So good to be back

So good to be back

I am back doing what I love, serving an industry for which I have so much affinity. If I weren’t an editor, I think I might be an hotelier. I have so much respect for those of you providing food and shelter. What could be more fulfilling?

The website is back and loaded with news and blogs. This site is not as robust as the previous version, but we wanted to get back out to you quickly, so we created this interim solution. Later this year we will re-launch the site with many more bells and whistles. For now, however, this allows us to deliver our daily e-newsletter and a new weekly blog letter. In fact, if you click on the Industry Blog link, you will find multiple bloggers, and I am not done adding to this illustrious list of industry experts blogging for
In addition to our daily newsletter, the weekly blog letters will launch on Thursdays, and might even become a twice-weekly so we don’t overload you with too many blogs in one installment. The blog roster will include experts on everything from finance and investment to e-marketing strategies, design, F&B and more. I hope you respond to these blogger’s posts to help facilitate healthy discussion on key industry issues and trends.

Certainly, the hotel industry is not lacking for issues and challenges today, and as always, I have a lot of empathy for all of you fighting the good fight. I know we are all reading about how better days are at hand, but in more private discussions I have with hoteliers—with few exceptions—the jury is still out, and if you haven’t noticed rates are still down and out.  Hopefully, most of you are covering your costs, but profitability across the sector remains a struggle.

To make matters more interesting, as occupancies continue to drive higher and hopefully you start to create a bit of wiggle room on rates, your costs are going to start to increase—ranging from labor to those improvements that have been pushed back and now must be worked into the budget.

Yes, it is going to a long, hard road back to profitability. I know you have a lot of rooms on the books at lower rates and corporate travel buyers are driving a hard bargain for 2011, so you have to find a way to drive revenue and keep guests in house.

I don’t pretend to have the answers—but maybe if you look inside to your staff, even down to your housekeepers and maintenance staff, you might find some interesting insights and perhaps a few nuggets of wisdom that could translate into dollars.

It has always been my experience that management looks up and around for ideas, but not down to those who are closest to your customers. Perhaps now is that time.

I also urge you to look locally—not only is it a good sustainable practice, but will likely create some low-cost PR. I will give you one example: the Nines hotel in Portland, Oregon, operated by Starwood, has collaborated with a local distiller to pour an exclusive whiskey. It is marketing Barrel #2 of Urban Farmer Whiskey in the bar for US$12; a shot of Moonshine runs $9; Moonshine Punch is $10. I am guessing this will draw some nice attention and more business at the high-profit bar.

If you have other ideas to share, please tell me or post to this blog.

Like I said, it is good to be back.