How to be one step ahead of your customers

The most successful businesses today know that they have to understand their customers better to retain them – but what has changed in recent years is a rising expectation from customers that actually want businesses to anticipate exactly what they’re thinking.

This has put pressure on businesses to react accordingly.

In the hospitality industry, there are some obvious examples of things customers will want to know. For example when they get to your website such as: what’s included in the fee?; are there any additional charges?; what time is check-in and check-out?; what kind of bed is included?; what are the amenities?; and so forth.

Hotels that do a good job of informing their customers will have all of this information readily available. As each and every guest has different expectations of the hotel experience, the same is likely to be the case for those browsing your website. So personalising content, engagement and responses for them could make their experience far more satisfying and encourage a deeper bond with the customer that will keep them coming back, or indeed even spur them on to recommend their friends to visit the hotel.

For those that haven’t got sufficient information, there are easy to use tools that are ideal for the hospitality sector that provide an out-of-the-box solution for FAQs and customer serving tools.

So what’s next? Well, first and foremost, an advanced FAQ section – or help centre – where you can include detailed articles about different topics, perhaps guides on ‘what a day at our hotel looks like’ and ‘what you can do in a week at our hotel’ could be starting points.

To reap rewards in the long-term however, there has to be a focus on managing this help centre. Using analytics, you can find out what the most searched terms are, what the most common questions are and what the biggest frustrations seem to be – and act on making this information more accessible, while also fine-tuning any wider issues at the hotel and website.

For example, if you know that a certain amount of users have searched about late check out times but there is no article to explain the policy, then you’d want to write an article about that so less are tempted to call and ask. While if you know that dozens of prospective customers are enquiring about the availability of car parking because of an event taking place near-by, you know you can write an article that can be published on the homepage explaining whether or not your car park will have sufficient space.

Using a platform that can ingest data from all of the different ways customers can reach you – email, webchat, social media and over the phone – can help you to better manage these queries, but also ensure that you aren’t getting the same queries months later as the answer will be available in the help centre. This will free up your team to focus on adding value to your customers by further personalising the way you interact with them online.

Being proactive in helping your potential and existing customers is what guests now expect. Subsequently, you’ll have a better rapport with guests, and stimulate a better working environment for your own staff. It’s time to be a step ahead of your customers.

Contribution by Naomi Rozenfeld, head of strategic marketing at Wix Answers

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Interstate extends management deals with three properties

Interstate Hotels & Resorts has extended its management of three properties – the Drayton Manor Hotel, Ibis Dublin Hotel and The View Hotel in Eastbourne – all under long term agreements.

Interstate retained management of the Ibis Dublin Hotel in Ireland, in partnership with new ownership. The hotel was recently acquired by IBIS Red Cow, jointly owned by Duddy Group and Propiteer.

In Eastbourne, at The View Hotel, owners Unite the Union have extended their management agreement with Interstate.

Nicholas Northam, managing director for the UK at Interstate Hotels & Resorts, said: “It’s fantastic to be extending our working relationships with each of these properties. The owners’ decisions to continue working with Interstate proves testimony to the hard work of our strong regional team of professionals and the strength of our management services.”

Drayton Manor Hotel is owned by Drayton Manor Park Ltd. Colin Bryan, chairman of Drayton Manor Park, added: “We’re thrilled to have extended our employment of Interstate Hotels & Resorts as the hotel management company here at the park.The knowledge and expertise of the team has brought numerous benefits to our hotel and we’re looking forward to continuing to work with Interstate over the coming years.”

The string of deals takes Interstate’s portfolio to more than 100 properties, including a signed pipeline across the UK, Europe, Russia and eastern Europe. In early 2018 the company expanded its European portfolio with the addition of 12 hotels, including Interstate’s first entry into France.

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Thornton Hall awarded AA Silver Star Award

Thornton Hall, the luxury four-star hotel situated in the heart of the Wirral countryside, has been awarded an AA four Silver Star rating for its “exceptional standards of hospitality, service and cleanliness”.

Introduced in 2015, The AA’s Hotel Silver Star status is defined as “Highly recommended hotels offering a superior level of quality within their star rating, high standards of hotel keeping, in particular, hospitality, service and cleanliness and an AA Rosette award for the quality of their food.”

According to the inspector’s report, “the management, proprietors and staff at Thornton Hall have reinforced their efforts in many aspects of the inspection process. New team members and new operating standards have been established, and importantly have shown a lift to the guest experience at Thornton Hall. Results were extremely positive and were comfortably in line with The AA’s exacting standards to achieve their Silver Star award.”

Over the past five years the hotel has experienced “substantial investment” including improved spa facilities and extensive interior refurbishment across bedrooms, function rooms and The Lawns restaurant.

General manager, Geoff Dale, said: “We’re delighted to have received a four AA Silver Star Award, which is testament to the tireless hard work and dedication of our entire team. We look forward to what else 2019 has in store and continuing to offer an exemplary guest experience.”

