A Nice Hotel Story

An elderly married couple are travelling by car from Victoria to Prince George. Being seniors, after almost eleven hours on the road, they were too tired to continue and decided to take a room. But, they only planned to sleep for four hours and then get back on the road.

When they checked out four hours later, the desk clerk handed them a bill for $350.00. The man explodes and demands to know why the charge is so high. He told the clerk although it’s a nice hotel; the rooms certainly aren’t worth $350.00 for four hours. Then the clerk tells him that $350.00 is the ‘standard rate’. He insisted on speaking to the Manager.

The Manager appears, listens to him, and then explains that the hotel has an Olympic-sized pool and a huge conference centre that were available for us to use.
“But we didn’t use them,” the husband said.
“Well, they are here, and you could have,” explained the Manager.

The Manager went on to explain that the couple could also have taken in one of the shows for which the hotel is famous. “We have the best entertainers from New York , Hollywood , and Las Vegas perform here,” the Manager says.
“But we didn’t go to any of those shows,” the husband said.
“Well, we have them, and you could have,” the Manager replied.

No matter what amenity the Manager mentioned, the husband replied, “But we didn’t use it!”
The Manager is unmoved, and eventually the husband gave up and agreed topay.

As he didn’t have the check book, he asked his wife to write the check.
She did and gave it to the Manager.
The Manager is surprised when he looks at the check. “But ma’am, this is made out for only $50.00.”
“That’s correct. I charged you $300.00 for sleeping with me,” she replied.

“But I didn’t!” exclaims the Manager.
“Well, too bad, I was here, and you could have.”

Don’t mess with senior citizens….. They didn’t get there by being stupid.


Who Are Your Guests?

Interesting piece here from HotelInteractive about who’s travelling and why. Interesting too that they talk about the ‘booming’ hotel business in the US at the moment – can’t say it is in Livingstone but if things are picking up in the States, that can only be good for future prospects. 

Here’s the piece, slightly edited. The picture? What some of our Guests do when they come to Livingstone!

We all know the hotel business is booming, but looking specifically at who that business is coming from isn’t something we’ve really dug in to. Until now. So who is that consumer knocking at your door? Turns out there are a healthy mix of leisure and business travelers that are combining to make this a very robust time. Toss in ever increasing group business – those folks booking 10 or more rooms at a time and we have a situation where all there major demand groups are doing what they need to do, demanding rooms.

Recovering group business, however, is helping hotels push rates, even if a specific hotel does not focus on group business. As group demand becomes more solid they can get higher room rates for the remaining rooms to sell to transient guests. Plus those with more groups displace transients which sends them to other hotels so those hotels can push rates too. Lodging demand and lodging pricing remain headed in the right direction.

A big chunk of that leisure business is coming from non-vacation trips, which have become more popular in recent years. Research points out that for personal leisure travel, 32 percent travel for special events such a soccer tournament, 28 percent are on the road visiting friends or relatives while 4 percent take trips for medical or health care reasons. Most interesting is that 10 percent are taking trips to events like personal improvement expos or conventions like ComicCon.

People are also vacationing more in spring and fall, which has created a much longer and stronger travel season. Shoulder seasons are growing, it is no longer just summer. Even for vacations summer is still strong but many are pushing their trips into spring or fall. D.K. Shifflet & Associates research also points out that while Baby Boomers make up the vast majority of travelers now, the coming of travel age for the millennial generation combined with the passing away of the Silent Generation is quickly changing the typical age of people traveling. By 2020 Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers will each be traveling in roughly equal numbers.

This means hoteliers will have to take several different approached to appealing to their target guests. It also means hotels will have to continually focus their properties on niche customers if they want to create strongly definable product, we believe. One concern for hoteliers is social media of course. Many prognosticators say it is hyper critical to dive in to this emerging communication medium. But is it as important as many believe? For Facebook less than 15 percent of online posts have anything to do with the hotel itself, which 50 percent post photos and 30 percent discuss travel experiences; which usually are more destination specific.

But it’s also more generationally specific. Just over half of all millennial travelers are posting while that number drops to around 35 percent for Genn X and about 22 percent for Baby Boomers. As for Twitter, about 5 percent tweet on travel experience while about half that number tweet on hotels. He said 57 percent of business travelers use a mobile device to access the internet for travel information which is up from 40 percent in 2010. For leisure travelers 38 percent use a mobile device to access the internet for travel information, up from 11 percent in 2010.


