What is a Small Hotel’s Toughest Competition?

No matter how long  a small motel, hotel, or bed and breakfast has been in business, they can never stop competing…with themselves!  If you were the new small motel, hotel, or B&B operator on the block competing with you, what would you do better or differently?

You’re in the hospitality business.

What does that mean exactly? According to Dictionary.com hospitality means:

1.  The friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers.
2.  The quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.

warmth, cordiality, geniality, friendliness.

But the thing is, you would be so surprised to find out how many small motel, hotel and B&B owners get this wrong all the time.

Yes, just the day-to-day operation of a business is tough, especially a hospitality industry business.  Every day brings new challenges.  Every day you have new customers.  Your product must always be impeccably presented.  Your property, your units, and your staff have got to be providing unparalleled hospitality every minute of every day.

mickeyWhat is a Small Hotel's Toughest Competition?

What is a Small Hotel’s Toughest Competition?

Let’s look at a place the really makes an effort to do it right, and is known for that. Disney.

As a former cast member of the Walt Disney Company, I get that concept.  All Walt Disney employees are called “cast members”.  The theme parks and even everybody’s work space have always got to be “show ready.”  These are not just titles, these are the Disney culture, the Disney manifest which is pervasive throughout the entire company.  The parks are always spotless and kept looking new by daily deep cleaning, revamping, repairing, and paint touch ups.  The cast members are always “on stage” with the sole objective of providing guests with an experience unlike any other.  Hospitality is the Disney mantra.

This attention to the hospitality involved in what you do has to be foremost on your business agenda. Without it, you have nothing.

In order for you to know how you’re doing, you have the world’s best tool right at your fingertips: the Internet! Checking your reviews regularly and responding in an appropriate and timely manner can not only show that you’re interesting in the quality of your product but that you care about improving as well.

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A Real-World Example of a Small Hotel Getting It Wrong

Let’s analyze a review I found on Trip Advisor:

The guest wrote:

…We have stayed other properties in this area where we received outstanding, personal service. This included exchanging clean towels at your room, delivering donuts during the week to the room, cooking breakfast for all on Sunday morning, and arranging a cocktail or happy hour during the week for all the residents to get to know each other. When the owner found that my daughter enjoyed health clubs, she got a guest membership for her. Unfortunately, we were unable to go there this year so chose the your property in stead. After our experience with you, we will make sure that we book early enough to go back to our first choice next year.  At your property you need to exchange the towels at the office during a 2 hour period of time during the day.  There was no attempt at trying to arrange social gatherings with the other residents. There was a sign in the room about a health club but you had to swipe a card at the door. We had no card, there was none in the room, I assume I had to go to the office to get one.

When we arrived we saw there was one Hershey Kiss sitting on the phone. We do not know if this was in appreciation of us being there or left over from the previous guest. We opted to not try to share it or to consume it and threw it away.

Your manager was very unfriendly. On the day before we were checking out, I went to the office to advise her that we were leaving early the next morning and if I should just leave my key in the room and lock it. All she could do was say “yes” with nothing else. No “glad you spent the week with us”; “hope you had a good time”; “have a safe trip”; nothing.

My wife received an electrical shock when using the stove. I told the manager for the safety of future guests. Her response was very unfriendly and she acted like I had insulted the facility.

The room was dirty. They obviously do not sweep along the mop board as there was a piece for a “foodsaver” machine in a piece of plastic under the dresser at the mop board. It was filthy and greasy.  The one time my wife tried to use the stove, she observed the pan lid to be greasy. There was a sign that everything had been cleaned but not sanitized.

While we were there, there was a reported “tornado” spotted in the Gulf and could possibly be coming that direction. I was not in the room, at the time, but obviously the manager was very shook up by this and came to our window to tell my wife about this. My wife asked what we should do as we were on the second floor. In Nebraska, when this happens, we go to our basement as tornados level buildings. This was not an option here so my wife felt very vulnerable. All the manager could say was that we should shut the hurricane shutter and she would let us know if it got worse. I came into the other end of the room about the time she finished and could hear her sense of emergency. My wife became very emotionally upset. There was no immediate danger and I really feel that it could have been handled a little more professionally. It did not appear that they had a plan if the tornado did come through. They had taken down the umbrellas and laid them on the deck. Two days later they were still laying on the deck and we had to put it back ourselves.

The parking is extremely tight with one space for each apartment. We would come home and people would park over the line taking up two spaces. There did not seem to be any enforcement of this.

