Posts Tagged ‘service’

Service For Those Who Serve

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Service For Those Who Serve

Growing your government business is a good way to boost occupancy and give back.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Caryn Eve Murray

Not all forms of military service require uniforms, weaponry or deployment to foreign countries. Hotels, particularly those located near government agencies and bases, have been pledging their allegiance to the nation’s defense, aerospace and related areas, providing discounts to military personnel, contractors and subcontractors for years. It’s a credible combination of sound business practices and a bit of patriotism, with the reduced-rate offerings often facilitated through the FedRooms program established by the U.S. General Services Administration.

And yes, there’s an excitement factor built in sometimes as well. In Lexington Park, Maryland, where a Days Inn property is located directly across from the Patuxent River Naval Air Station, things can get mighty busy – and crowded – during military training sessions or testing of one of the Navy’s cutting-edge new airplanes after its arrival at the base.

“We know they are going to test this thing and we will see a lot of technicians, everyone coming down here,” said Ashish Patel, managing partner in Sandalwood Management, which owns the 134-room Days Inn. The buzz is good for business – at least that’s his plan.

“Hopefully they will stay with me,” he said, offering as his property’s magnet a combo of discount rates and amenities, such as the built-in pool, assortment of recently enlarged rooms, complimentary hot breakfasts and a fitness center presently under construction.

But, Patel said, the overall hotel market along the main traffic corridor, known as Three Notch Road, has become well-populated by more than a dozen competing hotels, much of the construction newer or higher-end. So he has focused his budget-property’s attention solely on the small-business subcontractors within the government market, “the ones who are really on a budget.” They’re seeking a low price with as much value added as possible, he said, and that has been his mission since purchasing the Days Inn and beginning its refurbishment in 2007. In fact, he said, to keep things rolling until the fitness center is completed, he is already sending guests to a World Gym a few blocks from the hotel, with complimentary passes the hotel provides for them.

A similar scene has shaped the landscape further north, near the Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. “Ninety-five percent of our business, most of it, is military business,” said Charlotte Whitehead, general manager of the Comfort Inn at Joint Base Andrews in Clinton, Maryland, a quarter-mile from the base. Whitehead said the area has been filling up with competing properties on different tiers, so it’s important to strike a balance that pairs the government-approved discount rate with the right mix of amenities.

Whitehead knows that, with only 7 kitchens among her 92 rooms, she may not always land the big contracts for large groups seeking to stay near one another for long-term periods. “If I had, maybe 30 rooms with kitchens, I could have landed a bigger military group,” she said. “But we get conferences from the base and that is real big.”

Both Patel and Whitehead said it helps to know your demographic – what is needed in order to give value, and what exceeds that – and then embrace it. Both carefully target that market, and plan their offerings accordingly.

The upside of the equation, however, is that because of the location, said Patel, “it is a ready market.” No advertising needed.

This form of government service is also, in many ways, a recession-beater and a business-builder.

“On any given day of the week, you have certain ebbs and flows to occupancy and demand,” said Thom Puccio, director of global segment sales for Choice Hotels International. About half of Choice’s 4,500 hotels are in the process of bidding for new government business contracts and have been active providers for some time.

“We are looking at this as another layer in occupancy,” Puccio said. “Depending upon how much availability I have on any given day, how many rooms I have vacant, I may shut down [government-available rooms] or open it up if I have a lot of availability. So I look at government business as another element that feeds into your hotel to generate revenue.”

Clearly, he said, “in first-tier cities, like New York, Chicago and Boston, there may not be a need for much government business.”

The bottom line is two-fold, he said. “If you look at the Department of Defense alone, you are talking about thousands of dollars expended in individual geographic locations. And that is only one agency.”

The other bottom line is a little less about dollars and more about dedication: “It is a service to the government. The ultimate goal of the program is to provide lodging for government travelers,” he said.

“People would not be a part of this if they didn’t think it was beneficial to them,” said Joseph McInerney, president and chief executive officer of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. “It brings people to stay with them at the hotel and secondly, it is a patriotic thing to do for the military people working on our behalf.”

And then there is the logical extension of that – this time a charitable one, extended to the troops themselves – which came to fruition late last year. Bipartisan legislation created a program known as Hotels for Heroes, which was enacted in late December, enabling owners of hotel reward points to donate them to members of the milirary and their families – similar to a program already in effect in the airline industry for frequent flier mile donations.

McInerney said the AH&LA will be working with the Fisher House Foundation, which assists military families with accommodations when a member of the service requires hospitalization or treatment.

