Posts Tagged ‘business travelers’

Waking Up To Great Value

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

Waking Up To
Great Value

Wednesday,
October 26, 2011

Dan
Marcec

 

The breakfast table offers an equal opportunity to make or break guest
experience, especially in the midscale sector, where free breakfast garners
higher and higher expectations as the category evolves. Here’s how hotel brands
are approaching their analysis of this imperative amenity.

Over the past few years, hoteliers have learned quite quickly that the days
of “build it and they will come” are well over, and “location, location,
location” is not necessarily the number one factor influencing profitability. On
the guest side of the equation, the mantra is “value, value, value.” By catering
to the guest’s sensible nature, hotels can truly gain the competitive edge.

Hardly anywhere is there a higher perceived value than at the breakfast
table. In Country Inns & Suites’ recent “Today’s Business Traveler” survey,
82 percent of respondents said they base their hotel selection on free amenities
such as high-speed Internet and breakfast. Breaking it down further, 90 percent
said high-speed Internet is the number one most important amenity (not
surprising), followed next by hot breakfast at 70 percent. That’s not just any
breakfast, it’s a hot breakfast. Especially in the highly competitive midscale
sector, where breakfast is included in the rate, perceived value is crucial.

Of course, business travelers aren’t the only guests looking for value when
they wake up in the morning.

“If I take my family to breakfast, I’m staring down a $35 to $40 check out of
my own pocket,” says Steve Mogck, executive vice president and chief operating
officer of Country Inns & Suites by Carlson. “So when you look at midscale
hotel pricing, which is $70 to $90 per night depending on the market, the guest
sees incredible value in that breakfast.”

The fierce competition to enhance the breakfast bar defines “amenity creep,”
and brands in the midscale sector have continued to add more and more for their
guests as part of their complimentary offering.

“Breakfast in midscale is always evolving, and we’re not unique in that,”
says Mark Southern, director of product innovation, F&B, Hilton Worldwide.
“We all started somewhere different than we are today, and the lifecycle of the
brands will be very different in 20 years as well.”

The trick to surviving this evolution is to not only to have a lot of food on
the table, but also to have the right food on the table. That involves staying
on top of consumer trends.

“From the macro perspective, I think individualization and customization is
here to stay. We all get to customize iPhones, websites, newsfeeds, and we have
to embrace a level of individualization at the hotel level as well,” says
Southern. “So when you look at breakfast over the course of a week, guests want
to be sure to have something unique every day.”

In other words, an attractive breakfast bar is not just about piling on
whatever is the cheapest and most efficient. It’s about perceived quality, and –
yes, this word again – value. Guests want options, and they want foods that fit
their lifestyle. Responding to this trend, both Country Inns & Suites and
Hilton’s Hampton brand recently added real oatmeal – not pre-packaged, and not
quick cooking oatmeal – to their repertoire.

“Health and wellness is important to our guests, and I don’t think anyone
will come in next year and say 2012 is the year of trans fats and corn syrup,”
says Southern. “On top of that, transparency in food is big, and we’re moving
toward cleaner of ingredient lists – in other words, when you look what’s in
your food, you’ll only see ingredients you understand. It is what it says.”

Selecting Service

Of course, an important part of a good hotel breakfast is how it’s served.
Midscale hotels again face a unique challenge because their guest base is so
diverse. From weekday business travelers to weekend leisure guests, from small
business meetings to large groups, fitting all this food as well as the people
to eat it in a small breakfast room is a challenge.

“We really do have to be all things to all people at times,” says Southern.

Again, it’s all about options. Southern adds as long as you make space,
guests will utilize it in ways they see fit, and in Hampton’s new Perfect Mix
lobby, there’s been an organic flow because people have a variety of seating
options and areas, but it remains one contiguous space.

Aside from ensuring the right staffing and attending to the guests – hotel
service 101 – utilizing back-of-house space is an important consideration as
well.

“When we add these elements, it becomes extremely complex to achieve high
quality food preparation and delivery,” says Mogck. “We joke that our pantries
are so small you can’t change your mind in them.”

Waste is one of the other major considerations when it comes to advanced
offerings. To combat this challenge, Country Inns recently rolled out
non-disposable dining ware.

“We decided to be the first to use non-disposable utensils. Even with adding
a dishwasher, from a cost standpoint it’s very close to what we were doing
before,” says Mogck. “But now we’re saving thousands of pounds of garbage from
landfills. There is not an RFP out there that doesn’t ask about what you’re
doing to be green, and we wanted something real.”

