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How to keep your property running through refurbishment

Maintaining facilities is an annual challenge faced by all property owners. As winter is a popular time for a spruce up, Click. learns how several hoteliers keep trading through times of refurbishment

Whether it's to update the decor, fix general wear and tear or repurpose a little used area, planning ahead and making sure there's minimal disruption to your guests is the key to trading through periods of refurbishment.

“Grand, historic country houses like ours always need a lot of love and attention. Minor upgrades and renovations to protect and restore them are always ongoing, so ensuring minimal disruption for our guests is key,” says Douglass Waddell, Operations Director of Hand Picked Hotels.

Being open with your guests during the booking process will hopefully ensure they have a positive experience rather than a negative one. “Large refurbishment projects that take certain areas of the hotel out of action take considerable planning with meticulous detail given to timing, logistics, operations and communication,” explains Waddell. “Failing to be upfront about a major project can be detrimental to your business. We are always honest with our guests about any effect the renovations may have on their stay, so expectations can be managed and experiences tailored accordingly.”

When disruption can't be avoided, offering extra perks such as free breakfast, spa treatments or a welcome drink can often dilute any irritation caused by disturbances during a stay.

Planning and communication

When Staybridge Suites Liverpool undertook a million-pound refurbishment in 2017, redecorating all 132 suites and public areas, guests were included in the project development. “When we were devising our upgrade plans we included several loyal guests within the consultancy process to ensure any changes had genuine customer benefits,” says John Wagner, Co-Founder of Cycas Hospitality, owner of Staybridge Suites Liverpool.

Image
Photo: Rawpixel

Photo: Rawpixel

“Communication with existing and potential guests is the key to successfully managing any upgrade process,” says Kirsten Jones, General Manager of Staybridge Suites Liverpool. “We did a lot of preparation to ensure we kept our customers fully updated before and during our refurbishment, via our own channels, throughout the property and on third-party sites.”

Ensure building works only take place between 9am and 5pm during the week to minimise the direct impact it has on guests. “By keeping in constant communication people were fully aware of how it might impact their experience and we were able to manage our guests’ expectations,” she explains. “In fact, we managed to complete a full internal and external upgrade of our six-floor hotel with just two complaints, both from guests who admitted they hadn’t read the information we’d provided prior to making their booking.”

...transparency and willingness to keep guests proactively informed is vital to building trust and loyalty

It’s also important to ensure all staff members are kept informed, not just those in front of house. “We made sure everyone from housekeeping to maintenance were totally clear on the refurb plans throughout the process so they always had the latest information to hand,” says Kirsten. “This transparency and willingness to keep guests proactively informed was vital to building trust and loyalty.”

With smaller properties, it's even more critical to plan ahead to minimise disruption and limit the time rooms are out of action. “As a small boutique hotel where each room is uniquely different, we have to plan in advance exactly what we want to achieve as we don’t want rooms closed out for any longer than is absolutely necessary,” says Jeremy Ornellas, Co-Owner of Blanch House, Brighton. “This means booking in painters, designers and ensuring that all materials are onsite before any work starts. Each time we have refurbished a room, we have done so with a five-day midweek turnaround, and this has often meant working around the clock.”

Extra benefits

Renovation works can also provide an opportunity to contribute to the surrounding community. “Our hotels have a big commitment to their local community, so another good tip is to see how you can meaningfully recycle any items during a refurbishment,” says Wagner. “For example, Staybridge Suites Liverpool donated all the surplus furniture leftover from its room upgrades to the British Heart Foundation. And when we upgraded the bedrooms at Staybridge Suites Newcastle we donated old blankets and duvets to a local animal shelter.”

Aside from the disruption, dust and cost, it's important to remember that refurbishment can be an excellent marketing opportunity. Keep guests informed about the new changes via email and social media, and use it as an excuse to get back in contact with previous customers. Promotions and incentives can be a good way to shine a light on the new developments and encourage guest loyalty throughout the renovations and beyond.

Hero image: credit to Annie Gray, Unsplash


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Takeaway
  • Always be upfront about renovations during the booking process, it will ensure guests have a positive experience rather than a negative one
  • Offering guests extra perks such as free breakfast or a welcome drink can help dilute the effect of disturbance during their stay
  • Ensure all staff members are kept informed, not just those in front of house. Transparency is vital to building trust and loyalty with guests
  • Renovation is a great excuse to contact both past and potential new guests to inform them of the changes to the property

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