensuring that you can measure and monitor the profitability of each booking, both through the room and through the added value items like the restaurant and the bar. This information will soon tell you what is valuable to your business and what is not!


This feature first appeared in the July 2015 issue of Hotel Owner. 

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A recent survey from hotel solutions provider HRS has found that the demand for innovative technology in hotels is on the rise

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