Rate of Return

In midscale, competition continues to up the ante and build on more and more
amenities to differentiate outside the beige box. At the end of the day at the
property level, the goal is always to create a better guest experience while
simultaneously  raising rate to get a better ROI.

“When you look at ROI, [improvements to breakfast] are table stakes. A number
of brands have skimped, and I see it everywhere,” says Mogck. “What are you
saving, $1 a room? When guest perceives what you get at a restaurant, it makes a
huge difference, and it gives you the ability to raise rate and drive occupancy
long-term to establish yourself in the market.”

Mogck adds an example. Some hotels, for example, will try to lure guests by
offering $20 gas cards or other incentives of the like. While that’s effective
in its own right, a $20 gas card costs pretty close to $20 for the hotelier
(taking into account discounts in bulk, etc.). If you look at breakfast at $2 or
$3 per room, with the ability to raise rate accordingly because the guest
understands the value there, it makes sense.

“When you have an asset you can leverage, you have to maximize it,” says
Mogck.

The proof is in the pudding, pun intended. According to Country Inns’
Medallia ratings, the new “Be Our Guest” breakfast showed +.02 in the “overall
breakfast” category; +.03 in “presentation of breakfast items”; and +.10 in
“variety of breakfast items” over one year ago. With a .01 change being
statistically significant on a brand-wide level, the numbers speak for
themselves.

Southern says that Hampton also saw a big lift in guest scores when the brand
added both waffles and, more recently, oatmeal. But at the end of the day, the
value the guest sees is not only from the products, but also how that product is
packaged with great service.

“Stuff is stuff, but the loyalty from our guest doesn’t come specifically
from oatmeal and waffles, it comes from great products wrapped in unbelievable
service,” Southern adds. “When you have those things together it becomes hard
for the competition to touch, and that’s why there’s so much potential at
breakfast.”

Check out www.nebraskabb.com

Waking Up To Great Value

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Waking Up To Great Value

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dan Marcec

 

The breakfast table offers an equal opportunity to make or break guest experience, especially in the midscale sector, where free breakfast garners higher and higher expectations as the category evolves. Here’s how hotel brands are approaching their analysis of this imperative amenity.

Over the past few years, hoteliers have learned quite quickly that the days of “build it and they will come” are well over, and “location, location, location” is not necessarily the number one factor influencing profitability. On the guest side of the equation, the mantra is “value, value, value.” By catering to the guest’s sensible nature, hotels can truly gain the competitive edge.

Hardly anywhere is there a higher perceived value than at the breakfast table. In Country Inns & Suites’ recent “Today’s Business Traveler” survey, 82 percent of respondents said they base their hotel selection on free amenities such as high-speed Internet and breakfast. Breaking it down further, 90 percent said high-speed Internet is the number one most important amenity (not surprising), followed next by hot breakfast at 70 percent. That’s not just any breakfast, it’s a hot breakfast. Especially in the highly competitive midscale sector, where breakfast is included in the rate, perceived value is crucial.

Of course, business travelers aren’t the only guests looking for value when they wake up in the morning.

“If I take my family to breakfast, I’m staring down a $35 to $40 check out of my own pocket,” says Steve Mogck, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Country Inns & Suites by Carlson. “So when you look at midscale hotel pricing, which is $70 to $90 per night depending on the market, the guest sees incredible value in that breakfast.”

The fierce competition to enhance the breakfast bar defines “amenity creep,”  and brands in the midscale sector have continued to add more and more for their guests as part of their complimentary offering.

“Breakfast in midscale is always evolving, and we’re not unique in that,” says Mark Southern, director of product innovation, F&B, Hilton Worldwide. “We all started somewhere different than we are today, and the lifecycle of the brands will be very different in 20 years as well.”

The trick to surviving this evolution is to not only to have a lot of food on the table, but also to have the right food on the table. That involves staying on top of consumer trends.

“From the macro perspective, I think individualization and customization is here to stay. We all get to customize iPhones, websites, newsfeeds, and we have to embrace a level of individualization at the hotel level as well,” says Southern. “So when you look at breakfast over the course of a week, guests want to be sure to have something unique every day.”

In other words, an attractive breakfast bar is not just about piling on whatever is the cheapest and most efficient. It’s about perceived quality, and – yes, this word again – value. Guests want options, and they want foods that fit their lifestyle. Responding to this trend, both Country Inns & Suites and Hilton’s Hampton brand recently added real oatmeal – not pre-packaged, and not quick cooking oatmeal – to their repertoire.

