Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What hotels guests want ...

Media Release – September 28, 2009

Hotel Guests Want Value and Quality, Not Just a Room: Survey

Hotels take note: a majority of guests say exorbitant mark-ups on mini-bar items are the most annoying aspect of a hotel stay, followed by sub-standard room amenities and inferior service and expensive food in hotel restaurants, according to a survey by Melbourne’s Hotel Windsor.

The survey, conducted online and through questionnaire forms in guest rooms in June, July and August this year, attracted 1,411 responses.

Asked to select the three most annoying aspects of staying in a hotel:
• More than 55 per cent of respondents selected the cost of mini-bar items;
• Over 26 per cent said sub-standard amenities, such as shampoo, tea and coffee, and towels and bathrobes; and
• 25.6 per cent selected poor service and expensive food in hotel restaurants.

Other annoying or disappointing aspects included: cost of in-room movies (22 per cent); cost or in-room dining (21 per cent); impersonal service (more than 19 per cent) and the cost of internet services (18 per cent).

But in some good news for the sector, 34 per cent of survey respondents said they intended to spend the same amount in the coming 12 months as in previous years on travel and holidays, despite the economic environment.

And, reinforcing the overall survey findings that travelers expect quality and value for money, more than 28 per cent said they would be planning to up-grade to a better standard of room or hotel given that many hotels have lowered room rates in response to economic conditions and 11 per cent said they would increase their travel spend as prices drop.

Hotel Windsor CEO and general manager David Perry said the survey showed consumers expected far more from a hotel than simply a room.

“Obviously, hotel guests look very closely at the full range of services and facilities that combine to make a hotel stay memorable and that deliver real value,” he said. “They are strongly disappointed when their stay is undermined by second-rate, highly-priced room amenities and hotel food. Every hotel general manager knows many of their guests walk out of the hotel and around the corner to a convenience store to pick up chocolate, a can of soft drink or beer, rather than pay hotel prices. We have to ask if we want to continue to encourage this behaviour rather than provide incentives for guests to fully enjoy everything a hotel can offer.”

The Hotel Windsor has acted quickly on the survey feedback. From 1 October 2009 it will substantially lower the price of all mini-bar items to align them as closely as possible with retail prices and will review the success of this move at the end of the year. It has also introduced a new range of quality teas, Madame Flavour, to its suites and deluxe rooms.

According to Mr Perry, The Hotel Windsor is already ahead on a number of other fronts. It recently partnered with Primus Telecom to install a dedicated high-speed fibre-optic connection to ensure guests enjoy the best-value and best-performing internet in town. As well, feedback forms from diners at the hotel’s signature 111 Spring Street Restaurant in August show 83 per cent rated their meal as very good or outstanding.

“The survey results show hotels need to look closely at all areas of operation and constantly identify areas for improvement and innovation in order to deliver a quality hospitality experience,” Mr Perry said.

The 180-room Hotel Windsor was built in 1883, pre-dating some of the world’s leading grand hotels including the Savoy in London, which was built in 1889, the Waldorf Astoria in New York which dates back to 1893, and the Ritz Paris which opened in 1898.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Grace Hotel Sydney - technical difficulties

Here I was earlier in the month complaining about the technical difficulties that Telstra inflicted upon us. Well, that has been put in perspective now by one of the hotels in Sydney.

Last week I was trying to contact the Grace Hotel in Sydney to check availability. I tried their 1800 number, I tried their land line, I tried getting on their website ... nothing. I then rang the mobile number of the sales manager from the hotel ... it was the middle of the day but it sounded like I woke him up. I found out shortly after that he was travelling in Europe on business and it was about 3am in the morning, woops. I asked him if the hotel was still open and he hadn't heard anything about the technical difficulties yet.

I received this e-mail from them yesterday ... a whole week without telephone, e-mail or internet, OUCH!

Grace Hotel Sydney Telephone and Internet Service Outage

Please do not respond to this email.

Dear Business Partner,

You may have heard on the news recently, a set of fibre-optic and copper cables used for telecommunication have been severed, affecting parts of the Sydney CBD.

The Grace has been without telephone, email and internet service since Wednesday 16th September. The hotel website and general phone line have been restored and some email addresses are operational.

The general hotel line has recently been diverted and is temporarily available. Please call +61 2 `9272 6888 for any urgent enquiries.

Thank you for your patience and understanding while we wait for telecommunication services to be restored. At this stage we have no definite information on when communications will be restored but as soon as this happens we will advise accordingly.

Kind regards
The Grace Hotel

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Good signs ahead

A number of my posts over the last few months have been about the gloomy state of the Australian hotel market due to the economic slowdown. Thankfully, things start to be looking up again. We're not seeing the full flow-on effect as yet and we have a looooong way to go to get back to normality but some positive signs are there.