Richard Rocks!

Of course I do! But this time the ‘Richard’ in the title refers to Simon Daka, pictured above, who records under the name of ‘Richard’ – it’s his middle name he informed us, when he was questioned at the start of the latest edition of the Chanters Lodge Experience with the Milli Jam Ingredient featuring Kaufela. That’s our weekly radio show airing from 20.30 – 21.30 hrs every Sunday night on Zambezi 107.7 fm, Livingstone’s leading local radio station. The show streams live on the internet too! We often invite Guests staying at Chanters Lodge to appear on the programme, but we also have a reputation for helping to promote young aspiring Zambian musicians and artists, so from time to time they feature and we were happy to welcome Simon to this particular show.

Richard (or Simon if you will!) told listeners proudly that he was really a ‘Lusaka Boy’ but that he’d moved to Livingstone some time ago to stay with his sister who, like their late father, served in Zambia Police. “That’s alright then!” I said “next time I’m stopped by these strict lady police officers at a roadblock, my first question will be are you Simon Daka’s sister”? Richard’s a rapper and has so far recorded about six tracks with various different studios including Rising Sounds. He has a son Chard with his fiancee Nelly and was determined that he would marry his ‘darling love’ this year, telling us that he’d already saved what he needed for ‘lobola’.

We featured one of Richard’s tracks on the show entitled ‘Umusuma’ meaning ‘beautiful’ and dedicated to Nelly. The track is well produced and has a good beat with inspiring lyrics. We also played ‘Okondewa’ by Jemah featuring our own Kaufela. Our ‘oldie of the week’ was also a Zambian track – Joe Chibangu’s ‘System’ and the prize we offer to the first person to text us telling us the name of the performing artist was quickly snapped up by Draria, who won dinner for two at Chanters Lodge. We played ‘Thrift Shop’ the huge hit by Macklemore as well as Every Storm (runs out of rain)  from Gary Allen’s USA number one selling Billboard 200 album ‘Set You Free’. Tracks from Davido ft Ice Prince and Blue rounded off the show.

Simon told listeners that apart from rap he really liked hip-hop saying “hip-hop speaks for me!” He listed his inspirations as 50 Cent and Naz. He explained that he had spent some time working in one of Livingstone’s larger hotels as a receptionist and that he really liked the hospitality business. He greeted some of the managers and staff of the hotel who had helped him in the past. He expressed little interest in soccer unless it was the Zambian national team playing, at which point we mourned Zambia’s recent ejection from the ongoing Africa Cup Of Nations!

Asked where he would like to be and what he would like to be doing in ten years’ time, Simon ‘Richard’ Daka said he would like to be fully involved with the hospitality business, possibly owning his own lodge, bought from the proceeds of his extra-ordinarily successful career in the entertainment industry! We wished him well.


How To Irritate Your Guests!

I liked this piece from Mr. Larry Mogelonsky, CHA on HotelInteractive. This is how Larry says hotels irritate their Guests. Underneath each point I’ve written how I think we fare at Chanters Lodge.

1. Overpriced minibar and bottled water.

Why exactly is an in-room bottle of water $5? Every traveler knows this is shamefully marked up. It’s perceived as an aggressive cash grab for the hotel; you’re not winning your guests over with this exorbitant price. In fact, you’re insulting their intelligence. Ditto for the minibar.

Our bottled water is the equivalent of US$1

2. Weak in-room coffee and tea selection. 
It’s always highly assuring and soothing to know that there’s a warm cup of stimulating beverage waiting for you across the bed, except when that beverage tastes like watered down battery acid. So I try to alleviate this insipid rot with cream and sugar, only to my dismay, there’s only one of the former and none of the latter. A little extreme, yes, but consider your coffee accessory allotment for when you’re dealing with more than one person per room.

We provide a kettle. We supply milk, sugar, tea and instant coffee on request with no limit on quantities. Our instant coffee is not of the highest standard………

2. Charging for local calls. 

Why are you billing guests a full dollar per five minutes for each completed local call? Anyone who has ever owned a phone, landline or cellular, knows that local calls never amount to such incredulous fees. When you do this, the guest perception is one of hostility. You’re not doing your part to develop the friendship and positive emotional connection between the hotel and its patrons, which is an essential if you ever want such a guest to give you an actual recommendation.