“Health and wellness is important to our guests, and I don’t think anyone will come in next year and say 2012 is the year of trans fats and corn syrup,” says Southern. “On top of that, transparency in food is big, and we’re moving toward cleaner of ingredient lists – in other words, when you look what’s in your food, you’ll only see ingredients you understand. It is what it says.”
Selecting Service

Of course, an important part of a good hotel breakfast is how it’s served. Midscale hotels again face a unique challenge because their guest base is so diverse. From weekday business travelers to weekend leisure guests, from small business meetings to large groups, fitting all this food as well as the people to eat it in a small breakfast room is a challenge.

“We really do have to be all things to all people at times,” says Southern.

Again, it’s all about options. Southern adds as long as you make space, guests will utilize it in ways they see fit, and in Hampton’s new Perfect Mix lobby, there’s been an organic flow because people have a variety of seating options and areas, but it remains one contiguous space.

Aside from ensuring the right staffing and attending to the guests – hotel service 101 – utilizing back-of-house space is an important consideration as well.

“When we add these elements, it becomes extremely complex to achieve high quality food preparation and delivery,” says Mogck. “We joke that our pantries are so small you can’t change your mind in them.”

Waste is one of the other major considerations when it comes to advanced offerings. To combat this challenge, Country Inns recently rolled out non-disposable dining ware.

“We decided to be the first to use non-disposable utensils. Even with adding a dishwasher, from a cost standpoint it’s very close to what we were doing before,” says Mogck. “But now we’re saving thousands of pounds of garbage from landfills. There is not an RFP out there that doesn’t ask about what you’re doing to be green, and we wanted something real.”
Rate of Return

In midscale, competition continues to up the ante and build on more and more amenities to differentiate outside the beige box. At the end of the day at the property level, the goal is always to create a better guest experience while simultaneously  raising rate to get a better ROI.

“When you look at ROI, [improvements to breakfast] are table stakes. A number of brands have skimped, and I see it everywhere,” says Mogck. “What are you saving, $1 a room? When guest perceives what you get at a restaurant, it makes a huge difference, and it gives you the ability to raise rate and drive occupancy long-term to establish yourself in the market.”

Mogck adds an example. Some hotels, for example, will try to lure guests by offering $20 gas cards or other incentives of the like. While that’s effective in its own right, a $20 gas card costs pretty close to $20 for the hotelier (taking into account discounts in bulk, etc.). If you look at breakfast at $2 or $3 per room, with the ability to raise rate accordingly because the guest understands the value there, it makes sense.

“When you have an asset you can leverage, you have to maximize it,” says Mogck.

The proof is in the pudding, pun intended. According to Country Inns’ Medallia ratings, the new “Be Our Guest” breakfast showed +.02 in the “overall breakfast” category; +.03 in “presentation of breakfast items”; and +.10 in “variety of breakfast items” over one year ago. With a .01 change being statistically significant on a brand-wide level, the numbers speak for themselves.

Southern says that Hampton also saw a big lift in guest scores when the brand added both waffles and, more recently, oatmeal. But at the end of the day, the value the guest sees is not only from the products, but also how that product is packaged with great service.

“Stuff is stuff, but the loyalty from our guest doesn’t come specifically from oatmeal and waffles, it comes from great products wrapped in unbelievable service,” Southern adds. “When you have those things together it becomes hard for the competition to touch, and that’s why there’s so much potential at breakfast.”

The Great Gas Gorge

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

The Great Gas Gorge

Will soaring gas prices really affect the upcoming travel season? These experts say there’s no way!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tony Dela Cruz

Is the fuel tank half-empty or half-full? It’s a question most hotel operators would rather not have to answer this time of year as they ponder what increases in rate or occupancy, if any, await in the summer season.

Veterans say the lodging industry has been down this road before, knows what to do and is doing it, in terms of the types of seasonal promotions designed to prevent market share erosion. Both hotel owner/operators and franchisors seem mindful of the need to protect room rates that are just starting to recover from the hammering they took in 2009. And prognosticators are saying there’s even some pent-up demand that can push up revenue as the weather warms up.

And $4 a gallon for gas? Experts say that’s just a number, a mental hurdle at worst, that will not be a deal breaker for a family traveling by car who might pay an incremental $35 for the same trip had it been six months ago.

