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Feb 13

Hotels: Three Things That Need To Change

Last week, I did a piece about three things that need to change with airlines. Hotels, of course, aren’t completely innocent, either. The scenes are generally more relaxed, since hotels don’t operate on the same touch-and-go schedules that airlines do, but there is still plenty of opportunity for improvement. Here are a few:

Loyalty Programs Shouldn’t Be An Afterthought

check in

You may know more than they do.                                                                                                   Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Say what you will about an airline, but they put a lot of effort into their frequent flyer programs. And why shouldn’t they? They are profit generators. They (usually) structure policies to reward the type of behavior that they want to encourage and you can (usually) find someone who will get you the correct answer to a complex question.

Hotel loyalty programs are newer and less complicated, but the chances of finding someone who actually understands the rules are lower than those on their airline brethren. Part of that is because the hotels haven’t put much time into them, but part of it is also because the lodging companies (Hilton, IHG, Marriott, etc.) rarely actually own the hotels with their names on them. Instead, the hotels are owned by a third party, who operates either as a franchise (just uses the parent company’s name and technology) or a managed property (the lodging company operates the property but doesn’t own it). Thus, training at the line level is inconsistent. Some properties value it, some don’t. But everyone should know if you are entitled to an upgrade, use of the lounge or a late checkout. And if they don’t, they should know who to ask.

Oh, one more thing: That change should apply at the corporate level as well. There is no excuse for a top-tier elite member to call the “Platinum” or “Diamond” or whatever premium customer service line and getting an incorrect answer.

Internet: Cheap, Fast And Good

An old saying is that any project can be two of the following: cheap, fast or good. In 2018, though, I expect all three from a hotel, particularly one with four or five stars. And if something goes wrong, support can only be outsourced to a third-party call center if the representative on the other end of the line has a solution that extends beyond “Try turning it on and off” or “I’ll call the hotel and somebody will get back to you.*”

So why are we still living in the days of dial-up, when AOL sent out those cheap discs? Because internet is a money maker.** It’s the post-millennium phone fees. At their height 30 years ago, telephone charges generated about 2% of a hotel’s revenue. That might not seem like a lot but, considering that there were no real costs associated with it, it was all profit.  But as cell phones replaced in-room phones and Netflix replaced on-demand movies, the hotels had to replace that revenue. Internet is the way to go. But maybe, and I’m just spitballin’ here, it could produce a speed fast enough to load more than a few pages per hour.

Resort Fees

hilton

“That’ll be $15 for the towels.”

As competition in the airline industry increased last decade and ticket prices came down, the carriers were forced to look for another way to generate revenue. Thus, bag fees were introduced.

Hotels, loathe to let an earnings opportunity slip by, chose to match their skybound cousins. They couldn’t charge you for bags (not yet, anyway), so they did the next best thing: Charging for amenities that had always been free.

Welcome to the resort fee. More and more hotels are tacking on an extra $5-160 (Yes, $160 is just the fee.) for such “extras” as access to the pool, a newspaper and beach towels. At the Resort at Fisher Island Club, a high-end destination property, that $160 (which is labeled as a “service charge) doesn’t even get you breakfast. Of course, if you’re willing and able to pay $1,400 for a room, that $160 might not mean too much to you.

It’s their hotel, and they have the right to charge whatever they like, but adding an extra fee at the end and pretending that it’s for additional amenities is, at worst deceptive and at best, simply tacky. Just tell us the price up-front and keep it simple.

 


*Hint: They won’t.

**Those of you who have been around a while know that I don’t begrudge the travel companies a profit. In fact, I encourage it, since profits tend to lead to better products.

 

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