The head of business development EMEA at hotel management company Valor explains how his team keeps the hotel machine running smoothly using the power of its people. Caroline Baldwin reports.
What is the Valor hotel business model and why is it so successful?
We specialise in running hotels under a franchise model. We have 17 properties in the UK and 50 globally, working with the likes of Hilton, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott, Crown Plaza and Holiday Inn.
These companies are phenomenally good at marketing their brand, but where they have fallen back slightly is the day-to-day operation of the business – purely because you can't do everything. This isn't a criticism; they're incredibly powerful machines and we enjoy working with them and we can really push the top line and profitability margins that the brands are unable to do.
So we are in charge of everything from delivering heads into beds, bums on seats in restaurants and bars, meeting rooms, looking after the staff and making sure everything is in good condition, and delivering a profit to the owners in the end.
What are your growth plans?
I've been brought on board to double the portfolio in the UK and put a similar number into mainland Europe by talking to brands and developers about existing hotels and new sites.
For existing hotels, the pandemic has hit them incredibly hard and often there is an opportunity to look at structures that de-risk that and bring in higher returns. Similarly, for new builds, we can de-risk that for investors by having a strong management team to run the property alongside their own strong brand – the only way you get a return on investment is if the hotel is successful and you need people who know the local marketing – a strong local management team, a stamp of good housekeeping and the feel-good factor of the brand we've all heard of.
How do you manage to replicate this brand feel-good factor when working with various clients?
The trick is to know the brand inside and out and understand what its key touchpoints are. For instance, at a Hilton DoubleTree you will receive a warm cookie on arrival. And what we would do is we fulfil those brand standards, so however tired, wet and cold you are when you arrive at your hotel at 7pm, you can still feel the comfort of that brand.
What is the biggest challenge that operators will face this year?
Uncertainty. We can sit here and criticise the government – and being in the hospitality industry there's plenty to criticise them for – but we can't criticise them for the uncertainty. We don't know how to manage the virus and we're making it up as we go along.
The hospitality industry wants people to start coming back, but we're now hearing experts saying pubs and restaurants won't open until May and that will be devastating. That level of uncertainty is what will cause many problems.
Valor has repeatedly been a finalist in The Caterer's Best Places to Work awards – why do you think that is?
It's all about the team; it's having a very rigorous recruitment and training process. But the training we offer is not just about how to do your job, it's how to look after you as an individual and that's never been more important. We have a low turnover in a very transient sector of the economy, which is a true testament to our caring mentality.
If we want guests to receive a friendly smile we need to make sure the team is well cared for. If you look after your team, they look after your guests, and the team and your guests look after your property. It's part of our DNA to look after each other.
If you look after your team, they look after your guests, and the team and your guests look after your property
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