Hotel Opening

The Most Important Elements of a Successful Hotel Opening

I recently had the opportunity to share my relatively straightforward (and, I'm certain incomplete) prescription to successfully birth a new hotel...

  1. Ensure there is one voice and vision, from the top of the organization to the bottom.
  2. Establish realistic and clear objectives to get your team some wins...perhaps to first open the best hotel in your town. Then, work toward higher expectations, five star, best regionally and nationally, etc.
  3. Ensure that there is a culture of teamwork and pride, based on trust, passion for excellence and empowerment.
  4. Hire the best talent you can afford...that's the key to achieving #3.
  5. Ensure all decisions are well balanced, between owner priorities, guest and employee satisfaction.
  6. Ensure there is complete harmony between all aspects of the guest experience. Perfectly align the physical product quality, service and hospitality, and marketing/promotional efforts.

I forgot a couple...take deep breaths. And, have fun!

Let me know what else I'm missing...


Aloftsunflower Gc3lobbytexturing_1

Starwood is getting smarter...

By now, you've probably heard about one of their newest creations...aloft hotels. If you haven't, it's probably because they're not talking to you (or me for that matter). If you're not a young (25-40, someone else's definition, not mine) business traveler looking for a hip place to stay, full of around-the-clock energy (sound like a W?) and loaded with guest rooms that feel like a really cool apartment...then, you're not their type. And, that's what I mean by getting smarter. They're focusing on micro vs. macro, and on what a narrow group of people want vs. what they need. But here's the smartest part...they seem to understand their audience. They know how they live, work and play. Want to see what an aloft hotel will look like? Go to their website...but bring lots of bandwidth because it's loaded with flash. Better yet, want to see an aloft being built? Go to the blog...and go to Second Life. Haven't heard of Second Life? See what I mean...They're not interested in talking with you....

Starwood has resisted the temptation to use a traditional approach of shouting their message AT everyone. Instead, they choose the likely places where key influencers live, start conversations and get them involved in the process. Then, they let the viral, word of mouth effect take over to build interest...just in time for the real opening in 2008.

Are you spending your time and money on holding conversations with key people who want to talk with you? Or, are you doing it the old fashioned way, hoping someone will notice?

Adam's Mark Demise


The value of the Adam's Mark brand has been on the decline for some time for many reasons not the least of which is that it's a boring product, trying to compete in convention destinations which are virtually owned by Marriott and Hyatt. Hence the sell-off of real estate in recent years. They're now down to six (no, five) properties.

Alas, there's good news for Charlotte...good things come to those that wait. The Adam's Mark Charlotte will cease to exist later this month, and be converted to a smaller (half the current size), INDEPENDENT hotel in February. Read the rest of the story.

Congratulations Charlotte...that's called wising up.

Tool Box

I'm working on putting the final touches on a number of Excel spreadsheets which I will load into the Toolbox.


As time is always of the essence, I'd like your help in determining what's the most important. Here's a partial list:


  • Pre-opening Budget
  • Staffing Guide
  • Project Development Worksheets and Ten Year Proforma (includes a break-even schedule)
  • Revenue Management: various RM tools including a group profitability evaluator


Please let me know what you would like completed first?


Thanks in advance for the feedback.


Technorati Tags : , , ,

Powered By Qumana

Hotel Opening Checklist

Okay, the "functional" version of the Hotel Opening Checklist is now available for a nominal one-time fee at my website, or by clicking the link in the side bar. Or, you can still download and print the PDF version for free here. I'll leave the price low ($395 is a steal even if you just consider the time it would take to retype the list into some project software) for a couple of months until I get some feedback on its application. Then, after any adjustments, a new version will be released at a higher price.

What To Be When You Grow Up


My friend Chris, top dog at Magellan Strategy Group, knows a lot about tourism and marketing…more than me. So, I’m always happy to see something from him in my in-box. Recently, he sent me a copy of an interview with Al Ries (an even more famous marketing guru) about hotel branding in which the point is made that many hospitality brands are “muddy” and unclear resulting in market confusion and sub par performance. He goes on to say that you need to focus on “owning a word in the customer’s mind”, a la Volvo, “safe car”. According to Ries, at the end of the day, that simple strategy is what branding is all about.

Similarly, one of Chris’ seven C’s of branding (I must confess that I don’t know them all) is “clarity”. I think what Chris and Al are talking about is the single most important concept in starting anything new, especially a business. I call it knowing what you want to be before you grow up. In other words, “how” and “what” do you want your guests to feel when they experience your service. Failure to develop this mantra and a plan to support it at the very beginning is one of the most fundamental and unfortunately one of the most common mistakes made when starting a new venture. Hotels are often developed on the auspices of serving all types of guests, doing it better than someone else and at a better price. You see it all the time, hotels lacking a clear identity, trying to serve multiple audiences with numerous pitches and product offerings. You see PR companies spinning stories which lack focus and have very little to do with the “real” experience. You hear sales people telling clients anything they can think of to get them to sign a contract. In the end, these mixed signals just create confusion, a lack of trust and less revenue.