Derek Baum, director of operations for Orlando-based Rosen Hotels and Resorts, says RevPAR sensitivity related to energy costs “is not necessarily new news, we’ve been through this before,” pointing to conservation measures that have been in place for years. For example, they don’t heat swimming pools that can maintain 82 degrees on their own. At the same time, Rosen will tweak the energy budget if needed. Baum says the company just installed high-efficiency gas boilers for guest rooms and restaurants.

In terms of summer revenue, Baum sees “extremely competitive average room rates” trying to rise. He’s hoping third-party internet bookings can add to occupancy without putting too much downward pressure on room rates. “We try to combat that by offering price guarantees on our own website,” he said.
Protecting room rates is also the goal for Country Inns and Suites by Carlson, according to Aurora Toth, the brand’s vice president of marketing. “Our franchisees had a tough three year run, they are trying to get money back in the till, so we don’t want to discount our room rates,” she said.

Instead, the smart move is to value-add rather than cut rates. For the first quarter of 2011, Country Inns and Suites offered a 10,000 point bonus to its business travelers. “It seems basic, but it was the right focus at the right time,” Toth said.

To push leisure transient business, the brand’s current Spring Getaway promotion offers a $30 Amazon.com gift card, 3,000 loyalty points and a T.G.I. Fridays coupon in exchange for a two-night stay booked three days in advance, which she says are getting good bookings and good rates so far. Toth anticipates value-added strategies to keep sprouting for the balance of the year as rates and occupancy stabilize. “We don’t expect them to go back to 2007 levels but we do expect a good summer.

Within the narrow cast of mid-market limited-service, Toth says Country Inns is trying to differentiate with an improved breakfast offering, not necessarily bigger, but measurably different and better. This summer the brand is attempting to be the first in its segment to switch to non-disposable dinnerware. That means coaxing franchisees to add an industrial dishwasher; those who do it by June 1 will be rebated the cost of the new machinery. Toth said the concept was tested in a company-owned property and that it is an affordable upgrade that make sense. Another tweak: Carlson is asking Country Inns franchisees to rotate their breakfast buffet offerings daily so that repeat guests don’t experience deja vu in the morning.

The big picture for the industry going forward is typified by a well-worn phrase, “cautious optimism,” according to Bobby Bowers, senior vice president of operations, Smith Travel Research, Nashville. “What we were looking at, the end of last year for this year, was more growth on the rate side and continued growth on the occupancy side but not as much,” he said. “Most of the segments, if not all of them, were showing RevPAR growth based on rate.”

The rising cost of gas just as summer approaches is still not good and cannot be ignored, but Bowers says he doesn’t believe it will impact business because large brand owners like Choice, Wyndham and Intercontinental know how to “counter-promote” against those types of economic speed-bumps. “I don’t get a sense higher gas prices are going to create a huge barrier to travel during the summertime. (Choice, for one, has hedged that bet by offering some of its customers a $50 gas card for two separate spring bookings.)

Gauging a recovery in the middle of a recovery is always comes with caveats. “The one thing you can say for sure is our forecast will change,” Bowers said. “We’ll have to wait and see if there’s softness on the demand side.”

From the BnBFinder Press Room

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

From the Press Room

A New Year, a new chance to make things happen. Here at BnBFinder we think that’s a fantastic opportunity to garner all sorts of media attention for our inns. We’re excited about 2011 and all the new opportunities for our inns will make headlines. Here’s a snapshot at what we’re working on next.

Unique Fitness-Theme Getaways. At the start of each New Year, we see a lot of exercise coverage. It’s probably because the “we can do it” sentiment is strong. We will lose weight. We will run 5-miles daily on that treadmill. We will live in denial an additional few months. So, BnBFinder is looking for inns that offer a new way to stay in shape while traveling. In this month’s guest newsletter we wrote about inns with gyms onsite or those with access to neighboring gyms. Now we’d like to kick it up a notch. Does your inn offer Pilates or jazzercise? If you’re near a great ski slope, do you have special packages in line with hill top events? Is there a popular sports competition coming up in your town? Please let us know anything and everything geared toward the get up and go crowd. Ready to post your package on BnBFinder? Click here to login to your account and list your special under “Winter Fun,” “Classes, Courses & Workshops” or any other category that best fits your special deal. Please email us with any questions.