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Dumfries and Galloway hotel joins Best Western

Best Western Great Britain has announced the arrival of Sure Hotel Lockerbie, to its portfolio of over 260 independent hotels.

The Victorian property stands in three acres of its own grounds and gardens and features  21 rooms which will be increased to 30 as part of a £400,000 pound refurbishment.

Glen Wright, proprietor at Sure Hotel Lockerbie, said: “We’re extremely proud to join the newest Best Western brand and take our property to the next level.

“Looking ahead to the future, we are confident that with the help of Best Western we can share the success of a global brand that is committed to supporting its properties and maintaining excellent customer service, whilst maintaining our individuality and demonstrating what makes us unique, something we can’t wait to showcase to our guests.”

Rob Paterson, CEO at Best Western Great Britain, added: “We’re delighted to welcome Sure Hotel Lockerbie to our brilliantly different collection of independently owned properties. Best Western members are investing for the future and changing for the better and our Sure Hotels brand is an example of how we are delivering more to our guests. We look forward to working in partnership with the team at the hotel to showcase and celebrate their hotel both locally and globally.”

Best Western Great Britain’s members have invested over £210m since 2015 improving properties and guest experiences.

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Bike and Boot Inns acquires Mount Hotel

The Mount Hotel, located in the Yorkshire seaside town of Scarborough, has been acquired by leisure brand Bike and Boot Inns.

The 50-bedroom, five storey hotel was previously owned and operated by the Lothian family from Glasgow for several years, who have decided to sell in order to relocate back to Scotland.

Bike and Boot Inns plan to undertake “significant investment, alterations and upgrades” to the hotel, with The Mount to reopen, fully refurbished and rebranded, in summer 2019.

Stewart Lothian, former owner of the Mount Hotel, said: “It is with a heavy heart that the family chose to sell the hotel which was largely for logistical reasons given the commuting distances between Scarborough and Glasgow. Our strong hopes were that The Mount would be sold for ongoing use and to a buyer who would invest and reinvigorate the hotel.”

Bike and Boot Inns is led by Simon Rhatigan and Simon Kershaw. Kershaw added: “This is our first acquisition and our intention is to roll out the brand, initially across the north of England in key leisure and tourist locations, such as coastal towns and national parks.

“Our target client base is the short break market but with facilities for cyclist, walkers, dog owners and those who simply enjoy some of the most beautiful areas in the country.”

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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.


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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How hoteliers can stand out from the crowd

Have you ever stayed at your own hotel and put yourself in the shoes of the guest?

Regardless of your personal feelings about technology, you must put them aside and get to grips with the fact that guests expect nothing less than complimentary Wi-Fi in every part of the hotel, realistically nobody wants to have to sit in the reception area to surf the internet.

And then there are those places that haven’t just taken this on board, they have actually gone above and beyond to impress. Take South Lodge and Dormy House for example, they provide guests with a tablet in their room so that they can order room service or book a table for dinner. You should also cater for the generation of smartphone users, preferably with an iPod docking station in the room.

Because of the expensive equipment that we carry around with us, a laptop safe is a nice touch that makes us feel a bit more secure when we have to leave valuable items in the room. And if it has charging facilities in there, so much the better.


With increasing numbers of families wanting luxury breaks, those hotels that cater for children should make sure they go the extra mile. Bovey Castle has a fantastic Lego Room Service, which allows children to select from a Lego menu so that it can be delivered to their room. What child wouldn’t love this? And happy children make happy parents. Alternatively, you could simply make sure you have a good selection of toys, books, games and facilities available. An Ofsted registered crèche, kid’s clubs and babysitting services are all great ideas when catering for families.

Similarly for pet friendly hotels, expect that all owners treat their pet as a member of the family, so you must too. The Hare and Hounds in Tetbury provides a dog walking map, while others have bowls, treats and blankets to ensure your pooch leaves feeling pampered.


A real bone of contention at many hotels is the lack of comfortable pillows. Because each and every guest has different requirements, a creative option is to offer a pillow menu, which will appeal to everyone especially allergy sufferers. At Lainston House there is a fantastic selection of non-allergenic and anti-bacterial pillows, which are dabbed in a soothing lavender sleep balm at turn down.

Hotel 41 in London certainly knows how to welcome you. Sent to guests prior to arrival, the booking preference form lets you choose from a host of additional facilities in your room, including a variety of pillows, yoga mat and even an exercise bike.

If you want to know how to really make a guest feel special, you could always take a leaf out of Lake District hotel The Brimstone’s book. Not only will you find a GHD hair dryer and hair straighteners in each of its suites, the mood lighting; personal host and reading room, where complimentary refreshments are available throughout the day, provide an experience that certainly will not be forgotten in a hurry.


