We spoke exclusively to James Lohan, co-founder and CEO, (Mrandmrssmith.com) to get his advice on how growing your boutique business in 2015.
What are your top tips for approaching a hotel interior redesign?
Think about who’s going to use communal spaces, and how. Guests don’t want to be forced to sit awkwardly side by side on an enormous sofa in a hotel lounge: think about the layout so couples or small groups aren’t all crammed on top of each other. Lighting is essential to set the mood of the room, too.
How can hotel managers get the most from their staff?
Don’t underestimate the importance of your staff – friendly service can make the difference between a good hotel and a stand-out hotel. For me, the best hotel personnel are those who know how to read their guests: sometimes a guest fancies a chat, and other times they’d rather be left in peace, so managers should encourage staff to personalise their approach: don’t butt in brashly with a couple who clearly just want a romantic time together, but if parents are looking stressed and the kids are going crazy, go and help them!
Is it important to keep up with industry trends? How can hoteliers best decide whether trends will be long-standing and worth an investment?
It depends on the trend – look for those that’ll have longevity, such as wider shifts in consumer behaviour (for example, experiential travel, where guests want to learn a skill or enjoy a unique experience, or the trend for the personalisation of pretty much everything…) There’s a difference between a behavioural trend that’ll last, and a design trend that will come and go more quickly. Design is important, obviously, but you don’t have to be ‘bleeding edge’ first with trends: wait and see how the interesting ones play out, then adapt or adopt.
How can hoteliers approach OTAs and decide which ones to work with?
Online travel agents can be a huge help to hoteliers, but you need to be clear on what you want from them. Some will simply get you more guests en masse by discounting; others might get you fewer bookings but those bookings will be made by guests who spend more on their stay. Some OTAs will bring people from different parts of the world, and some will bring different ages, so think carefully about which gaps you need filing; I would recommend testing a considered blend and seeing what works for you.
What is the one life lesson you have learnt?
My father once said to me, “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it!”