How hotels refresh, staff, revenue-manage for summer
Hotels in the U.S. and abroad are preparing to welcome travelers for the summer season by updating public spaces, pruning gardens and adding programming.
GLOBAL REPORT—Summer is just around the corner for the Northern Hemisphere, which means hoteliers in the U.S. and abroad are prepping their properties, both operationally and cosmetically, for an influx of leisure travelers.
For most travelers in the U.S., the long Memorial Day weekend (24-27 May) kicks off the heavy summer season.
Curtis Bashaw, co-founder and co-managing partner of Cape Advisors and Cape Resorts, said summer prep is not taken lightly at his Cape May, New Jersey-based hotels, because he knows the properties will be part of a lot of families’ summer vacation memories this year.
Every season has its checklist, Bashaw said. In the summer, outdoor prep includes planting thousands of flowers, setting up verandas, bars and fire pits, he said.
There’s also the setup and planning involved in the additional programming for the summer.
Cape Resorts, Bashaw said, continues “to ratchet up the services we provide.”
“This year, we’re adding classes and excursions, so we now have beach boot camp and a yoga class that are complimentary for all of our guests,” as well as history tours and guided walks, he said.
Each of Cape Resorts’ Cape May properties are within walking distance of each other, and “it feels like a campus,” he said. In the summer, this is a benefit because guests can use resources at each property, such as bike rentals, shuttles and kids camps.
Bashaw said Cape Resorts charges guests a resort fee, which is 5% of the room rate.
“It goes up and down with the room rate and covers our beach service, our classes, our excursions; it covers the shuttle bus. … We have a really aggressive menu of amenities our guests can take advantage of,” he said.
Upgrading Wi-Fi at the hotel is on the to-do list, no matter the season, due to the demand for streaming services, Bashaw said. All TVs at his resorts have been converted so guests can stream from their devices.
George Andy, managing partner of La Mer Beachfront Inn, which is also in Cape May, said his property is preparing to unveil 21 new guestrooms and the brand new Pier House Restaurant this June.
“It’s something we are excited for, and our guests will be, too,” he said in an email interview.
Andy said La Mer also has a beach service for guests, and his staff is spending time making sure all of the beach chairs and umbrellas are clean and ready to go, along with 10 new cabanas for the season.
Stuart Johnson, managing director of Brown’s Hotel in London, said the hotel unveiled its refurbished front-hall design just in time for the summer season.
The renovation included enlarging the reception area and the new belvedere, which allows for natural sunlight to cascade through the space, he said.
“The hand-painted wallpaper is reminiscent of walking through an English country garden and creates a bold uplift to the reception area,” he said in an email interview.
Equally important as cosmetic refreshes is revenue-managing for the season, sources said.
“We revenue-manage all year,” Bashaw said. “We have a dedicated year-round revenue-management team, and the big strategy for us in the summer is to understand when/how we want to build our base of business.”
He said his properties have a lot of repeat guests, and bookings are already being made for summer 2020, “even though we’re still filling in our last holes for summer 2019.”
Andy said La Mer gets a good bump in business Memorial Day weekend then a lull once schools are back in session.
“We get a major pick-up the last week in June that runs through the summer (ending Labor Day weekend),” he added.
Part of maximizing summer revenue is making sure to refresh food-and-beverage options on-property, sources said.
Andy said his hotel’s F&B is constantly changing with the seasons. This summer, it will offer packages with F&B components combined with beach and pool services, he said.
Bashaw said F&B revenue is as important as rooms revenue. His resorts’ on-property farms provide seasonal items as well as egg, pork, chicken, turkey and herbs and vegetables for their restaurants.
Susan Guimbellot, VP of revenue and channel strategy at Hospitality Ventures Management Group, said it’s key to ensure sales teams are engaged with customers and managing room blocks for events and groups well.
Corporate groups still book during the summer, she said, but the booking window is a lot tighter.
She said it’s also critical that the sales teams subscribe to Google alerts and pay attention to social media to keep concerts and other summer events on the radar. These events can drive a big pick-up in business, she said.
Johnson said London and the Brown’s Hotel benefit from a fairly consistent level of business, “which begins with the British Social season; the first event being Chelsea Flower Show in May, concluding with Frieze Art Week in October.”
The inevitable shoulder months allow the hotel to invest time in maintaining and improving offerings, he said.
Bashaw said Cape Resorts’ properties have about 500 year-round employees and add about an additional 300 seasonal employees each year.
Seasonal workers arrive through June, many of whom are college students or from European countries that use the J-1 visa program, he said, adding onboarding generally starts the week before Memorial Day.
“(Those with visas) can generally stay until October,” he said. “(That) helps us span the season from May to October.”
“We love helping to facilitate the making of memories and building a tradition. We think we’re pretty good at it, and we love doing it,” he said. “We’re on the cusp of an annual highlight.”
By Dana Miller