We do not have much demand for local land line local calls but when there is, we do not charge.

3. Housekeeping knocks too early. 
When is the earliest time that housekeeping should start making their rounds? How does this vary for weekdays versus weekends? Every traveler has a different routine and itinerary, so this is a tough call, but keep in mind that knocking too early and disturbing someone’s sleep is an instant deal breaker. I remember staying at a budget chain hotel where housekeeping knocked at 8am on a Saturday. And then, after I muffled out a half-reply, they proceeded to enter my room! Not only will I never stay there again, but I’ve been very vocal to advise my friends never to stay at this particular chain. Don’t let this be you!

We do not disturb guests in the room unless they have not appeared for breakfast before 10.00 hrs on departure day. On the whole the lodge is quiet, though there is noise from neighbourhood dogs at night – common in Africa. We have no time limit on the availability of breakfast, which is included in the room rate.

4. Not enough bathroom amenities.
Towels, soaps and shampoos primarily. Picture this: you are staying in a room with your significant other, getting ready for the day’s events, and he or she decides to shower first. Then you shower. Upon getting out, you notice that all the towels have been used. So now, drenched and sparsely clothed, you have to await housekeeping to deliver more of what should have been there in the first place. Not a good way to start your day.

We do not provide as many bathroom amenities as we should, mainly due to the absence of a reliable local supplier. We are happy to provide extra towels on request, as well as for the swimming pool.

5. Not enough pillows or coat hangers. 

Some people are used to sleeping on one pillow, others two, and some even three. Is appeasing the latter two groups really that hard to do? True, a guest can always call down to request more pillows, but why start off on the wrong foot? Furthermore, too often I’ve entered rooms that only have five coat hangers or less. When this happens, I think to myself, “Do they really not trust me?” Apart from the obvious inconvenience of having to jockey for coat hanger real estate, this is just one more pesky, little thing to drive a wedge in an otherwise positive guest-hotel relationship.

Most travellers to Victoria Falls do not have a huge demand for coat hangers as clothing is strictly casual. We provide extra pillows on request. As Sod’s Law would have it we had a complaint about pillows as this blog was being prepared!

6. Noisy air conditioner or heating unit.
Less a problem during the day, but if your guest is a light sleeper and this stops him or her from getting a full night’s sleep, you’re in for big problems. Without their seven hours, your guests will be put in irrational states of mind and they’re bound to do anything, including actions like loudly complaining at the front desk, writing derisive online reviews and making it their mission to tell all their friends about their experience. Mind you, this one is substantially more expensive to fix and it requires a total maintenance overhaul, but that doesn’t preclude its importance. You’re going to have to upgrade these units eventually, why not know?

Our split unit air conditioners are generally quiet.

7. Too many promotional tent cards.

Once a guest is in the room, you don’t need to beat them over the head with endless advertisements for your own F&B or spa programs. The worst I’ve seen is when these cards and papers clog up the counters so much that it prevents a guest from using them. A polite, concise reminder will do. The guest is already staying with you, right? This is one area where tablets will shine as they can get these types of messages across neatly and colorfully without cluttering the room.

We don’t do these.

9. Charging for WiFi
 In-room internet connectivity is no longer a value-added service. Wake up; it’s 2012. For many people, internet access is an essential part of their way of life, much like breathing, sleeping, eating and hydrating. Charging for this service is highway robbery and guests won’t see it any other way. Whatever objections you have – legacy contracts or bandwidth overload for instance – get over them and think like a guest for a minute. Nowadays, why would I pay $15 per day to use the hotel’s internet when I could run down to a nearby cellular store and get 200 MB of data for $2 per day on my 4G smartphone, which downloads at a rate that’s at par with the hotel’s service?

Our wifi is free, it needs a booster to reach all and not just some of the rooms.

10. Worse – no WiFi at all! 
Let me reiterate: Internet access is a necessity for the modern traveler. Your guests will treat the room as their ‘home base’ – planning the next day, answering emails, posting to social media and unwinding with a quick Netflix television episode. For some, denying them internet access is equivalent of denying them running water! It’s a given that travelers will research their accommodations before booking and lack of WiFi, free or not, is an instant deal breaker. If you operate at a hotel that doesn’t offer internet access, you’re not likely to receive any complaints about this, because every discerning guest has already booked and stayed elsewhere.

