Thought Leadership

How to run a hotel

By Colin Walls

I am always interested in the way businesses are run, often being amazed at how haphazard and unplanned many seem to be. When I buy a product or use a service, I will often provide feedback – a well managed business thrives on customer input, good or bad. I am always impressed when I come across a well run business – I even have a talk, which I have delivered in a couple of schools, for example, which looks at a number of interesting examples of companies and individuals who are just “doing it right”. It is also interesting, but rarely pleasurable, when businesses get it wrong.

I just returned from a short vacation [they never are long enough!], which gave me the opportunity to study a business and figure out its good and bad points …

Our vacation was in Croatia – a country that we had not previously visited, but one we had heard good things about from many people. We were after a week of sunshine, sea and relaxation. The good news is that was what we got.

We were staying on a small island, just off of the mainland. The entire island was owned by one company, so it was a “resort”. There were three hotels, the largest of which is where we stayed. They had a selection of facilities, all of which were available to all guests. The entire resort had been comprehensively refurbished over the winter and, as far as we could tell, this work had been done to a high quality. We spent most of our time on the island, making just a few visits to the town over the water using the frequent, free ferry that took about 5 minutes to make a crossing.

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Our initial impression of the place was that it was well run. All the staff seemed friendly and helpful and seemed genuinely keen to make our stay enjoyable. Every staff member wore a very clear name badge, with a light hearted line on it like “Making people smile for 10 years” [a nice touch displaying their years of service]. There were also a great many staff, who often seemed to be engaged in ongoing maintenance. In many hotels, minor defects go for days without attention. We reported a problem with a tap in our bathroom – not urgent, as we had two sinks to use. I mentioned this to the reception desk on our way to dinner at around 19:30. When we returned to our room afterwards, a maintenance guy was just finishing up the necessary repair.

I said that I like to give feedback. So, I was very pleased to find that, in the lobby of the hotel, an iPad had been installed, running an app [in multiple languages] with which guests might offer feedback, which would be delivered directly to management. I had cause to use this, as, one day, we received appalling service at lunch. It took 2 hours to complete our simple meal! So, I sent a message outlining our disappointment, with no real expectation of a response. However, the following evening, we were having dinner in one of the restaurants away from the hotel, and this guy came up to our table and introduced himself. He was the catering manager for the whole resort and he had sought us out in order to apologise, explain and try to make things right. He offered us complementary lunch the following day. That evening, we really felt that we were valued guests. And, the following day, when we went to have our lunch, the server was clearly fully briefed and very attentive.

On leaving the hotel, I requested and received the email address of the General Manager of the resort. During our trip home, I wrote him a long feedback email – both positives [lots] and negatives [a few], along with some suggestions. His email response was in no way defensive – he was clearly very pleased to hear the perspectives and impressions of a customer.

I stay in a lot of hotels. Apart from vacations, my business travel results in my experiencing a wide variety of establishments. Most of them I forget about as soon as I have checked out; I only remember those that were very bad or very good. This hotel stands out as possibly the best managed hotel I have ever been to. I have been to plenty of up-market hotels, where they are so full of their own importance that they forget about the needs and expectations of their customers – these guys had precisely the reverse attitude. To give a simple, final example, consider Internet provision in hotels. Most hotels that I stay in offer Internet connectivity. Sometimes it is charged for; often it is free. More often than not the quality of service is appalling, with slow speeds and bad WiFi coverage – this occurs in major cities in the US and Europe, where a good connection should be easy. This vacation hotel in Croatia offered free WiFi, which was accessible just about anywhere. It was no hassle to use and about as fast as I get at home [and I have fiber!]. How they can deliver this level of service in a somewhat remote location is quite beyond me.

If you would like details of this hotel/resort, please contact me via email or social networking.


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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at