Over the last few decades the coffee revolution has sparked the desire for a quality coffee machine in hotel rooms, as well as fresh milk. At The Arch in London guests can enjoy a decent cup of coffee from the Nespresso Machine. If you really want to push the boat out, homemade cookies or a cake to welcome your guests will go down a treat.

A personal favourite of mine, in terms of overall hotel experience, has to be the Jetty Spa Trail at Gilpin Lake House. They really know how to do things in style there. Beginning with a private aroma consultation so that personalised products can be created for you to take home, you can also enjoy a private swim, salt snug, aroma massage and a glass of champagne in the private hot tub, which sits on the edge of the woodland.

Many hotels now understand the importance of providing guests with branded toiletry products, but St Moritz goes one step further with its own exclusive range of botanical products, which are also suitable for vegetarians to use.

By Zoe Cole of CrispWhiteSheets

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Dakota Deluxe Leeds appoints Ross Tatham as deputy GM

Dakota Deluxe Leeds has appointed Ross Tatham as deputy general manager assuming responsibility for over 130 staff.

Tatham brings over 16 years’ experience within the hospitality industry, having held several  positions at Rudding Park Hotel and Fortum & Mason in the UK, and at Atlantis, Marco Pierre White, and Burj Al Arab Hotel, the only 7-star hotel in the world, in Dubai. In his previous roles, he was responsible for implementing policies and procedures required to run and enhance these high-end operators.

Andrew Creese, general manager at Dakota Deluxe Leeds, said: “Ross has a proven track record of success at a range of luxury hotels and restaurants worldwide and I am confident that his business acumen and creative flair will stand him in good stead to enhance and develop the standards and service we offer to our guests. He is a highly qualified and experienced professional and will be a great asset to the team.”

Tatham added: “Dakota Deluxe Leeds has a fantastic reputation for providing guests with an unrivalled luxury experience and I am delighted to be joining the hotel at such an exciting time. With the introduction of a new concept in its Salon Privé and the launch of a new menu in the main bar, I hope to create a vibrant cocktail destination for visitors to Leeds whilst improve the existing standards of excellence here at Dakota.”

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Why marketing is important for hoteliers

The world has changed when it comes to marketing.  From what I’ve seen, very few hoteliers have realised how much it has changed and still live in the dark ages when it comes to promoting their hotels.  Steve Jobs’ dream came true. He changed the world when it came to technology and how we as human beings interact with it.

Let me be honest here and say when it comes to technology and internet marketing, it’s time to ‘ride the waves’ – and not fight them – as they are certainly not going away.  If you do not become a master of this new and extremely important skill within your hotel business, then I’m afraid you will sink. It’s that simple.

I was asked to write this column a few days before Christmas, so I had some time out to think about what I could say to you in a few hundred words that would make you stop and think about your own marketing; something that may make a difference to you if you choose to take action; something that would make a positive difference to how you think and what you do next.

Well here it is.

If you are a hotel owner, CEO, managing director or hotel manager, there is one thing and one thing only that is going to make a huge impact on your business and that is more customers. So, in order to attract these customers, you need to understand how they think and where they are. I don’t know your business. However, I can tell you where your customers are, and that’s the internet. They’re on Facebook, Twitter, on Google and a dozen or so other places where you can get to them easily with the right approach, skills and attitude.

So, whatever your position within your business, the single most important thing you should be mastering is marketing.  I’ll say it again: without understanding modern day marketing, you quite simply have a limited shelf life.

By Stephen Hargreaves, owner of the Cranleigh Boutique hotel

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Hunter’s Inn wins ‘Accessibility Award’ 2018

The Hunter’s Inn hotel in Devon has received the ‘Accessibility Award’ at the 2018 BeFactor Awards event, hosted by Bespoke Hotels.

The hotel was recognised as providing an “attentive, relaxed welcome for all its guests” with full wheelchair accessible across its public spaces, and the “knowledgeable and attentive” staff were also singled out for particular praise.

Competing against over 100 properties from across the UK, the property was commended out for praise as a “disable-friendly venue, located in an area containing two dedicated accessible routes enabling all guests to explore the scenery of the Heddon Valley and nearby Woody Bay”.

Hunter’s Inn GM Simon Lover said: “We are delighted to have been honoured in this way”, commented My staff are passionate about providing all our guests with the highest levels of service, regardless of disability, and we have moved to ensure the team is educated, confident, and attentive at all times.

“Thanks to the efforts of the National Trust in recent years, both Hunter’s Inn and the surrounding Heddon Valley are readily accessible to all.”

Robin Sheppard, chairman of Bespoke Hotels, added: “Hunter’s Inn has set the standard in 2018 for disabled accommodation within the Bespoke Hotels family. The team are informed and supportive, without being overbearing or patronising to guests, while both the building and rooms are comfortable to travel through and stay in, whether on foot or wheels.”

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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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