We were one one of the first small lodges in Livingstone to have wifi. We wish our provider’s speeds were better.


Social Media – Do You Need It?

Another interesting piece from HotelInteractive, this time from Megan Sterritt. I’ve shortened it to bring out the highlights.

1) How can Social Media help me? Do I need it?
Whether it’s for branding, to reach media for coverage or directly get in front of eligible consumers, social media marketing is an effective strategy for companies/brands to capture users in all phases of the shopping process. In today’s world, consumers demand honest, accurate, timely and engaging information.

Branding: You control your message. Social channels take you direct to your consumer so you can control 100% of what you say to them. But, as Evision stated in a recent report, “sell yourself (softly).” Meaning, talk about your features and benefits briefly and selectively. Your social content should not be all about you, all the time. You also control how you look to consumers. Make sure your brand personality is consistent across all channels.

Brand Awareness
: You control how many people see your message and hear about your brand. By tagging and other methods for extending reach, it’s really up to you the number of times your potential consumer hears and learns about you and what you have to offer. With one billion monthly active users on Facebook and over 300 million on Twitter, a brand is not limited to the average 30K magazine circulation.

Reach Influencers: Social media influencers do just that – influence consumers to act (e.g. discussion, purchase, recommend, etc). They could be print journalists, broadcasters, bloggers or anyone that others see as a point of reference. And while traditional PR is responsible for reaching out to influencers on their home court (at the magazine, TV station, on the blog, etc.), these same influencers usually congregate together on social media during Tweetchats. A tweetchat is a discussion between a group of people about a certain topic on Twitter, normally following a specific hashtag during a set time.

Example: the #TNI (Travelers’ Night In) tweetchat at 3:30 pm every Thursday gathers many travel writers and travel influencers together to discuss a specific travel topic – this is perfect for hotels or travel companies looking for publicity. #Foodchat is another, perfect for restaurants or food brands. (also #TTOT Travel Talk On Tuesday – ed)

Build Brand Ambassadors: Social Media can help brands personalize a customer’s experience – in a unique and immediate way – like no traditional platform. The Four Seasons Lanai crafts a unique turndown amenity telling guests to tweet them during their stay. When on property, if a guest posts that they’re interested in dining or going to the spa at the resort, the resort can send them directly to the reservations page. Not only does it make the experience easier for the guest, it gets them to purchase at the hotel instead of next door. The more you engage with a person, the more likely they are to be happy with their experience and SHARE the experience with others.

Reputation Management: Social channels are a convenient way for your customers to give feedback. They also allow you to more easily monitor and respond. If a person goes out of their way to say something about you on social media, they want you to know. In his book The New Influencers, author Paul Gillin said, “Conventional marketing wisdom long held that a dissatisfied customer tells ten people. But…in the new age of social media, he or she has the tools to tell ten million.”

Don’t give a negative reviewer additional ammunition to continue talking badly about you because you don’t respond. Always respond, and do it honestly. If it’s a review on Tripadvisor or Yelp, positive and negative reviews should be addressed ASAP. Approach negative reviews with a solution, and positive with appreciation. There is nothing like saying Thank You to someone that likes you. That will make them ten times more your brand advocate.

SEO & Increased Traffic to Website
: One of the three core elements of Search Engine Optimization is popularity, which is the sheer number of inbound links to a website. Using a shortened URL (that’s relevant) at the end of your tweets or posts will drive visitors to your website. In addition, producing good content naturally attracts back links and social signals (such as Tweets and Likes) that tell search engines that your content is popular with actual beings, further building up your site’s credibility for the crawlers.

2. How often do I need to be on social media
Simple answer: every day. Every day you should be monitoring discussion on your channels. See you later snail mail. Customer service is 24/7. If someone poses a question, they expect an answer almost immediately. And, going back to reputation management, reviews need to be replied to ASAP.

When it comes to disseminating new content, it depends on the channel. One should not post on Facebook every day. The #1 reason for un-liking on Facebook is “cluttering the newsfeed.” Carefully craft your posts, and space them out, to engage your consumer without annoying them. On the other hand, Twitter is a channel you should be publishing from at least several times a day.

