Hotel Excellence

This is an interesting piece from Mr. Larry Mogelonsky – CHA on HotelInteractive
Abigail’s Hotel (above) is a not-so-hidden gem coming at you from Canada’s prime real estate along the west coast. It’s likely not on many consumers’ bucket lists or hoteliers’ ‘leaders to watch’ catalogues. After all, the property is not affiliated with a major chain or a representation firm such as Leading Hotels of the World, Preferred Hotels & Resorts or Relais & Chateaux. Yet, with Abigail’s near perpetual ranking as the top property on TripAdvisor for Victoria, British Columbia (out of a total of 57 listed hotels), I decided that a further inspection was warranted.

Victoria is the capital of British Columbia – Canada’s westernmost province – with a population of 330,000. Located off the mainland on Vancouver Island, Victoria is considered a haven for Canadian retirees and my quick survey of the tourist scene confirmed this. The downtown waterfront district is dominated by Fairmont’s majestic Empress Hotel, with other major chain properties located snugly around the rejuvenated port area.

Abigail’s Hotel is about five minutes by car (ten minutes walking) from the center of town. I was encouraged to walk, but not knowing our way, felt more comfortable driving – a trip we did several times each day as parking was just a few dollars a day and free in the evening.

The heritage property houses 23 rooms and was built in 1930, having been converted from an apartment building in the 80s. Comprising two separate buildings wrapped around a small motor court, the property’s Tudor style façade is quaint and inviting. My room comprised a well-decorated, modest-sized bedroom with fireplace and a somewhat triangular-shaped bathroom. Well equipped, comfortable for sure, but certainly not fully up to the modern standards one would expect in a luxury property.

The well-appointed common rooms comprised a reception room flanked on either side by a living room to the right and a breakfast room to the left. Walk straight ahead and you are in a small but very pleasant courtyard. With no elevator, this property would not meet any accessibility requirements. Regardless, it was an exceptional experience.

What I just described in the past few paragraphs would have you scratching your head as to how Abigail’s has achieved its top TripAdvisor rating. It certainly isn’t the physical attributes or amenities of the property that delivered these accolades.

What drives the excellent rating is the service: personalized and professional. With a small but dedicated staff, Abigail’s has found the expert balance between helping and being overly obtrusive. Breakfasts are made to order by a chef and supported by efficient and happy waitstaff. A complimentary happy hour provided excellent snacks in the pre-dinner hour. Free wireless was also on tap. Throughout the stay, it was impossible to find fault. This level of service would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve in a property of 200-plus rooms without enormous (and not affordable) staffing levels. This supports my hypotheses on achieving high TripAdvisor ratings.

1. Service is more important than physical structure.

 2. Guests do not like to pay for extras and your ratings may suffer as you add costs. The final bill at Abigail’s had two lines: room and tax.

 3. Positive staff attitude trumps any fancy new room features. This is something to keep in mind as you seek to add items: the guest benefit might not be there!

4. Creating a relationship between staff and guests is paramount.