Instead, be very clear to yourself, your colleagues and your prospective guest. Start by developing something you’re passionate about and that you can be the best at. Create an image that’s very clear and “in focus” for everyone. Then, stick to that idea and support it at every turn with everything you do. If there are enough guests who want to feel the same way you do, you’ll have a winner. If not, you’ll have an expensive hobby.

No matter what you do, decide what you want to be before you get started. There’s way too much at stake to make wholesale changes along the way.

Hotel Opening Checklist

Occasionally, I receive a request for a hotel opening checklist. Over the past six or so years and with the help of numerous wonderful minds, I developed what I would consider a fairly comprehensive pre-opening road map (it’s only 1,416 line items, but it’s a start). Until now, I’ve used it and earlier versions to help employers, clients and close friends. I figure it’s time to do a better job of spreading ideas…so, for the next couple of weeks, my die hard blog fans will get first crack at it (you can find it in my downloads section in the right margin, or click here). After that, I plan on publicizing it’s availability for the general hotel public.

Read Me First Info:

This checklist is designed as a “template” and therefore it will require some tweaking on your part to make it fit your situation. In its current state, it’s best suited for a mid-sized full service property. But, it can easily be tailored to fit just about any property. The start date is randomly set at 1/1/04 simply to illustrate the timeline for each activity.

The original and much more functional file is in MS Project format. So, if you have access to that software (highly recommended if you’re planning a hotel project), please e-mail me and I’ll send you that version.

Good luck, and of course I’m open to critique, comment and suggestions.

Happy Independence Day!

(Update, 8/3/05) After a month of giving out a free prize, comments, feedback and some advice from friends, I've decided to market the functional version of the list. I'll be posting soon about the specifics.

Opening Your Doors


The key to a new hotel (at least for most of us) is to have business when it opens.

Apart from getting the lights to work, the furniture in place and the staff trained, there is little that is more important than having a stream of guests when you throw out the welcome mat. You can talk all you want about having a great sales team, partnering with powerhouse marketing organizations and developing fancy websites with on-line booking capability. But, it really comes down to two things: desire and anticipation.

Desire is created by offering something meaningful that didn’t exist before. Anticipation follows suit and is driven by the desirability of your new offering and how well you tell the story about it. The combination of the two determines if there’s a line to get in when you turn the lights on for the first time.

Creating something that people want is much more than being on the right side of the supply and demand equation (which is what the bank cares about). Maybe you can hang your hat solely on the economics if you’re lucky enough to find a market running 80%, and you’re the first in line to develop a new project. Most of us, however, are faced with creating some new demand, either on our own or with the help of our neighbors.

A new Comfort Inn (nothing against them, just an example) in a sea of existing budget hotels is born from numbers. It’s not what most people want. And, it’s certainly nothing to write home about. Its success is dependant almost solely on the supply and demand equation. That’s extremely dangerous. One twitch in the wrong direction on either side and they might have trouble making the loan payment.

A better way is to start with something people want. It’s much more fun and interesting. Plus, you get the added bonus of creating some insulation in the event the market starts behaving uncharacteristically.

The Inn on Biltmore Estate was developed to satisfy desire. For over 100 years, people (I mean, a lot of people) wanted to spend the night on Biltmore Estate. Only a select few were ever given the privilege as a personal guest of Mr. Vanderbilt. So, when the plans for the Inn were announced, there was a firestorm of anticipation. The Biltmore marketing team was very smart. They turned that desire and anticipation into one of the most successful PR campaigns I’ve ever seen (about $1 million in free advertising prior to opening). As a result, they enjoyed a first year occupancy of over 70%. That’s virtually unheard of.

The Stephen F. Austin Hotel, first built in 1924, had a storied history including tales of Babe Ruth signing autographs on the front porch, Charles Lindbergh stopping by before his historic trans-continental flight, Frank Sinatra giving an impromptu performance in the lobby and a whole host of political heavyweights calling it their outpost including LBJ. Unfortunately, the energy bust of the late 70’s and early 80’s took its toll, and the Stephen F. closed in 1986. So, when plans were announced to revive her in the late 90’s, you can imagine the heightened level of interest and the increased level of “talk” about the “new” Stephen F. The people of Austin desperately wanted her back.

Do something different. And, get people to talk about it…long before you open the doors. Everyone will be smiling, especially the owner.