We had told the management after our first night there that the porch light on the deck was burned out. Seven days later, it was still burned out. The apartment has two entrances, one on the beach side and one on the parking lot side. The morning we left, at 6:00 AM, it was dark. We went out the side to the parking lot and all the timed lights were out making the stairs extremely dark.

The only good thing about this place was that the deck had a great view of the Gulf of Mexico but so does every other place up and down this beach. Next year, we will make sure we book at someplace we will feel appreciated.


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And then….here is the hotel owner’s response:

I usually respond quickly to all reviews but in this case I had to really think about what I wanted to say since everything was obviously so wrong for you during your stay with us.

Normally, I would say that I am sorry that you did not enjoy your stay with us, however it appears that most of what you were looking for were never part of our amenities, so why you were disappointed amazes me. We never promised you FREE brunches or happy hours or get-togethers. Even the place you previously stayed does not PROMISE them, they just occasionally do it. Everything from towel exchange to no daily maid service is not only on our website but is expressed to you when you check in, as is the fact that we do not charge resort fees and offer free beach towels & umbrellas. It is part of keeping our overhead low so that we can survive and make a living, but allow our guests the lower cost in return.

As for the cleanliness, nothing was said during your stay or it would have been rectified. The sign saying everything had not been sanitized is required by law, but if we missed the pan lid not being clean that was an oversight.

As for telling you about the waterspouts (TORNADO), we have a responsibility to warn our guests of possible severe weather. This is Florida, land of spectacular sunsets and unpredictable weather. The weather service issued a warning so we passed it along to ALL of our guests so they could be prepared and alert. I guess in retrospect we should have allowed you to be surprised and then you could have put that in your review.

We are a small hotel on the Gulf of Mexico built in 1948. The fact that parking is tight is a factor of where we are located and our size.

In closing, I suggest that in the future you call any place you plan on staying to make sure they will be giving you FREE things to satisfy you. By the way, I understand there is a large chain hotel just up the beach from us that will charge you twice as much as we do, but will give you free chocolate chip cookies and charge you those pesky resort fees. Good luck with that.

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Points To Ponder

Let’s look at the points made by the guest. Here are some things that could be incorporated by the hotel owner at little to no cost. This review then becomes a way that the hotel could improve and actually be able to create lasting relationships with guests and one day compete for a larger hotel’s guests!

  • Towel exchange.  Yes, an inconvenience for a small motel or hotel, but perhaps there is a reasonable way to provide towel exchange by having a towel locker or towel wagon available to the guests at any time or for an extended time during the day.
  • Donuts delivered to room and Sunday Brunch.  These just aren’t feasible for a small motel or hotel.  But, having cookies or donuts with coffee or juice available in the lobby or front desk could work. Or maybe a discount at a local restaurant’s Sunday brunch could be arranged.
  • cocktail party is also a stretch for a small motel or hotel.  But a weekly hospitality hour on a Friday or Saturday with soft drinks and taped music could be a nice, inexpensive touch.
  • The health club issue is an important one these days.  Every property should have an affiliation with a local health club for complimentary temporary access.  This information should be clearly posted with details on how to access this amenity.
  • Hershey’s Kiss.  Any goody left in the room for the guest should be accompanied by a note welcoming the guest.  In this case the guest did the right thing by tossing the kiss. What about just putting Hershey’s kisses on the pillows? Surely the owner can afford that touch and it certainly wouldn’t go unnoticed by guests.
  • Guest’s should be acknowledged in a friendly manner at every opportunity.  This is Hospitality 101.  Welcoming the guest when they arrive, making them feel welcome and appreciated during their stay by a smile and a good morning or good afternoon should go without saying.  Wishing them well and encouraging them to return upon check out should be normal procedure.
  • Problems should be acknowledged and dealt with immediately, especially something as potentially serious as an electrical problem.
  • Dirty room.  This is should absolutely never be a problem.  Saying to the guest that if they had brought this to the attention of management it would have “rectified” is ludicrous.  It should never happen. The room is the product.  It would be like selling a car with transmission you know is bad. The cleanliness of the room should be the commitment of every one at the property.  There must be meticulous attention paid to unit cleanliness in a small motel or hotel.  There is no acceptable reason or excuse for a dirty room. Rooms should be checked and double checked by management after they have been cleaned to ensure quality control of this most important aspect of small motel and hotel competitiveness. My family and I are not going to stay at any place where there is even a small chance of getting a dirty room.
  • Lighting is very important at a small motel or hotel.  Adequate lighting is essential for the safety and security of guests unfamiliar with the property and adequate lighting will deter crime.  Lighting should be on dusk to dawn and be a part of a regular maintenance program.  You don’t want guests getting mugged in your halls or parking lot.

