Cash cows


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Viability's Guy Wilkinson writes a monthly column for Hotelier Middle East Magazine. This article originally appeared in October 2011.
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Cash cows

  1. 1. 26COMMENT Cash cows In the endless pursuit of money, hotels can easily pass their sell-by date if they neglect the need to constantly improve their service COLUMNIST otels are considered ‘cash H cows’ because after the ini- tial investment pay-back period of say, eight to 10 years, they just keep on generating profits year after year. Hotels are Your waiter could well be the source of your next delicious meal at a hotel restaurant – that is, if hotels would take the time to ask him how it could be improved further. indubitably a cash business, with new funds coming in daily by way ASK AROUND of rooms bookings and F&B spend IMAGINE, ASKING THE HUMBLE But I don’t believe it. I wanted to get principally, but also from such not WAITER TO THINK OF SIX NEW WAYS up and shake them by the lapel and insignificant sources as health clubs, laundries and the other minor oper- OF SERVING BREAKFAST, THAT WOULD shout: ‘Wake up!’ Hotels only live because of their people, and I honestly ated departments. A sensibly man- MAKE IT MORE ENTICING FOR DINERS believe that if any of these staff, from aged operation will control costs to the waiter to the room attendant to allow the break-even occupancy rate the supervisors were given the slight- to be quite low, even in years of de- est freedom to take some initiative, pressed demand. Thus the image of It’s probably more than my job is mer getting more worn and the latter life would come pulsing back through the good old dependable family cow worth to name names, but I fondly more dusty. the veins of this property. Imagine, standing out in the field and produc- recall one of the top five-star hotels in I understand that refurbishment is asking the humble waiter to think of ing plentiful milk year in, year out, a leading Gulf state (clue: now mod- costly and that in these days of global six new ways of serving breakfast, is an apt one to describe the low-risk ernised into a mirror glass box) that ‘double dip’ recession and unrest, that would make it more enticing for investment profile of a well-located just a few years back still boasted budgets may not be available for a diners. Imagine asking the cleaner and professionally-run hotel. bright red 1960s rooms, complete top-to-toe renovation. However, in what little buttons or bows he or she It’s not a particularly elegant with egg-shaped chairs like some- my view, there is always something would add to make the lobby a cosier image, I agree, and of course the pejo- thing out of the Thunderbirds (I refer that can be done to spruce up a tired and more personalised place. Imag- rative implication is that unscrupu- of course to the original TV series property without much outlay. ine asking the local staff how their lous owners just milk the poor cow with puppets), or Jane Fonda’s Bar- This is especially true when say, history and culture could be vividly and never pet it or attend to its needs. barella, and glorious Heath Rob- occupancies are down and staff is reflected throughout the hotel. Alas, this is an all too frequent occur- inson-like hydraulic plumbing in basically kicking their heels for many All this could be done without any rence and I feel sure readers will each gleaming chrome. hours of the day. I stayed at a pro- great expenditure. And it would help have their favourite example of a vincial hotel recently that has been break the cycle of poor performance hotel in the Gulf that has long since SPRUCING UP in a state of suspended animation that both causes and results from an passed the date by which it should But design that has passed its sell-by for some years now. The market is uninspiring hotel experience. HME have been refurbished. I now carry date is a relatively minor offence – slow, granted, but this hotel appears a digital camera wherever I go, but I and in any case, who dares set them- to have given up trying. Nothing has must say I regret not having had one selves up as the arbiter of good taste? changed for years now. The décor is on hand just a few years ago to cap- No, what is really depressing is to see drab. The music is awful (Kenny G, ture the last days of several famously a hotel that should have been refur- no offence, but enough is enough!). Guy Wilkinson is a director of Viability, a antiquated hotels that had become bished sometime in the previous 10 The food is dull. The gift shop is per- hospitality and property consulting firm in Dubai. positive museums of interior design years, but which limps on with the manently shut. The staff appears only For more information, e-mail: and furnishings from a bygone age. same old carpets and curtains, the for- half-conscious. October 2011 • Hotelier Middle East