“We are working on the program right now and plan to make an announcement soon on how the hotels will be working with Fisher House. It is part of a full package,” he said.

Summer Tourism Ideas

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010


Summer Tourism Ideas

Many tourism locales see the summer months as high season. Prices rise, at times the service is a bit less, and many tourism attractions, hotels, restaurants or transportation systems know that the summer’s receipts will determine the success or failure of the entire year. Furthermore, many locales take the position that once spring has passed, marketing may be a waste of time, as summer vacation plans have already been made. Certainly some areas of the world are heavily dependent on the summer traffic patterns. For example, many beach communities (especially those located in cooler climates) may receive up to 90% of their gross revenues from summer sales. Even non-beach resort locations see the summer as a time of great opportunity. For example, urban areas may view the summer as a time when local residents flee to cooler climates, but may also benefit from visitors seeking a cultural experience (especially with their children) at a time when big city life may be a bit less scary. This summer may also be a challenging one for many locales. The economy is still shaky in many parts of the world, and some people may simply put off a summer vacation or skip this year’s vacation. To help you prepare for summer and turn the year into a great season here are a several ideas;
Tout Being Affordable. No matter where you are realize that people will be looking for bargains this summer. Push everything from summer coupon books to places where one can spend a bit less. Be careful not to push too hard, as that can drive down prices to the point that local tourism agencies cannot afford to stay in business. The trick is to give value mixed with good service. In fact in a down economy service becomes an all-important aspect. Our guests, many of whom are struggling to afford a vacation, do not want to feel that they are anything but honored guests.

Teach all front line people to smile! Closely related to good service is a sense of caring and an open friendly attitude. This is the year to remind all front line people that no job is ever guaranteed. We have to earn our jobs with each guest. All too often the tourism experience has been anything but joyous. There is no better advertising or marketing campaign than a friendly smile.

Do not be afraid of visitors from another country. Follow currency exchange rates, for example, if the euro is expensive against the dollar than Europeans tend to flock to the USA. If however, there is a rise in the value of the dollar, Americans may return to Europe. Remember foreign travelers tend to spend a lot more money in a locale than does the local population. The trick is to make their travel as easy as possible. Offer easy locations in which they can exchange money, print multi-lingual maps and guides and encourage restaurants to have menus in more than one language.

Do not be afraid to promote the long weekend. Not everyone may be able to afford in both time and money a two -four week vacation. These people may be looking for weekend get-aways that start on Friday and end on Monday evening. The other alternative is to have creative midweek special. A may prefer to sell its rooms at 50% or the rack rate than not at all. If the economy is shaky, then focus on attracting people from nearby states.

-Be creative in offering not only stress-free summer vacations but also de-stressing vacations. The current economic situation has placed a great deal of stress on lots of people. Think through how you can facilitate hotel check-in and out, help people to locate locations around the community, and not get lost. One of the reasons that people are often stressed out after a vacation is that travel is no longer fun; be it in a car, airplane, boat or railroad car. Develop ways to make your transportation terminals feel more “homey” and less stress inducing. Do not forget to watch gas prices. While gas prices traditionally rise in the summer months, watch for trends and if they become too expensive use this expense as a creative marketing device.

Market even in the summer months. Not everyone has made summer plans, and there are always those people who are seeking a last minute get-away. Remember that creative marketing this summer may provide you with a list of potential new customers for next summer. Remember that good service is the best form of marketing. Seek the time when media prices are lowest and then blitz selected markets that may become new niche marketing zones.
Create a summer marketing web campaign. The web is a great took especially for last minute travelers. Consider such things as:
– Special summer itineraries
– Special summer web specials
– Divide your attractions by style, location and price
– Directions from any place to any point in your locale
– Lists of what is near-by each attraction, from hotels to restaurants to clean rest rooms

Member Nominated “Most Valuable Contact” at Marketplace

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

The Nebraska Association of Bed and Breakfast (NABB) participated as an exhibitor at the 4th Annual Marketplace conference held in Kearney, NE in March.

Marketplace is an event catered towards entrepreneurs and provides education and networking opportunities.

Mary Coleman, current NABB board member and owner of Alte Haus B & B in Syracuse, was the NABB representative at the conference.  Mary was recently nominated as a “Most Valuable Contact” by one of the attendees.  He had visited the NABB booth and was inquiring about the Bed and Breakfast industry and membership in the NABB.

Congratulations goes to Mary as this nomination is an indication of her warmth and friendliness and her desire to be of utmost service to those with whom she speaks.

Nebraska Association of Bed and Breakfast (NABB) offers Entrepreneurs and Business owners Membership Information

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