Get on track for 2015

The coming New Year is mere hours away, and as perfunctory as it may be, it is nevertheless an excellent time for self-reflection.

Normally, I’d devote this time to predictions, but at this point I don’t foresee 2015 to be a landmark year for revolutionary changes or wild new entrants with far-reaching effects on the hospitality industry. Rather, we’ve already endured the scrambling of the status quo that has come along with the expansions of digital booking channels, third-party review sites, smartphone usage and social media. We all know these are factors affecting daily operations, and there are plenty of resources to help hoteliers cope.

Consequently, 2015 will be a time of consolidation when we can finally catch up and fine-tune our business processes to meet evolving consumer behaviors. In other words, it’s a “back to basics” year, and here are five areas to focus on:

1. Embrace yet scrutinize technology.

Yes, new entrants will emerge — it’s impossible for them not to given how rapidly our society moves these days. On the one hand, it is prudent to keep an open mind as to how new tech might work to your advantage as well as what new apps or networks are gaining popularity. Yet on the other hand, you cannot be a weather-vane hotelier, lionizing the latest and greatest then swiftly moving on to the next best thing whence it comes. Keep your tech tactics simple and streamlined, and always proceed cautiously.

2. Motivate staff.

Enthusiasm is contagious. Guests can smell it whenever they interact with the faces of a hotel, and a passionate core will exude through every action a staffer takes. If your team is intrinsically motivated, they will be self-propelled for the best possible performance, and then all the little details that make a guest experience perfect will naturally fall into place. This starts with hiring the right people, but it also requires constant upkeep — effective training, aligning staff members with the department they are most interested in and fostering a culture of support, camaraderie and devotion to excellence.

3. Be a community leader.

Think of your property as the community’s ambassador to the outside world, as more often than not your guestrooms will act as a home base for new visitors. Highlight local foods in your restaurants, local products in your gift shop and, of course, local attractions. Host events for the community, build relationships with businesses in the area and develop packages so your guests can participate in what your region does best (at a discount).

4. Advertising isn’t dead.

If social media and the plethora of viral videos over the past half-decade have proven anything, it’s that the cream always rises. The same has always held true with advertising, no matter the channel. Consumer apathy is an eternal problem, but if you can develop a creative and emotionally charged promotions slate that is properly targeted at a specific audience, then you will cut through the noise whether your vector is a magazine spread, an event or a post on Facebook.

5. The onsite experience dominates.

You can’t change your location, and you can’t change the weather, but on property, you are god. If you can deliver an unexpectedly remarkable onsite experience then your guests will keep you close to their hearts and disseminate your brand’s qualities through word of mouth (the silent yet incredibly powerful vector to promote your hotel). This upcoming year will be one for focusing on increasing the number of return visits, and there’s no better way to achieve this than through a stellar guest experience.