Hotel Operations: What to Pay Attention to According to An Expert
August 02, 2022
Article by Ayna Gonzales
There is a common misconception that hotel operations is mechanical and repetitive. Effective hotel operations, even if it does involve a lot of scheduling, checklists, spreadsheets and timetables, is more dynamic than routinary. It involves constant adjustments and requires hoteliers to pay attention to three key aspects and learn how to optimize each for overall efficiency.
Effective hotel operations is about paying attention to every factor that impacts your business. To be more specific, it’s about paying attention to your hotel guests, services and staff.
To learn more about hotel operations from a professional's point of view, we consulted with Paolo Borgiallo, former Head of Operations at ZEN Rooms and with over 10 years of experience in the hospitality industry. According to him, hoteliers must focus on three key areas: hotel guests, services, and hotel staff. By understanding how these aspects impact each other and the overall business, management can then tailor their operations to get the desired results.
What you’ll see in this blog:
Paying attention to your hotel guests’ needs and expectations
Hotel operations is always centered around the guests. Everything revolves around meeting industry standards and the guests’ expectations. Though customer service management is an entirely different aspect of the hotel business, by nature, it is intrinsically linked with hotel operations.
In other words, the goal of hotel operations is to allow management and staff to efficiently satisfy guests’ needs
To do this, hoteliers need to understand what services and amenities guests value.
“Above all else, guests value genuine warmth and attention to their needs and expectations,” says Borgiallo. “Of course what these are depends on the level of service being offered, the location, and the profile of the guests. But in every single scenario there are patterns that a hotelier can learn to recognize and plan to anticipate the most frequent requests.”
Whether it’s a small boutique hotel or a backpacker’s inn, hoteliers should be able to keep a profile of the kinds of guests they tend to attract. Naturally, these recurring types of guests will usually have the same kind of needs, requests, or preferred services. By taking note of recurring patterns, hoteliers can easily make adjustments in operations to better address these needs for future guests.
For example, being near the beach might mean frequent requests for fresh towels, so it makes sense operationally to increase your inventory of towels rather than leave your guests dripping.
While on the lookout for these patterns, hoteliers should also maintain a level of consistency in current operations. Because as Borgiallo explains: “Guests hardly notice the basics.”
“The average guest is probably not going to give much thought to the well-made bed or the set of clean towels… unless they’re not there.” Because expectations are implicit, some of these offerings which may seem like a throw-in, will only be noticed once hotels fail to deliver. Not all services will meet praises from guests, but their absence could affect their overall satisfaction.
So whether you’re anticipating future needs, or maintaining basic features, it is important to
remember that hotel operations should always allow room for adjustments to accommodate guest needs. Being consistent with standard hotel services, and being flexible and adaptive to sudden requests always go hand in hand in operations.
Paying attention to the quality of hotel operations, services, and amenities
Once hoteliers have fully understood who their guests are and what kinds of services they need and value, they can then work to strategically fulfill these needs by tweaking their hotel operations. And they don’t even need to spend all that much to modify their current process.
As mentioned above, by evaluating which services and amenities are popular and valued by guests, hoteliers can make cost-saving decisions. Those services that do not seem to be requested often can be removed or put on an “upon-request” basis.
When asked what services can be limited or removed, Borgiallo notes “Daily or frequent room cleaning and linen changes were a big one, although it was already going out of fashion before the pandemic due to environmental concerns, and now there’s the added factor that many guests prefer to keep potentially high-risk contacts to a minimum.”
Likewise, services like airport transfers, luggage storage, and 24/7 concierge availability don’t necessarily have to be on your roster if guests don’t ask for them. You can easily cut down on costs and manpower just by removing them.
For hotels that do sometimes have guests avail of particular services, outsourcing them can be the most cost-effective solution. For example, shuttle services, city tours, or island hopping services can be offered through third-party service companies. Else, hoteliers can offer these services during booking so that they can prepare in advance without investing too much resources.
On the other hand, there are also non-negotiable standard hotel operations hoteliers need to keep and maintain. As Borgiallo notes, both Preventive Maintenance and Housekeeping Routines should be kept to the highest standard possible.
Making sure hotel facilities and rooms are always clean and ready-to-use should be a top priority. Guests will not appreciate dusty tables, faulty wiring, or unkempt common areas. It’s always worth investing in routine preventive maintenance on all hotel equipment and quality housekeeping products.
Learn more about hotel management tips and techniques on our blog.