3. How long does it take to show results?

WOW images can create overwhelming responses immediately, but to create true brand advocates a good six months should be expected.

4. What is included in a typical social media campaign?
There is no cookie cutter campaign model for companies or brands looking to embark on social media. The components of a social media strategy should be reflective of the type of company and its business objective. Whether its brand awareness, website traffic, sales or strictly reputation management, the social media channels used will be different.

Social Media can yield many valuable rewards, including increased sales, but always remember the true nature of social media is engagement and creating brand advocates.


Knotty Leads

I was delighted recently to renew contact with Mary Davies after more years than I care to mention. Her late husband Drew Frayn was a general manager with Hallway Hotels in the early 70’s when I first went overseas with that company, and was my boss for a few weeks in Seychelles. Mary and daughter Melissa with partner Joe are in the early stages of planning a trip to Zambia.

Anyway, Melissa and Mary have a company making different dog leads (pictured above) – looks like a very good idea for Christmas presents if you have friends and/or family with dogs! Here’s all about it and a link to their site!

Knotty-Leads was launched in the Spring 2012 after designing and making leads for my own two Labradors. Very soon, other dog owners noticing the distinctive  and stylish designs and colours were asking for leads not only for their own dogs but as “something different” as gifts for their dog owner friends too.

Enlisting the help of my mother, Mary, a skilled knotter and tutor, we thoroughly researched the best materials for this innovative project and decided on high strength polypropylene cords as standard.

 Since then, due to their high quality, strength and designs, the popularity of our leads has continued to grow.   As well as private individuals and retail outlets, our valued customers also include the Yorkshire Dales National Park and Regimental Museum Shops around the country.

Each lead is individually knotted by myself or my mother and we will do our utmost to meet any special requirements. We are shortly introducing slip leads and couple leads to our exclusive Knotty-Leads range and also leads to order for other pets, so please contact us if you would like further information.


Reviews And Ratings

This from HotelInteractive hit close to home and is well worth a read.

Do you remember in high school how jealous you felt when you got a B on your English test while your friend got an A-?  Now that we are all grown up, hopefully, we can safely look back at how insignificant that one trivial grade was in the grand scheme of things.  Well, apparently the lesson hasn’t been fully learned.  A few of us are still using this transient comparison other behavior for their online hotel review aggregates.

Statistical Methods Need to Be Recognized

Is it really important if your property rating on a review website goes from 4.5 to 4.6 within a two-week span?  Why are people micromanaging these tiny fluctuations?  It’s statistically irrelevant.  In school, real performance changes were denoted by evaluating your report card handed out at the end of each semester.  Much the same way, you can’t judge your hotel on a review-by-review basis but rather from a quarter to quarter appraisal.

A caveat of obligatory mentioning would be significant jump in rating aggregates.  The MBA student in me reasons that a shift of /- 0.6% or greater would be deemed statistically worthy of note.  But often does a variation like this occur within a two week or even month-long span?  Ratings typically move a tenth of a percent at a time and you’d be mistaken to fret over a drop of this size.  In my mind, numerical micromanagement represents another risk of the Internet as we are confounded with more metrics than we know how to handle.

It’s a double-edged sword though.  The solution is not to study the numbers with closer scrutiny but what the guests are saying.  Alas, this isn’t baseball.  Embrace the chatter and respond to deficiencies, rather than worrying about rating points.

Ratings Revealed for Their True Worth

One of the beauties of online review sites is they give guests an anonymous platform to be honest, rather than just silently dismiss your property for return visits.  Word of mouth may be a powerful behind-the-scenes motivator, but word of mouse is open to the public, available for you to study and hopefully learn from.  These websites are your opportunity to gain unbiased insight and constructive criticism about your operations.  Replying to individual commentators is a great way to broadcast the fact that you are willing to accept outside advice, but all your response efforts will be negligible if you don’t take their suggestions to hear and develop a plan of action to correct said mistakes.

You have to evaluate the quality of your hotel based on qualitative data.  So, you better grab a pad then start reading each and every commentary, taking notes along the way.  After a couple dozen of them, you may start to notice some trends.  What are the common criticisms?  Was the front desk staff regarded as friendly and cooperative?  Housekeeping issues?  Room service?  Was restaurant food beyond what was expected or just adequate? How does the customer perceive your value equation?

