Do you dream of opening your own hotel?
It might seem like a dream to open your own B&B or quaint, local inn that attracts interesting and charming guests. But do you really know what it takes to make it a successful venture? There’s a lot to consider above and beyond the design of the property you’re imagining. Here are some things you may not know and definitely should be doing before you jump in with both feet.
Creating an Innovative Concept
While it’s not “all about the concept,” it’s certainly a very integral part of opening your own independent (boutique) hotel. You have to come up with something truly remarkable. That means, guests and visitors will “remark” on their experience and rave about it on social media as well as to friends and family.
You need to offer something really special that will touch your guests and invite compelling comments that turn your visitors into your biggest promoters. Keep in mind, though, that no matter how fantastic the concept, service is still king. You must be able to set the bar high and exceed the expectations of your guests at every turn.
Developing your Business Plan
If you’re not a business major, an accountant or financial guru, how do you write a convincing business plan? Basically, you need to know what’s important to include and what to leave out. You’re simply summarizing your idea and providing enough information about it to excite investors. There are templates available (take a look at this example from Xotels) that give you the basic structure you need to create a complete plan.
Whatever you do, don’t skimp on the market research. Check out the competition in the area, see what they’re charging for comparable rooms, get a sense of operational costs and do a feasibility study. You don’t want to start your venture based solely on assumptions. You need to be sure your hotel revenues will be sustainable, so be realistic and do a 5-year forecast.
Selecting a Location
Location, location, location. The biggest factor in your success (aside from superior customer service) is your destination location. Your hotel should be centrally located to other activities and attractions that will draw guests to the area.
Jane Mackie, vice president of marketing at Cape Resorts, talks about the location of The Chelsea in Atlantic City. It offers an experience to travelers who are looking for an experience away from the casinos: namely a luxury, non-gaming hotel. It attracts a particular clientele who want to spend time near the water and do something different in a location that easy to reach from New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.
Joe McInerney, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association likes to go up to the roof of a potential location and get a birds-eye view of the surroundings. “If you can’t see enough businesses/attractions that can send customers to you within a one-mile radius, you’re probably in the wrong location.”
Marketing – Getting the Word Out
When you’re not a big brand or a chain hotel, you have to work a bit harder at getting the word out. Fortunately, the internet has leveled the field a bit. You can participate in the travel search engines (aka OTAs or online travel agencies) to raise recognition and then use social media to promote your service, customer satisfaction and innovative design.
Capitalize on what’s unique about your hotel, as well as the “over-the-top,” unexpectedly amazing service levels. Tell your origin story and invite your guests to share their experiences and pride themselves on being the lucky insiders to this rare find of a hotel.
The Bottom Line
It’s all about return on investment. As a boutique or small family-owned hotel, you don’t have to pay franchise fees, follow someone else’s idea of customer service or live with their idea of brand characteristics. You have a chance to succeed as an independent hotelier and do things your own way.