With hotel operations and services, it’s really about smart resource management. The reality is that even if hotels enjoy high occupancy, they are still susceptible to poor resource management. This often leads to high operational costs, lower profits, and in extreme cases, bankruptcy.
An important note from Borgiallo about resource management: “Often it all boils down to not having a clear picture of what kind of costs are sustainable, based on the room rates they are realistically able to charge.”
Cross-checking hotel operations with hotel revenue is a necessary step in creating a sustainable business. In fact, the biggest threat to a hotel’s success can be overspending while maintaining operations. Whether it is unexpected repairs due to poor maintenance, or costly services that don’t sell, these small operational expenses build up over time that hotel rates cannot cover.
When evaluating hotel operations, it’s worth noting that hotels need to prioritize services that maximize revenue and minimize costs. Unfortunately some hotels fall under the trap of offering high-value services at discounted rates or overpricing basic amenities that they lose revenue or ultimately close down.
At the end of the day, it’s always going to be quality over quantity. The difference between a 1-star hotel and a 4-star hotel is simply the amount of services their operations allow, however the standard of these services should remain constant within each hotel’s range of operations and services.
Paying attention to staff efficiency, skills, and productivity
With a clear understanding of both guests and operations, hoteliers can turn their attention to their support system: the hotel staff. Not only are they the ones attending to the guests, they’re also the ones who keep the entire business up and running. Without competent and reliable staff, a hotel is as good as dead.
As Borgiallo puts it “Too many small hotels have staffing problems because they staff inefficiently. It’s better to have a few, well trained people who are versatile and have the skills to cover multiple roles and can solve a lot of problems (not only in pandemic times).”
He adds, “Train your staff. Friendly, knowledgeable people matter more than literally any other amenity that the hotel may have to offer.”
Unfortunately, no amount of protocols, well-devised strategies, or thoroughly outlined goals will ever compensate for well-trained hotel staff. Investing in a selective hiring process and providing regular training and upskilling workshops is necessary for maintaining excellent hotel standards.
Apart from being skilled in various hotel services, staff also need to be flexible, display commitment, and exude genuine hospitality. When hiring hotel staff, always look for these qualities to increase overall hotel services.
Here are some key qualities hotel staff should possess:
Prioritize hiring staff with a wide skill set and can respond effectively to manpower shortage, unexpected guest requests, or changing pandemic protocols.
Hotel staff should be aligned with and embrace hotel goals and reflect these in their actions and services.
Sincerity and hospitality are not skills that can be taught. Hire staff that are genuinely interested in providing good service.
Instant improvements to hotel operations hoteliers can do today.
For easy, almost zero-cost hotel improvements, Borgiallo offers these guide questions for three main areas of concern:
Are there any obsolete, inefficient equipment guzzling electricity or gas, that can be plugged off or updated?
Which systems or areas of the building have the highest consumption? How easy is it for guests to leave the AC on or the water running when they leave the room?
How about wasteful staff behaviors (e.g. leaving the lights on when they leave a room)?
Is the rostering planned efficiently?
If there is overtime, is it really necessary?
Is there a high turnover of unhappy overworked staff, resulting in recruitment costs that could be avoided?
Are stocks and supplies clearly monitored?
Is actual consumption justified by operational needs?
Is there wastage or over-ordering?
To improve hotel operations, pay attention to what increases value and satisfaction for guests.
Hotel operations really has more to it than just routinary tasks and keeping to schedules. There is a whole lot of genuine human connection, deep understanding, and sense of community involved in building a successful business. Attention to all three parts– hotel guests, operations, and staff – provides hoteliers with the insights and support they need to provide the service they envision.
Want to learn more about improving your hotel operations? Consult with ZEN Hospitality Solutions experts. We can help your hotel evaluate, strategize, and implement operational plans and introduce you to the latest hotel management systems to achieve your business goals. Schedule a FREE consultation today.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hotel Operations
What is hotel operations?
Hotel operations include all the daily activities, tasks, jobs, and processes necessary to run a hotel.
What are the challenges in hotel operations?
Some of the most common problems in hotel operations are manpower shortage, miscommunication, errors in staff scheduling, and overbooked facilities.
What are the most important aspects of hotel operations?
Hotel operations can be divided into three important parts: hotel guests, services, and staff. Making sure all three components are aligned is the key to a successful business.
How to improve hotel operations?
To improve hotel operations, hoteliers need to pay attention to their guests, services, and staff to understand how they can provide value through their services.