Outliers: What to Do?

Now, from my experience, I’ve found that a small number of reviews may be written from a very hurtful slant.  Don’t be frazzled, or worse, obstinate.  Every critique is an opportunity to learn, even if that wasn’t the intent when posted.  Furthermore, when you assess such negative remarks against the average and the long-run of things, you’ll find that they are much like that one D you got on a math test back in grade nine.  Within a week, the pain is gone and forgotten.  The same goes any direct assaults against your property.  Do not discredit the entire online community based on a few rotten eggs.  For the most part, they are here to help, but only if you can listen.

So my emphasis is on the long-term versus the short-term.  But the comparison other technique can still applied in two valuable ways.  Read reviews, group commonalities, then develop your own quarterly scorecard for measuring qualitative performance over the past three months.  Then put this scorecard up against previous metric surveys or past critiques.  Is the situation improving?  Are specific complaints less prominent or absent all together in the latest series of posts?  The benefit of using scorecards is to keep track of particulars over a broad period of time; enough breadth for trends to change in a statistically significant manner.

Going Beyond Your Reviews

The other crucial tactic is to glance over the reviews of your key competitive set, keeping a lookout for occurrences where they are praised relative to where you are shammed.  If their restaurant’s food presentation is lauded while yours is just pedestrian, then you best have a meeting with your F&B Director and Executive Chef to address this discrepancy.

To draw upon personal experiences again, I’ve noticed that most explicit qualms found in online assessments arise from gaps in guest service.  Most individuals arrive at your hotel with given expectations set by what they see on your illustrious website homepage and what’s said on the web.  Such people will be more obliged to give you a highly positive grade if you meet or slightly exceed their standards.  However, it’s when you slip that your reviews will also fall.  That is, your staff jumbled a restaurant reservation, front desk was near oblivious to a guest’s needs, or individual requests were never fulfilled, to name a few.  Maybe you need to heighten internal communications channels to make sure everyone is on the same page.  The point is, take advantage of your hotel reviews to investigate and hone your guest service abilities.

The Bottom Line

I am a heavy proponent that improving your overall rating aggregate is more dependent on guest service than on large-scale issues that require significant capital investment.

Do yourself a favor, read through the Internet review chatter. Address the guest’s issues, not the rating.  You’ll know when you succeed because the problem will disappear from the latest commentary; or better yet, a recurring customer might even praise you for these improvements.  Regardless, hotel review sites are here to stay. The sooner you start paying attention to what people are writing, the sooner you will see improvement to your ratings.


It’s All About Service – and other stuff too!

I liked this from Hotel InterActive – a great site. These are ‘lessons learned’ from successful Asian hotels and very valuable lessons they are too – for any sized hotels anywhere. The picture? Bali! Ah! Dream on Richard!

It’s All About Service: By and large, the service levels experienced in all properties were at a palpably superior level than that previously witnessed in similar North American hotels and luxury properties in Europe.  This was accomplished not just through higher staff levels (anticipated), but by what appears to be a stronger and more adroit commitment to service.  Little touches in areas like valet, room service, housekeeping, F&B, front desk and concierge accumulated into something far greater.  In fact, try as I might, in three weeks of travel, only one service deficiency was noted, and it was trivial.

Paying Attention to the Details: Every luxury hotel guest expects comfortable and elegant accommodations, a broad array of food choices, and service efficiencies.  What sets these Asian properties apart are details normally not seen stateside.  Some examples include: newspapers delivered with gloves to avoid ink stains on your hands; rather than pillow-chocolates, a small cake at turndown service; notes handed out in leather folders; multiple amenity packages including full shaving and dental kits; jewelry boxes inside the room safe; a stationery kit of goodies to help handle minor business requirements; in-room espresso maker (not just a coffeemaker); multiple lighting configurations for various times of day and ambiance; a unique two-piece martini glass set; contribution envelopes to support local charities as a deposit for your coin change; and proper folios for your departure invoice.

Continuous Innovation: These properties continue to test new ways of improving their guest relationships through product enhancements.  In one hotel, they were experimenting with a dedicated floor for couples.  Another property was testing new menus. Still another was encouraging customers to create wild, new drink combinations.

