Testing an idea for a new hotel


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Viability's Guy Wilkinson writes a monthly column for Hotelier Middle East Magazine. This article originally appeared in February 2011.
For more information about Viability, please visit http://www.linkedin.com/company/2347942 or http://www.viability.ae/

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Testing an idea for a new hotel

  1. 1. 20COMMENT Testing an idea for a new hotel Viability director Guy Wilkinson says owners are coming up with some sound concepts for new hotels, but they need to put theories through rigorous tests before starting their projects Alas, I did not have the pleasure of One only needs to count the number meeting the great minds behind the of 4WD vehicles in the street to 6500-room desert hotel, the iceberg know that. I therefore believe hotel in the dunes, the underwater many other selling points hotel, the revolving hotel, the Irish remain much more hotel (on an island in the Persian Gulf), important to potential or the seahorse- and mermaid-shaped hotel guests — partic- hotels — all real examples of projects ularly if they are intra- planned in Dubai that would have regional — including gone ahead if not saved by the bell of competitive pricing, the global recession — I wish I had! value added services, location and even inte- COLUMNIST SOUND IDEAS rior design. Seriously, though, many of my cli- This kind of ques- ents, actual or potential, in reality tion can be answered verything man-made starts as have some pretty sound ideas for new for certain by asking the target E an idea in someone’s head and hotels are no exception. Some- one has a vision that turns into a concept and eventually bricks and mortar. I meet both entrepreneurs hotel concepts, but may lack either the industry knowledge to know if they’re on the right track, the perspective that an objective third-party assessment can give them, or simply the time and market directly through pri- mary research techniques like face-to-face or telephone inter- views and focus groups, which allow confirmation of existing and dreamers in my work and they resources to research and test their the- market characteristics are sometimes one and the same. It ories adequately. and preferences, as can be fascinating to hear their ideas For example, several people have well as testing of for new hotel concepts. The true vi- shared with me their ideas for ‘green’ new concepts. Would your idea for a sionaries have a magical instinct for hotel concepts. The whole environ- hotel get Guy Wilkinson’s what potential guests want, while the mental movement is really big in BRAND seal of approval? hopeless dreamers remain just that. Europe and the US, and is now a key ISSUES For a fairly straightforward con- tenet of many hotel companies for Another dif- hotels. Given that cept, hotels have a seemingly endless reasons both moral and commercial. ficulty faced set combinations variety of permutations and con- However, my advice to these people by conceiv- of these elements tinue to appear in new versions and — together with a hybrids around the world. There’s graphic and interior a great virtue in being the first to do design identity — essentially define something worldwide — like Conrad SEVERAL PEOPLE HAVE SHARED WITH ME the brands, it is understandable that Hilton, who is credited with inventing operators are increasingly closed to the hotel chain, or Ian Schrager, who THEIR IDEAS FOR ‘GREEN’ HOTEL CONCEPTS. fanciful ideas from owners. started the boutique hotel movement MY ADVICE WAS THAT THE MIDDLE EAST IS This can be viewed as a good thing, — but there’s often a high reward for SIMPLY NOT READY FOR THIS in that hotel owner-operators and simply being first to market locally small chains can thus be seen to enjoy with something invented elsewhere. a greater freedom to innovate and In my job as a hotel development ultimately, to turn ideas into reality. consultant, I’ve been a sounding was that the Middle East is simply ers of new ideas is to understand that I would only urge them to get a con- board for my fair share of wacky ideas. not ready for concepts that depend the big operators are often inflexible to sultant on board to help them keep I recall a rather fearsome local gentle- on eco credentials as their prime sell- stretch their brands over an unfamiliar their feet on the ground, through solid man sporting a dagger at his waist, ing proposition. Sure, we have our hotel concept. Brand standards typi- research and analysis. HME painting a verbal picture of the Gle- environmental groups and many of cally define aspects such as preferred neagles Hotel transferred in all its grey the hotels are making great strides types of location, numbers of letting Victorian splendour to a desert in the in terms of implementing green poli- units and the extent of business and northern emirates, with the crucial cies. But the region’s environmental leisure amenities and services. Hence addition of a bowling alley. Another record remains poor by comparison the development of such phrases as Guy Wilkinson is a director of Viability, a who dreamed of 1000 rooms with to many parts of the world, and its citi- ‘limited service’ and ‘essential ser- hospitality and property consulting firm in Dubai. removable walls, sunken baths and a zens are essentially only just beginning vice’, for example, to prepare guests For more information, e-mail: guy@viability.ae 50% IRR. to become environmentally sensitised. for the difference with ‘full service’ February 2011 • Hotelier Middle East www.hoteliermiddleeast.com