We love learning from hotels and so it was a pleasure this week to be invited to an event hosted by Mason Rose at the Hospital Club with four of the management team from the Viceroy Hotel Group. We were provided with a fascinating insight into how the ‘new kids on the block’ are tackling the ever-competitive hotel industry, and how they are building a world-renowned luxury lifestyle brand from the ground up.
When asked how they stand out in today’s industry, Tricia Warwick, the VP of Sales and Marketing for Viceroy Hotel Group explained that above all, the single most important focus is the people they employ. Empowering each GM to become the ‘host’ motivates them and their team to put guests at the forefront of every decision they make. Moreover, it allows decisions to happen at hotel-level, meaning there is a sense of individuality through their spirit, while at the same time ensuring guests have the consistent experience that Viceroy has nurtured.
However, the team outlined that the biggest challenge the GMs face will always be delivering high quality service and employees must have the tools, care, training and exposure to do so effectively. Victoria Stewart, GM of Viceroy New York highlighted that it is the small things that make the biggest difference which is where you can turn the ‘sometimes’ experience in to an ‘every time’ experience for guests.
When the conversation moved over to OTAs, Andrew Humphries, Regional VP of Viceroy Hotel Group said that having a presence wherever consumers are is vital. However, hotels must always remember that OTAs have a motivation to be the only source of bookings, and so it is incredibly important to build your direct booking channel as much as possible. This is the best way to build strong relationships with guests from the very inception of their booking – but due to the high costs of acquisition, hotels are finding this hard to do.
In the last few years, the ‘sharing economy’ has dramatically changed the landscape of a number of industries, but the team at Viceroy view the emergence of AirBnB less as a threat to hotels, and more as partners. The bottom line is that companies like AirBnB expand the market, giving consumers more choice, and this can never be a bad thing. Whilst AirBnB currently sits in the ‘budget airline’ end of the market, companies such as onefinestay are slowly breaking into the luxury section.
Another important part of adapting to the changing environment is to use technology in the right way. Hoteliers need to strike a balance between convenience and personal touch, and learn which is more important to guests and when. The team from Viceroy suggest using technology for the transactional aspects of a guest’s stay but keeping the personal touches for as many other aspects as possible.
So what’s next for Viceroy? Expansion, expansion, expansion. They’ve got exciting plans to open up in a number of different locations over the next couple of years, and their challenge throughout this will be to maintain the ‘boutique’ feel at scale.
Thank you to all the team at Mason Rose, and especially to Tricia Warwick, Andrew Humphries, Victoria Stewart and Mikeal Svensson for their fascinating insights.