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review screen shot

Defending an Indefensible Position

Let’s face it, after the dirty room and the poor attitude of the staff, everything else is a moot point. The top complaints of travelers are dirty rooms and poor service.  Everything after those two things is just other stuff. Most small motel operators think the only way they can compete is through price.  In reality, travelers are really looking for value.

This is exemplified by our dining habits as well.  A restaurant can have great food, but if the service is terrible, it will likely not succeed.  Just having inexpensive food is no guarantee of success either. Good food, good service, at a good price equals value. Value is the winning objective.

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Don’t Let Your Ego Overcome Common Sense and Good Business Judgment

As for the rest of the owner’s response, it served no good purpose except to satisfy his damaged ego.  To rebuke the guest’s negative review in this way did nothing to enhance his position.  In fact, it definitely hurt more than helped.

There is an old saying in retail that a satisfied customer will tell 2 or 3 people about their experience, while a dissatisfied customer will tell 10 people.  With the Internet, the bad word has potential to reach an astronomical number of people.  The truth is that the bad reviews are read before the good reviews and you need at least ten good reviews to overcome one bad review.  A bad review with a disrespectful, attacking response to the guest is a suicidal business tactic.

On top of that, telling the guest to book somewhere else next time is like responding to a personal criticism with “Well, that’s just the way I am and I’m not interested in changing”. Any potential guest looking at this review will know that no matter what happens, there will be an excuse made and their concern will not be addressed properly. Even if there’s a “tornado,” a guest’s fears will not be allayed. Would YOU want to stay here for a relaxing vacation knowing all of this?

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False Economy

Sure, to a guest, saving money is important, but at what cost?  Travelers want value, not cheap.  Competing on price alone is false economy and will not work in the long run.  Folks don’t mind paying for something that has value.  There is no value in presenting a dirty room or unfriendly guest service.

It’s the little things, not necessarily the expensive things that mean a lot.  In this case the fact that the guest wanted to stay at a more expensive property to get the extra amenities and a clean room speaks to that.  They settled for a lesser priced property, were highly disappointed and won’t be back.  Nor will their friends nor anybody else who asks them how they enjoyed their trip to Florida.

What is a small motel's or hotel's toughest competition?  Contact us NOW for special no cash out of pocket offer.i beach

What is a small motel’s or hotel’s toughest competition? Contact us NOW for special no cash out of pocket offer.

Moving On

At the time of writing this blog article 9 people had found the guest’s review helpful.  That’s probably a small number of the people who actually read the post and moved on.  The result has been business lost and no discernible intent on the property owner’s part to bury his ego, be contrite, and make the physical, policy, and attitudinal changes needed to improve this property.

Another thing that is painfully obvious when you visit the hotel’s website is that you cannot book a trip online through the website at all. So if a potential guest were to find you through a simple google search, and they went to your website, one of three things will happen:

  1. They will find you on Trip Advisor and see your reviews and make a decision from there (if you have bad reviews, this is a negative for you)
  2. Or they will abandon the sale altogether, because most guests book online nowadays.
  3. They will just call to make a reservation (less and less likely as people like to book online)

A small motel, hotel or B&B without an online reservation booking system is leaving money on the table.

The prognosis for this property is not good.  They are not continually assessing their own position in the market in which they are competing, so they can’t effectively compete with any one.

I hope this gave you some great insight on how your online presence can greatly affect your business.

For more information on how you can integrate (an affordable!) online reservation booking system for your property, contact me, Larry at 1-941-915-7172 or contact me using this form. Thanks!

What is a Small Hotel’s Toughest Competition?

Contact us NOW for special no cash out of pocket offer.

What is a small motel's toughest competition?

What is a small motel’s toughest competition?


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Larry Bierman

CEO Accommodations Solutions Inc at EZ Book!
Larry Bierman has spent many years in the hospitality industry and understands the needs of motel and hotel owners. Accommodations Solutions, Inc's EZ Book! Suite, a motel reservation booking system, was designed by Larry especially for the mom and pop motel owners. Visit Larry on Google+ and LinkedIn.