This week as part of our ‘Rooms with a View’ series, we speak to Waaz Jean, general manager at the Explore Hotel and Hostel in the greater New York metro area, USA. For customers, the Big Apple is both picturesque and exciting, however it can be anything but easy to find comfortable accommodation. Explore Hotel is just a short train ride from the heart of New York City and staff are making guest comfort the top priority. Waaz joined us to talk about how the hotel industry is becoming more people-friendly…
Thanks for joining us Waaz. I want to start by congratulating you on your recent promotion to general manager. Very exciting!
Thanks! It’s great to have the added responsibility for a hotel of which I’m very proud.
So tell us about the Explore Hotel. Why does it make you so proud?
How do you describe a hotel that defies description? Many of our customers say that it is the perfect mix of great location, below-market rates, amenities and social activities for the guests. But I call the Explore Hotel an experience. It is the home of hipsters, the budget-conscious businessperson, and the avant-garde. You have to experience it to truly appreciate its eclectic atmosphere. I think it makes me proud because everything from the decor, to the people and the place, all have great warmth. It’s a privilege to be part of that.
I love the concept of the avant-garde guest! Do you see this as a growing market segment? Or perhaps a broader shift in consumer behaviour?
The accommodation business will always be alive, but it’s undergoing significant change. As humans, we are a curious species, and we want to be stimulated and surprised. I think we’re seeing an evolution in the way guests want to experience travel. And the hotel business will only thrive if it continuously adapts to customer needs. The era of the rectangular-box room is long-since passed. Hotels need to offer a more diverse array of room-types – everything from dormitories, to rooms with kitchenettes, and so on – to compete with services like Airbnb. It’s about shaping the experience to meet guests’ needs rather than offering a one-size-fits-all solution.
Does that shaping of customer experience extend to technology-driven services?
Definitely; new technologies continue to revolutionise the entire hotel industry. We’re gratified that we get such great ratings on travel comparison sites, but we’re also beginning to use social media to communicate with guests and share content we think they’d like. It extends the experience beyond any stay. And then of course we have SiteMinder, which has assisted us in selling our inventory in a record amount of channels, and it’s synchronised our rates and availability. Along with great reports, SiteMinder has been an important tool in growing our revenue and freeing up more time to dedicate to our guests. It all comes back to experience; we need to be present for them. The technologies we use are designed to facilitate that.
We couldn’t agree more! What do you think are the key trends facing the future of the hotel industry? Will the industry continue to shift towards being more needs-focused?
I think it has to. The homogenous corporate experience is so impersonal and alienating. The industry needs to develop more flexibility in guest experiences to accommodate a variety of preferences. And we also believe that social activities for guests will become an increasingly important part of hotel value. At Explore, we have installed a huge lounge space with a video games, a communal kitchen, TV and plenty of social events. We are loving the feedback we get from the use of these spaces.
That’s interesting; the return of the living room…
Yes, it gives us a chance to get to know our guests. And it’s led to even better things for us, too. After starting a guest engagement program, we are so proud that in less than year, we have been rated the best hostel in the New York metro area.
That’s amazing, congrats! Proof of the value of a customer-driven strategy. Thanks so much for sharing your insights with us, Waaz.
Exactly! My pleasure. Thanks to SiteMinder for listening to me.
If you’d like to share your experiences and ideas about the hotel sector, please email email@example.com. We’d love to hear from you!