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How to maintain guest experience while refurbishing hotels

Praful Gupta shares invaluable tips to consider while renovating a hotel without hampering the guest’s comfort level

Praful Gupta

In an increasingly competitive landscape, more and more hotels are opting to refurbish or retrofit their facility in order to attract guests. These days, hotel renovation is not only limited to replacing old, worn out furniture and mattresses. It has a lot to do with the increasing level of competition in the hotel industry. Today, it is a basic requirement for hotels to be up to standard, fresh and technologically aligned.
Some hotels prefer to renovate, while some opt to reinvent themselves. Some go for rebranding while holding on to their USPs. Yet, all the changes are most often to improve guest experience. In India, there are several iconic hotels and properties that have existed for several years, decades and even centuries. A few of these hotels are located in historic buildings that often possess distinctive elements which set them apart from modern construction. Besides, hotels are also now keen to integrate sustainability and energy efficiency into their structures.
However, renovating or retrofitting a hotel property is not an easy task. Most importantly, the privacy and comfort of guests is top priority while managing a hotel renovation project. There is an erroneous notion that if guests don’t know about the hotel renovation, it can’t hurt bookings. This is not true because if unsuspecting guests find themselves in the midst of construction, it will leave a very bad impression on them and could affect the image of the hotel negatively. In order to minimise surprises, smart planning and preparation is the key.
Bringing the multiple pieces of the project, from managing the furniture to installing plumbing together is a mammoth task where each piece must happen at exactly the right time to ensure a harmonious whole.
Additionally, the entire process has to remain “invisible” to guests. Naturally then, project teams that handle such ventures have to first ensure that the process is planned well in advance. They have to interact with the hotel to understand their busiest time which is not really when there should be pulling down of walls or changing of curtains. Peak holiday seasons like December, April-May and the festive season are not the right time to undertake the process. The easy way is to review the property’s occupancy trends for the last few years to determine its off-season. This proves to be the ideal window for the renovation. It is also a good idea to keep some buffer time at the end of the project because constructions and renovations do not always go as per plan.

Maintaining guest comfort
Yet, when it comes to renovations in the hotel industry, especially for high end properties that have their reputation at stake, the whole process is very intrinsically related to the comfort of guests. The project team has to ensure that if there are major changes, the rooms surrounding the construction site are best kept empty. The safety of the guests is of utmost importance which means adding barricades as required around the construction site at all times is a necessity. It is helpful to schedule the noisiest construction or disturbance elements of refurbishment at check-in and check-out times. Scheduling any loud construction work during the middle of the day when guests are more likely to be out and about is a good idea.
While intense planning is an essential part of the process, open and regular communication between the project team and the hotel staff is critical. This is to ensure both sides have a complete understanding of how the construction activities will impact ongoing hotel operations and the guest experience. There have to be regular meetings between the project teams and the stakeholders at the start of the pre-construction phase and then from time to time to guarantee expectations are clear. Project teams need to interact with all the staff and inform them about the renovation plans, including the housekeeping staff. Afterall, hotel staff members are the contact point for guests wanting more information.
As opposed to renovations in any other facilities, in hotel projects where aesthetics matter to a great extent, even small aspects like the way the construction staff is dressed is of utmost importance. Workers need to be presentable, dressed well and should not be a turn off for guests. Even then, it is good to make sure that not too many areas are under renovation at any one time. It also helps to keep the refurbishment zone and guest areas separate and avoid allowing workers in guest zones or guests in refurbishment zones. The team has to be mindful of disrupting business meetings and relaxing spa treatments with too much noise. One way is to create a buffer zone around the area being re-modelled which will minimise noise and disruption. This will call for some floors or rooms to be left unoccupied.

Final touches
Besides, furniture, fixtures and equipment can be installed at night to avoid putting elevators or even staircases off limits during peak hours. In case, elevators are being renovated, the work must be phased such that at least some cars are available for the guest’s use. Most importantly, the trash generated by the demolition and construction of the renovation work needs to be removed quickly and efficiently. And finally, there also has to be provision for plans to consider fire and life safety throughout the project, since construction may involve tools that could cause fire or could temporarily block access to stairs or elevators.
Refurbishing a hotel can be a challenging aspect. To be executed well, it requires coordinated scheduling and project management. This calls for immense planning, efficient project management and a team of professionals who are prepared to handle the massive project without causing inconvenience to guests. It is more prudent for hotels to bring on board and collaborate with experienced teams to handle the process and ease it out. They can help through design and constructability, which can have a positive impact on schedule and budget. Especially with hotels that have design, materials, furniture, fixtures, and equipment dictated by design standards, expert help is always advisable.

(The author is business head – commercial
moving at Writer Relocations)

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