Executive lounge and guest relations managers from some of Dubai's top hotels sat down with Hotelier Middle East to discuss services, upgrades and how best to deal with difficult guests.
Hotel executive lounges and clubs have recently become a premium item that many budget-conscious companies are reluctant to pay for.
As a result, club managers across Dubai are coming together to discuss the strategies they use to upgrade, up-sell and remain relevant - if not essential - for high-end business travellers.
Initiatives considered include capitalising on loyalty programmes; cross-promotion with F&B and spa outlets, including sponsored buffets or amenities placement in the club; complementary wireless internet access throughout the hotel; and rate restructuring.
Club InterContinental manager Eva Schwietert, the host for the first club manager get together, profiles her ideal guest as being the "typical businessman".
"He is here for two-and-a-half days on a high rate, he spends his breakfast here, his evening drinks here and maybe holds a meeting here," she says.
She explains that personalised service was still a big draw card for business travellers looking for a "home away from home".
What is not so easy to define, however, is the strategy towards club opening times, who deserves an upgrade and the protocol for sharing guest information. Here, the club managers tackle the issues head-on.
Managers are prepared to adopt a hard-line approach when it comes to dealing with difficult or abusive guests.
SchwIEtert:Personally, I think it would be useful for us to share difficult guest profiles. If we have a difficult guest here, fair enough it might be a one-off event, but then there's also a chance he's done the same thing at another property like Raffles or Fairmont.
To get that kind of information from each other would be useful. We had one guest who continuously verbally abused staff and management decided that they would not offer him a room in the future. We protect our colleagues from abusive people.
Francisco:At Fairmont we have a very strict policy when it comes to harassment and discrimination. One guest was continually saying to a staff member, "this guy is an idiot". I walked up next to him, explained to him that this is not allowed and I called security. Bhardwaj:We have clearly stated on our website that people have been blacklisted for inappropriate behaviour and these guests cannot come back to the Hyatt, anywhere in the world. We are very strict. We have incidents where they do try to check in again and we have security there to intervene. Bou moussa:We have seen international thieves who claim that they have lost their things or use other scams. When we first opened there were many; I think it happens with all the new hotels. Upselling
Does upgrading guests boost sales or create unrealistic guest expectations? Managers have very different ideas on what works and what doesn't.
Francisco:At Fairmont we have a loyalty programme, so we take this opportunity to let our members experience the executive lounge. Our regular guests - premium and platinum guests - are the top priority when we are going to upgrade someone to our executive lounge.
Bhardwaj:We deal with it very differently; we upgrade first-time guests to give them a ‘wow' experience so they will return to the property. Our hotel is 27 years old, so 55% of our guests are regulars. The rest of them are new or first-timers.
SchwIEtert:We try to avoid upgrading as much as possible, because the minute they come back, they are disappointed if it doesn't happen again. Our upgrades are mainly related to our loyalty programme. We have a lot of upselling; the only problem is that our sales department is so motivated that they sometimes don't pay attention to what the clientele is for a club lounge. 24 hr party peopleOpinions were divided on whether executive and club lounges should be open 24 hours.
Schweitert:We're not planning on doing it; we've never done it.
Francisco:We were open 24 hours, but because of the business situation right now, we have had three months where we observed that most of the executive floors were closing down at 11pm or midnight and the number of people coming into the lounge after that is quite low. So we have decided to close the lounge from midnight until 6am.
Fisher:We are open 24 hours and the traffic after midnight is mostly made up of people who are leaving at early hours of the morning. There's not a lot of movement, but we still get people who come in and like to know that we're open 24 hours. We are selling 24-hour service.For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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