In our new series, ‘Rooms with a View’, we’ll be speaking to hoteliers to gain an understanding of how they run their hotel business, and gauge how they’re handling travel industry changes so they can prioritise for future growth. To better serve our industry, we think it’s important to gain an insight into how they service their guests through their day-to-day roles. It’s how we learn, and we think it’s a great way for people in the hotel sector to share best practice.
We kick off with Michael Russell from the White Sands Negril resort in Jamaica. Not only is Michael focused on delivering a great guest experience, he’s making the most of technology, such as SiteMinder’s, to reinvest time and resources into social responsibility projects that benefit the local community.
Tell us what makes White Sands Negril so special…
We are family owned and managed, with the emphasis on ‘managed’. As owners, we interact and get to know all our guests on a daily basis. It’s more of a bed and breakfast atmosphere than a hotel atmosphere, which is the way we like it, and it seems to be something guests like as well considering we have been welcoming guests since 1971.
Have you noticed any changes to your guest profiles and needs over the last few years?
Our guest demographic has pretty much stayed the same, the biggest change I see is how much guests depend on connectivity to the Internet while they are on vacation. They don’t just need Wi-Fi, they demand it and expect it. And it’s not just to stay connected to their workplaces either; it’s for sharing their vacation experiences.
White Sands Negril has a commitment to helping out local children and the environment through your ‘Pack for a Purpose’ programs. Do you see social responsibility as a growing industry trend?
I cannot speak for the industry, only from the feedback I receive from other hotel owners, but guests are genuinely interested in getting to know the destination outside of just the beach and tourist attractions. I think the average tourist over the past five years is far more interested in having a cultural experience outside of the typical beach/tourist experience. We helped build a school in the countryside of Jamaica and throughout the year guests show up with bags of school supplies. Not only do they want to donate the supplies, but they want to donate their time. When they leave, the highlight of their stay, more often than not, is the afternoon they spent in rural Jamaica interacting with the school children. They share these pictures and stories with their friends and family back home more than they share the beach holiday experiences. It is fantastic.
How has the use of new technology changed your business?
Overall technology has revolutionised the hospitality industry. As a small hotel owner I feel it has impacted our niche sector in a larger way than it has for the large hotel sector. Larger hotels often staff up to solve a problem. As a small hotel owner on a limited budget, we rely on technology to assist us so that we can manage processes ourselves, without having to hire as often. We are more financially constrained. As a small hotel in a global tourism marketplace, our ability to compete is in large part due to technology and more specifically to connectivity. Managing and expanding our connectivity is absolutely key, and SiteMinder allows me to do this efficiently and at a cost I can afford.
What do you see as the key changes for the hotel industry more generally?
We think the area that needs most attention is guest interaction pre- and post-stay. This is something we are individually looking to improve on. The sorts of issues we want to solve include how we can service the guest post-reservation, and pre-arrival, and how we can interact with them post departure. In terms of hotel experience, I think tourists will want to see more video content. They will want to experience more of the destination before they arrive. As a small hotel business, we will use affordable technology that we can manage without having to staff up.
What achievements are you most proud of when you look back over the last year?
That I will celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary this year. To be happily married for 25 years and to also work every day of the week with your wife, is without question, what I am most proud of. She still says she is the boss, but that is up for debate!
If you’d like to be part of the ‘Rooms with a View’ series and share your story about working in the hotel sector, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!