Hotels should go all out to woo first-time visitors to London, says Jonathan Raggett, managing director of Red Carnation Hotels
With all the visitors currently flocking into London, it's boom time for hotels. My managers are certainly happy: forecasts set last year are being exceeded left, right and centre, with rates at a premium and occupancy at record levels.
But one thing I've learnt over the years is that things change, and the good times don't last forever. And it's when times get harder that we'll find out who's really been successful.
What's going to make the difference? All luxury hotels have comfortable beds, fluffy bathrobes, slippers and nice-smelling toiletries, so you need to look elsewhere for the factors that mean when fewer guests come knocking, it's your door they're knocking on.
When choosing a hotel, the three things that come into play are cost, location, and service. Cost - in other words, value - is only meaningful in terms of the other two. Location's location: you've either got it or you haven't. That leaves service, the sustainable edge that will separate successes from failures.
Those little extras that make guests feel special and go beyond their expectations even when prices are high will build the loyalty required for you to succeed when times get harder.
Everybody knows the most effective form of advertising is personal recommendation, but everyone is equally aware that this happens only when you do a great job. Make a mess of it, and once they can pick and choose, people will have no hesitation in going elsewhere.
At present, all hotels have that golden sales opportunity, the holy grail of our trade: vast numbers of first-time visitors. These are the people whose loyalty we should be cultivating so that next time we're first on their list. Floating on the clouds of current "success", how many of us can truly say that's our first priority?
Now is the time not to be applauding ourselves because we've met budgets set many months ago in different times, but to be setting harder challenges for the future. The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we're missing, but that we're aiming too low and hitting.
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