Events are starting to fill cities again and a number of cities are back to being busy on a regular basis. Canberra has been pretty steady thanks to a number of sittings of parliament. Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth have been slowly picking up again while Darwin is always very busy at this time of year.

One of the biggest frustrations over the last few months has been that we are still getting some really great enquiries (groups, long-stays, etc) but just haven't ended up booking any of them. Whether its just companies "kicking tyres" or they aren't getting the rates approved by their accounts, its disappointing to get the enquiry and not be able to close the deal. The group bookings and the long-stays are the cream for our business as they take the same time to do as a normal reservation but are obviously worth a lot more.

So it was nice last week to finally close a really good booking and one that I didn't expect to. I had one of the travel agent's we look after call me needing help with accommodation in Geelong. Sure, not a capital city and not somewhere we normally look after but for the right enquiry I'll definitely make an exception. Surprisingly, Geelong is extremely busy over the next month or so with a number of events and the agent needed to find 6 rooms for roughly 6 weeks each. Thankfully one of my friends is the Director of Sales & Marketing at the Four Points by Sheraton Geelong and he was able to work his magic, squeeze them in and give me an excellent rate.

I was actually down in Geelong a month or two ago for my birthday weekend and thanks to my friend we stayed at the hotel. Its in a great location overlooking the bay and I had a nice room overlooking the water (pictured below) ... and paid very little including breakfast and drinks. Two months later, a very good booking for them (and us) ... it obviously pays to have me stay at your hotel! :-)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Drinks at Oaks Lexicon

I got an invite to have drinks & canapes at Oaks Lexicon last night to check out their refurbished apartments. I stayed at the property a few years ago shortly after it opened and wasn't sure it really needed a refurb yet.

When we arrived I ran in to an old friend who now works at the Convention Centre so I caught up with her on the way in. I needn't have worried that I might not know anyone because some regular function attendees were of course there ... Jason (also from the Convention Centre) and of course Saskia from Wotif.

Its the first function I've attended recently but I'm glad I did. A glass or two of bubbles, some excellent canapes and catching up with some industry colleagues. It wasn't all just socialising tho as I did of course have a good look around the apartment. They've done a good job with the refurb and the apartments look great, plus being an Oaks they're also great value. This property has good sized balconies and some excellent views/aspects of the city, despite being right in the middle of town.

Here's the press release about the refurbishment:

Celebrate a brand new look at the Oaks Lexicon!

Spring into the Oaks Lexicon for a fresh new look this season, offering the perfect affordable accommodation close to the CBD, central station, and Fortitude Valley.

Spacious, sophisticated and self contained, Oaks Lexicon is one of the cities most contemporary and stylish buildings. A recent make-over has refined interiors, added a new edge to the modern d├ęcor and ignited a sleek ambience that will delight those looking for a classy place to stay at a great price.

The cities most popular restaurants and bars are just a short stroll from Oaks Lexicon, or choose the added convenience of self-catered dining with gleaming gourmet kitchens fitted with quality stainless steel appliances. Generous sized apartments are perfect for an intimate dinner party but cosy enough for a romantic rendezvous too!

Balconies boasting city views, a heated swimming pool and BBQ podium area with a Tuscany feel, gymnasium and undercover parking on site ensure Oaks Lexicon is the savvy choice for discerning travellers who will love the quality, and also delight in Oaks Lexicon’s supreme value.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Technical difficulties

Moving is never fun and rarely does it go smoothly. We moved out of The Shop last month and other than the normal pains of moving the only real dramas came from the phone lines.

Firstly, the phone lines were set to get switched over on the Monday morning so the week prior I rang to book in the move of the phone system. Much to my horror I was informed that the official Telstra people couldn't do it until the Monday after. Not surprisingly, that wasn't going to work. Thankfully I have another company that has helped me out previously and although I couldn't get in touch with the right person until Monday they were able to squeeze us in on Tuesday afternoon.

Unfortunately, the lines were switched over earlier than expected and we weren't informed so we weren't able to divert calls to my mobile. I rang Telstra to get them to organise a diversion but that didn't happen, so we essentially had two days without phone lines ... not ideal. When the phone system was moved and everything was set up, the diversion kicked in the next morning, great work.

We had a week or so of no problems until I came in to undivert the phone on Monday only to find out that two of the lines weren't working and we were only receiving half of the calls. I tried everything I could to fix it but the next day found out it was an issue with the Telstra network. Wednesday morning they came and fixed it but it was another two days where a number of people couldn't get through to us.

So, if you have been trying to call us over the last few weeks and haven't been able to get through I sincerely apologise. We're still alive and well and hoping this is the last of our phone dramas.

Telstra, you are well and truly not on my Christmas card list this year.