In preparation for the Hotel Operations Management program, all of the Hotelies were instructed to start studying up on the business practices of many of the leaders in the hotel industry, such as Mariott, Starwood, and IHG.
Despite the fact that our group were not able to meet due to scheduling conflicts, we all continued to do our research, sharing knowledge with each other along the way.
In terms of business models, I found that many of the leading businesses do not own the majority of their hotels. They simply franchise and operate the hotels, earning a profit through a percentage of the rooms that are occupied, while the hotels themselves remain independently owned. However, companies such as Hilton and Starwood do own properties -- however these properties generally make up an insignificant amount of the overall company.
Sharp touched on this in his book, implying that owning and building hotels simply created too much financial strain on Four Seasons, so they simply relied on managing and franchising hotels. Thus, it would not be any stretch of the imagination for the other companies to follow suit.
Another trend I noticed was that some hotel groups seem to specialize in certain types of hotels. For example, Hilton tends to focus more on upscale hotels, such as the Waldorf-Astoria brand that they manage. Meanwhile, Choice Hotels focuses on smaller budget hotels such as Quality Inn. Other companies such as Accor operate a myriad of hotel types, from resorts to smaller budget hotels.
Hotel companies also operate several hotels under different brands. These brands are tailored to a specific type of hotel, such as the Courtyard by Marriot and IHG's Holiday Inn focusing mostly on affordable high-scale lodging, while brands such as the Ritz-Carlton and the Four Seasons focus mainly on 5-star resorts. It is important that the brand is marketed properly to the appropriate consumers, if not, the brand will not become established and the hotels will likely stagnate due to lack of business.
The details with employment matter as well, especially with the "Frontline," generally part-time employees that do the menial jobs in the hotel. It is important for employees to be treated well, in order to give exemplary service, as Sharp points out.
Also, the idea of a company policy, a sort of "Golden Rule," is also fundamental. This policy illustrates the goals of the hotel and all employees are pushed to meet those standards. Any less is generally not tolerated.
The most important thing I learned however, was that the details of any hotel can make or break the business. Sharp's book focuses mainly on this aspect, where he recounts testing pillows and mattresses to see if they were the best that could be offered, developing amenities such as the small bottle of shampoo to the 5-star hotel restaurant.
From that, I surmised one basic fact: whether it be a fresh-baked cookie for arrivals from Hilton's DoubleTree hotels, to listening in on guests who are muttering complaints and moving in to correct the situation, the little things mean everything. Not only because it is good business, but it is also the right thing to do.
Any less than that, and the hotel will fail. Because without the little things, the hotel and the service itself feels a little less "human." And there is no better business plan than focusing on those little things.