The rights and wrongs of hotel refurbs

The rights and wrongs of hotel refurbs

While a costly, time-consuming and logistically challenging renovation is feared by many hotel owners, Daniel During, principal and managing director of Thomas Klein International, a Dubai-based hospitality and F&B consultancy firm, highlights the correct way to approach a property refurb and explains how international events are motivating hotels to undergo a facelift.

Sooner or later, hoteliers need to take a hard look at refurbishments to avoid the more costly risk of a devaluated property or loss of overall appeal. The challenge also lies in knowing when it’s time to renovate, as not all properties will have obvious signs of fading paint, worn-out carpets or outdated furnishings to support the decision-making process. Lately, however, global events seem to have impacted hotel refurbishments. This poses the question: How far in advance is it best to renovate ahead of an international event?

FIFA 2022 – Doha
The 2022 FIFA World Cup is increasingly solidifying Qatar’s reputation and image on the hospitality scene. The Gulf state plans to grow its hotel offering with two of Accor’s most exemplary hotel brands: Fairmont and Raffles at the iconic Katara Towers. While hotel development is considered a milestone for the hospitality sector and Qatar as a whole, existing hotel groups are also upgrading their services to remain competitive.

Having opened in 2005, the Four Seasons hotel in Doha completed a property-wide transformation in March 2020, introducing new suites, dining outlets and lobby to match the expectations of today’s seasoned traveler.

When it comes to hotel refurbishments, the challenge lies in determining the extent to which properties needs to be upgraded and deciding between a full closure versus a partial one.

The Marriott hotel will undergo a full property revamp for the first time since its opening in 1973. Enhancements will impact the food and beverage offerings, public areas and guest rooms. In this case, disruption in hotel operations may result in a loss of market share and repeat clientele. However, in the meantime, extensive planning of promotional strategies to relaunch the newly refurbished hotel can take place. If executed successfully, the outcome may be positive: increased occupancy, new guests and retention of loyal customers.

Covid-19 pandemic
The pandemic threw a spanner in the works, disrupting the hotel industry and putting development plans on hold. Hotel owners and travelers had to adapt to new health and safety restrictions. However,
Collier’s 2020 survey showed that 50 percent of hospitality owners viewed the pandemic period as an opportunity to advance property renovations, while 60 percent of respondents felt that the market would become more competitive once it recovered from the impact of Covid-19.

The hotel industry continues to rebuild and is now being shaped by sustainable travel. Hotel brands are emphasizing their wellness packages and including wellbeing in their core values. Al Raha Beach Hotel Abu Dhabi is a big supporter of the ongoing efforts to achieve sustainable recovery through customized experiences. According to the general manager of the hotel: “The pandemic gave each and everyone in the organization real opportunities to take a step back and objectively look at the different possible business configurations and think outside the box and drive success in 2022.” The hotel has relaunched wellness treatments, revamped its exteriors and refurbished its all-day dining outlet to enhance the resort’s experience.

Tips for refurbishing hotels while maintaining the guest experience
Refurbishments are essential in optimizing value, maintaining a competitive market position and reflecting brand development. Deciding whether to keep the hotel open or closed needs thorough analysis. A revenue modeling strategy comes in handy when determining the potential outcomes of both options. For a destination like Dubai, which hosts visitors all year round, hotel refurbishments have to be conducted in phases. Keeping a hotel open during such periods calls for a range of measures, including physical safety from work zones and segregation of guests.

The following points should be considered:

Preparation is key
Carry out pre-planning activities in collaboration with the owner, architect and construction managers to identify an approach toward potential challenges and best solutions to mitigate disturbances. This may include a detailed plan of buffer floors to reduce noise, floor-by-floor or room-by-room logistics and a careful understanding of the flow of guests in the creation of pathways so guest service expectations are still achieved. Identifying the hotel’s strongest revenue generators will provide operational direction to the team and the opportunity to build alternative workstations if needed. With all key stakeholders involved from the get-go, effective communication, real-time design, budget and feasibility analysis can be guaranteed to ultimately reduce the cost and drive revenue, providing the best value.

Alleviate potential guest disturbances
Planning for elements like indoor air quality management, movement of workforce and materials to the site, and noise mitigation is crucial. Scheduling and adjusting shifts and hours to complete the project in the necessary time frame should be considered. Communication and frequent meetings for feedback among the construction and property teams are key to preventing guest disturbances.

Maintain access to amenities sequentially
This phased approach allows refurbishments to occur in each hotel space at a set time, keeping as many revenue streams open as possible. Guests can continue to enjoy the amenities in some capacity while construction focuses on each space and delivering quality. Notably, the back of house should remain highly functional to service these spaces or expect to create temporary service spaces if needed. By approaching amenity and public spaces this way, hotels are able to continue selling available rooms.

Utilize technology
Leveraging technology to increase efficiency and reduce unforeseen conditions is important, especially during the pre-construction phase. Implementing construction management software allows teams to track the progress of each room, ultimately reducing the turnover time on each floor.

International events seem to be a major motivator for hotel chains to undertake refurbishments. Either way, neglecting the process results in risks regarding the guest experience. Effective project management is fundamental in minimizing disruption and potential loss of revenue. The guest always comes first, so hoteliers must continue to offer superior comfort and a proper design that reflects the industry’s evolution.

Daniel During
Principal and managing director
Thomas Klein International

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