Opinion

‘My golden rules for running an independent’

Jordi Ferrer Graupera, CEO of Hesperia Hotels and Resorts in Spain, reveals his golden rules for running an independent hotel chain after a recent transition

Jordi Ferrer Graupera likes taking on a challenge. The CEO of Hesperia Hotels and Resorts has more than 25 years of experience in hospitality and property development. He recently spearheaded the move to take Hesperia Hotels back into independent ownership as a small chain after a period as part of an international chain. He shares his tips for making your hotel a success

Treat junior staff like senior staff

We try to share and engage with our newer members of staff from a very transparent perspective. We believe the younger generation is particularly interested in honest corporate communications, so we share with them achievements, lessons learned and matters to be improved that align with the culture and ethos of the hotel group.

Happy staff equals happy guests

Allowing your staff flexibility in their working hours, and helping them move up or around the company, will reap dividends. It might seem costlier in the short-term sometimes, but in the long-term, it pays off. You’ll have to recruit less often as you retain staff longer, and when staff are happy, they are more likely to reflect this in their interactions with guests.

There are pros and cons to joining a chain

Many independent hoteliers consider joining chains, and they can have their advantages, but there are benefits to remaining independent, too. On the plus side, you’ll have more negotiation power with suppliers, the use of some centralised departments, such as marketing, and access to a more appealing loyalty programme, thanks to the wider range of hotels guests can use it with.

Guest needs change all the time, particularly with technology, so to remain relevant, you can never rest

On the downside, you’ll have less say over which suppliers and products are used, the centralised staff employed, and their goals and objectives. You’ll also be less agile in responding to the changing needs of your business because many decisions have to go through teams of people rather than just your own hotel staff.

There’s strength in diversity

Having a diverse management can have a huge impact on a hotel’s quality of decision-making. The correct solution usually relies on a mix of positivity, passion, commitment and courage, and considering different approaches fosters this.

Never stop investing

As soon as you finish one round of upgrades, start on another – and I don’t just mean the paintwork. Guest needs change all the time, particularly with technology, so to remain relevant, you can never rest. You’ll never regret keeping your equipment, infrastructure and facilities up to date. For example, strong water pressure and quality showers are an important feature to many guests right now, so make sure you’re meeting that expectation.

Data analysis is vital

It’s easier than ever to obtain data about your operations through Property Management Systems (PMS) and other software programmes. We’ve found this has made a significant difference to profitability in certain areas, such as Food and Beverage, but also in understanding the customer journey, which provides insights that can be used to improve service.

Slow and steady wins the race

Over the decades, we have found the key to the success of Hesperia Hotels is to expand slowly and thoughtfully. We study acquisitions carefully and ensure they make business sense before we commit.

Look to the future to see where to expand

Location, location, location is one of the most popular phrases in our industry. However, urban areas change rapidly, and what once was a down-and-out area might be a hotspot tomorrow. Many hoteliers have become very successful by investing in these up-and-coming locations rather than investing huge amounts of money in the most popular areas.

You can turn a disadvantage into an advantage

Hesperia Tower in Barcelona is one of our most successful hotels – but most people would see its location - halfway between the airport and the city - as non-core. However, we’ve turned it into a strength by making it an ‘all-sizes’ meetings and events hotel. Such venues are very limited in Barcelona, so this unique space allowed us to dedicate 5,000 square metres to MICE. Attendees like the fact they can get into Barcelona easily, and organisers appreciate the range of meeting rooms, quality of technology and facilities available.

Read and respond to customer reviews – good and bad

Allocate time at least once a week to read your customer reviews. Try to answer all of them, even the negative ones. We might not like to hear them, and some might not be reasonable, but it will reflect well on your hotel if you at least thank them for the comment and the time they took to write it.

Hero image: credit to Enes, Unsplash


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Takeaway
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of keeping your employees happy and engaged with your brand
  • Think carefully before deciding whether to join a hotel chain
  • You must keep investing in your hotel if you want the business to grow
  • When looking to expand, the current ‘best location’ in a destination might not be the most profitable – think mid-term to long-term

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