Valentine’s Day for Couples. Love is in the air. Cupid is flying around rampant, mile-a-minute–arrow sharp and swift, all in preparation for the big day. Let’s give him a helping hand… Does your inn have any Valentine’s Day packages for couples? Special add-ons that include freshly cut roses, chocolates, fragrant bubble baths, etc.? Maybe you’re having a small wedding at the inn? The media is looking for warm, feel-good, stories. We see a lot of queries lately for Facebook “fairytales.” Maybe you have a couple that met on a social networking or dating site? Let us know! Please login to post your packages under “Romantic Getaway” and email us with any specific love stories.

Valentine’s Day for Singles. Oh, to be in love. How exhilarating, how endearing… how overrated. What if you’re single? Surely, there are some bed and breakfasts catering to the unattached crowd. Does your inn have a special package or activity for single gals or bachelors? We’d love to pitch the media alternative getaways. Whether it’s a workshop on how to meet the opposite sex, a cleverly named breakfast dish, or an anti-Valentine’s Day soiree, the more original the better. Go ahead and login to post your package under general packages. Singletons know where to look. If you have a unique experience you’d specifically like us to know about, email us too!

Business Travelers. The media is full of stories about hotels in larger cities that are considered “affordable” to business travelers. Let’s show the press that there are plenty of urban bed and breakfasts that are affordable too, and jam-packed with value. From complimentary breakfast to wireless internet, parking, snacks, and beverages, the list goes on and on. Some B&Bs provide various daily newspapers, use of a printer or fax machine, and constant coffee. Is your inn located near a convention center? Are you close to a hotel that’s incredibly expensive or one that sells out quickly? Do you have a gym or provide access to one? Have you saved the day for a business traveler who needed something last-minute for a presentation? Any unique story or clever, catchy, package will help us promote your inn. Please login to post your special under a new category called “Business Travel.” As soon as we have enough listings we’ll post the category online and start promoting it to the media. If you have any questions, please email us.

What do business travelers want? Not just clean rooms!

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

What do business travelers want? Not just clean rooms!

by Tom Johansmeyer (RSS feed) on Nov 12th 2010 at 8:00AM

With business travel on the rise, hotels are probably thinking about how to make these lucrative customers as happy as possible. After all, a frequent business traveler can be on the road 40 weeks a year or more (been there, I assure you), and they don’t always have the same flexibility as leisure travelers. There’s a big opportunity here, especially with business travel set to increase next year.

“Consumers are more value-conscious than ever and have been conditioned to expect more for their money after a steady diet of recession-era deals. The tipping point for hotels to differentiate their brand offering and strengthen loyalty among the post-recessionary business traveler will be providing additional complementary services and amenities tailored to their guests’ specific needs,” said Adam Weissenberg, vice chairman and tourism, hospitality and leisure sector leader, Deloitte LLP. “Beyond traditional incentives, hotels are realizing the importance of developing their online presence, particularly with mobile platforms, to capitalize on a crucial touch point for brand communication.”

For both sectors, however, now would be a pretty smart time to listen to a group of customers that is about to start spending more money. Global professional services firm Deloitte recently surveyed 1,001 business travelers and has revealed the information that the travel industry can use to connect with its best target market more effectively.

Here’s what business travelers want:

1. Work-friendly room: 68 percent of business travelers often work in their rooms, Deloitte said in a statement following the survey. And for a long time, I was one of them. If a room is not designed for me to get stuff done – from a desk to wifi access – the room doesn’t work. The amenities, artwork and staff responsiveness don’t matter if a business traveler can’t work comfortably.

2. Better than clean and comfy: are you satisfied with a clean room and a comfortable bed? Well, you’re probably alone. Deloitte found that 65 percent of business travelers “expect a lot more from a hotel” than that.

3. Business on internet time: it’s hardly responding that 79 percent of the respondents felt that high-speed web access was an important amenity. Seventy-seven percent cited free parking, as well.

4. Rewards for loyalty: 30 percent of business travelers, according to the Deloitte survey, “felt their favorite hotel brand was so important to them that they would stay at that hotel brand even if it were not in the most convenient location.” Interestingly, this level of loyalty was highest among respondents earning at least $150,000 a year.

There’s more than brand familiarity going on here, I suspect (again, my suspicion, not Deloitte’s). Rewards for loyalty sure help, and I remember it influencing a lot of business travel behavior when I was living the road warrior life.

5. Device love: almost half of survey respondents said they have a web-enabled smartphone. Meanwhile, this is true of 84 percent of the 18-to-29 business traveler crowd and 63 percent of business travelers earning more than $150,000 a year. Twenty-six percent of respondents have downloaded a hotel app to a device, with 54 percent of them using it “primarily to book a room.”



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