My hotel is undergoing refurbishments. How can I ensure that the work has the least impact possible?

27 July 2006
My hotel is undergoing refurbishments. How can I ensure that the work has the least impact possible?
I'm undertaking a major refurbishment of all 40 bedrooms in my country house hotel, which also includes a spa, tennis courts and a nine-hole golf course. How can I ensure that the work has the least impact possible?

Andrew Beales, Beales Hotels
If you decide to close, you'll need to communicate this to key stakeholders far ahead. These include staff, the bank, prebooked function guests, and chance bedroom, restaurant and leisure guests. Communicate via external signage, mailshots, newsletter and on your website, where you can show artists' impressions of the "new" hotel. A PR professional can put a positive spin on the wonderful hotel that will emerge.

You may have to lay off your staff. I found most were happy to take a break as long as they were guaranteed their jobs again on reopening.

Try not to have any prebooked weddings in the diary. Conferences can be offered alternative accommodation, but brides are very sensitive. And when the builders realise you have to be open by a certain date, their prices will become extortionate.

If you decide to stay open, analyse the quiet periods and pick the right time of year to start the work. Bedroom refurbishments are easily managed, but public area work will get in everyone's way. Do this at the quietest time.

Allow far more time than you think for unanticipated problems. Some guests (corporate bedrooms, weekend leisure, evening restaurant) are not affected by building work. But day conferences, day spa, chance lunches and weekend weddings complain if their stay is interrupted by noise.

Don't offer discounted rates, but get your guests to come back to the newly refurbished hotel for a soft opening where they pay nothing, but are asked to complete a questionnaire about their stay.

Finally, smile and keep sight of the end result. You'll have forgotten all the trauma in a year's time.

Chris Morton, Chris Morton Associates If it can possibly be avoided, don't close. Closure normally adds time to building projects, so where possible, stay open and limit business upheaval. Also, most staff will need to be retained without earning income to offset their costs, so further harming cash-flow.

If you decide to remain open, plan your project carefully.

  • First, look at the seasonality of all elements of your business and decide how to minimise, or even exclude, building works during your main trading periods. Consider where your bedrooms are, and how separate areas can be isolated and refurbished, while other areas can be safely traded. Depending on the degree of work to be undertaken, and the level of external works involved, it may be easier to introduce a rolling programme working on four or five rooms at a time. Ensure all open areas can be easily accessed.

  • Identify which areas will be available and when, and plan marketing activity to promote them strongly. This will apply especially to the spa and golf course. Promote the newly refurbished rooms as soon as possible.

  • Plan to minimise the impact of noise on residents and function guests by arranging works at appropriate times. Limit the impact on the hotel's external appearance by arranging separate builders' access and parking. Use screening where necessary.

  • Prepare fresh areas for wedding photos. Arrange an entrance display informing guests about your development programme and showing the benefits on completion.

  • Encourage staff to take holidays when they will be least needed.

  • Encourage the builder and architect not to advertise on your external signage.

Paul Davey, Davey and Co
The fact that you're refurbishing all of your bedrooms carries an extremely positive message to your market and should therefore be promoted as such.

I would advise strongly against closing down completely, and suggest a phased approach to the works. How this would work in practical terms would be determined largely by how your property is configured. Most hotel accommodation splits naturally between floors, left to right, or by main property to annexe/extension, and this would provide the most obvious way to phase the refurbishment.

Promote the spa and golf course facilities while the rooms are being upgraded (rather than being plainly "refurbished") by offering discounts or incentives. This allows you to promote the use of your additional, highly marketable facilities in their own right, particularly while the improvement works are being carried out.

I would advocate an incentive package in two parts:

  • Promote the use of the leisure facilities on a fixed-price deal - maybe include some spa treatments, golf lessons, etc.

  • Those taking advantage of this offer can benefit from a reduced room rate once the rooms are reopened. Purely discounting room rates is a fairly blunt instrument, and given the particularly well balanced facilities your business offers, you can afford to be far more creative in your approach.

The phasing of the refurbishment should minimise disruption, and clear notification to guests at booking stage should allow you to prioritise allocation of rooms furthest away from those being improved, easing concerns about disruption. You have every right to be proud of your rounded offer and should be bold in your approach to the promotion of your improvements.

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