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September update: The Royal Sportsman – tapping into technology

18 September 2009
September update: The Royal Sportsman – tapping into technology

The hotel has provided a free Wi-Fi service to its guests for the past four years. Louis Naudi, owner and general manager of the property, describes this as the hotel's biggest technological improvement for guests, especially those on business.

He says: "Initially, we had problems over signals and connectivity, so a year ago, we brought in a new supplier which fixed everything to our satisfaction. Now we have complete quality coverage throughout the hotel and we have never charged for this service, nor intend to do so. It is a very popular requested service."

The hotel has opted not to install the more modern gadgetry of iPod docking stations as Naudi doesn't feel that this is a priority for his customers and the same goes for DVD players in the bedrooms and a library of films. However, he has added flatscreen TVs in the superior rooms, with plans to eventually extend them to all rooms. Two years ago he had a phone system installed throughout the hotel, but has found because of the mobile phone market that its use is almost entirely confined to putting calls through or ringing from room to room.

The hotel does not appeal to the conference market owing to its size and lack of meeting rooms and, therefore, the equipment this market calls for - whiteboards, projectors, video conference links and web cams - is not in the hotel's remit. Nevertheless, Naudi says the hotel does undertake mini conferences of between 15 and 30 people, and finds these customers are perfectly happy to bring their own whiteboards and projectors.

And although the social media revolution of the past two years has attracted the big players such as InterContinental Hotels Group and Accor, it seems the smaller fish have yet to catch up with it.

The hotel sends this document by eâ€'mail to about 2,000 customers but also posts it to 250 more and several hundred journalists.

Naudi says when he first arrived at the hotel there were no IT systems in place and all the software was very old. He decided to start afresh in 1999 and today everything the hotel does is computerised.

"We have a simple booking software which includes a database, guest history, statistics and all bookings which generate pre-written letters to ensure consistency in response but also allow a degree of personalisation. All accounts are computerised as is our bar till which tells me what is going on with stock and sales," he says.

Naudi prefers his chefs to talk with suppliers directly to see what the week's special is, what prices have changed, etc. The same goes for his booking system. "Over the phone, we can cross-sell or upsell which is not possible online. I still prefer the personal touch but am thinking of change if only because of the growth of third-party booking agency sites and the huge commission we have to pay," he explains.

The hotel has an effective website which has won an award in Wales. However, Naudi says he constantly reviews it for improvements to optimise its placing in search engine results. And it seems to be working: although 60% of business is repeat/referral, more than 30% of new business is via the website.

Mentor Peter Birnie feels Naudi is on the right wavelength in terms of IT. "I would tend to agree with all Louis's thinking on these topics: Wi-Fi is essential for all sectors and all markets, not just corporate, but DVDs and iPods are not. The flatscreen TVs are also worth having as they save room space and add a definite modernity to the bedrooms.

"Louis is right to stick to eâ€'newsletters; the issue with Twitter and Facebook is that they demand regular attention to be effective and this is time that can be spent more valuably on more focused marketing and customer service. I think online restaurant bookings only work well in urban settings or upscale large hotel restaurants," he says.

"The website is good and there is no doubt that most visitors check out the website of a hotel before they visit. But I do think that online room booking is worth considering. Louis would need to link it to his own bookings and also use just one agent or a software program such as Rate Tiger to service all the third parties," Birnie says.

131 High Street, Porthmadog, Gwynedd LL49 9HB
01766 512015
www.royalsportsman.co.uk


SEPTEMBER UPDATE

July was down on the same month last year by about 8%, due in part to bad weather. In August, bookings were very erratic. On the bright side food has exceeded previous months as has drink, notably wine. Being awarded a rosette and the on-going local publicity is making a big difference, says Louis Naudi. "We have had impressive articles written on the hotel and its rosette in the regional press."

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