Expert Maintenance to Support Quality Construction: As expected, the woods, marble and granite used for room furnishings were all immaculate.  While the properties ranged in age from 7 to over 20 years old, they all have the feeling of a newly opened hotel.  This was largely a result of superb maintenance levels.  No visible marks or scuffs were noted on door frames or hallway corners.  Upholstery was fresh, both in look and smell.  All electronics were up-to-date and far beyond what is the norm for North America.

Visible Leadership: Without exception, it was commonplace to see a member of senior property management in the reception area each morning, and often in the evening as well.  While the primary role appeared to be greeting guests, they also served as a reassurance that the team was performing its duties.  One evening, I met a general manager in the restaurant after 10PM, as he was waiting for a VIP guest to arrive from a delayed flight.  Of note, he was telephoned from the arriving limousine a few minutes in advance to efficiently orchestrate the arrival.

Free Wifi…..or not!

TNooz is the place to find stuff about hotels and hospitality! This piece about the importance of offering free wifi in hotels caught my eye. Chanters Lodge was one of the first small lodges in Livingstone to offer this facility some years ago and we have battled with various ISP’s to meet our goal. Right now our supplier is Zamtel but we have a back up ISP as well. Get in!

It is possibly one of the most fiercely debated topics in (consumer) travel technology – should consumers be entitled to free wifi and web access in hotels? And it now turns out that travellers are becoming more discerning about the destinations they are likely to visit, based on the quality of mobile coverage.

A study of 500 travellers (52% from Western Europe, 16% Northern Europe, 13% Southern Europe, 17% Middle East) found that 86% now expect wifi connections to be made freely available in hotels. Amazingly, over a third (37%) say that good mobile coverage is important when choosing a destination, although the study doesn’t explain how consumers are checking such requirements.

Elsewhere in the study (commissioned by Brocade), over half admitted to using their mobile devices to check on work emails during a leisure trip – hardly surprising in some respects given that 95% of people will take a mobile phone away with them on holiday. Pressure is increasing on hotels to loosen their policies over tariffs for wifi services, although property owners and others still claim costs in large hotels are often prohibitive.

Interestingly, live streaming appears to be becoming an increasingly important consideration, with a third claiming they will attempt to watch content from the London 2012 Olympics if it coincides with a trip.

Brocade VP and CMO, John McHugh, says:
“There is significant blurring between personal time and work time in modern society, with the consumerisation of IT and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) working policies leading many people to rely on smartphones and tablet devices around the clock, wherever they may be and whatever they may be doing.”

That’s it!



Long way from Chanters Lodge, Livingstone but get a load of this from Engadget

We all knew opening one’s hotel room door with a smartphone was just the beginning, didn’t we? As the years have turned (and LodgeNet has inexplicably remained), a smattering of companies have seen the opportunity to connect savvy hotel guests to the properties they frequent. Y!kes is the latest to tune in, and its solution undoubtedly has the potential to change the way smartphone users interact with lodging venues. Designed as a hardware + software platform, the proximity-aware access system offers hotels the ability to tightly and specifically grant or deny access to one’s phone. As an example, a hotel and guest both utilizing the system could see an elevator automatically choose one’s floor upon entry, a door automatically unlock when a patron walks within range, a parking deck automatically have its gate raised, and a VIP lounge door automatically open if the credentials are programmed in.

Going a step further, one could envision this system having the ability to alert a hotel when a guest lands at the nearest airport, thereby triggering a series of events that places fresh Perrier bottles on the desk, blue mood lighting in the bathroom, a thermostat adjustment to 74 degrees and whatever else that person has specified in their profile. Insane? Sure, but not at all outside of the realm of feasibility. Once a venue has installed the system, guests need only have the associated app — available for Android, BlackBerry OS, Windows Phone and iOS — running in the background on their device. If all goes as planned, he or she won’t even have to drop by the check-in counter, and when the stay is over, they’ll be able to bypass the check-out line as well.

If you’re curious about app availability, we’re told that the iOS build will hit the App Store “this week,” while the other three platforms will see launches “within 30 days.” We asked the company if it was ready to announce any partnerships with hotel chains, and received the following reply: “As for integration, Y!kes is currently engaged in deep discussions with the top hotel chains and will have information pertaining to specific contracts in the near future.” Needless to say, the jetsetters in the crowd will be keeping an ear to the ground for more.

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