GM interview: Guido Bayley

Park Inn Hotel Yas Island Abu Dhabi general manager Guido Bayley discusses mid-market refurbishments

Hotelier express, Executive interviews, Operators

According to Pricewaterhouse Cooper’s report on mid-market hotels, the one thing that millennial travellers have in common is their search for quality, not necessarily luxury. This relatively new demographic of traveller is moving towards stylish and technology-friendly hotels irrespective of their star rating. Capitalising on this trend, mid-market hotels are emerging as designer properties focused on providing facilities that are considered essential for the millennial traveller.

Frequent cosmetic upgrades are especially important in this region, as Park Inn Hotel Yas Island, Abu Dhabi general manager Guido Bayley explains: “It depends on the location. The Radisson Blu Portman Hotel in London is a property that we’ve had in our portfolio for more than 20 years and the refurbishment took far longer compared to what we are doing at the Park Inn. The property opened in 2009 and it has been a success story.

“We’re driving a high occupancy of 90% and above, and there’s heavy use of the bedrooms. In Abu Dhabi and Dubai, hospitality is one of the main sources of income, apart from oil, and the expectation is far higher than, for example, in London where you can actually delay a refurbishment for a bit more.”

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Tom Gilmartin, the business development manager at Alec Fit Out, which is part of Al Jaber Group, put the cycle for major refurbishment at seven to 10 years. Bayley agrees with this timeframe, stating: “To cope with the dynamic industry changes in facilities, services and technology, property refurbishment is mandatory at regular intervals. We have to be up to market standard, value for money and creating an experience for the guests. In this market, properties should be refurbished within a period of eight years.”

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

The Park Inn by Radisson Hotel Abu Dhabi Yas Island is currently undergoing an AED 9 million refurbishment (US $2.5 million) to implement the next gen brand design that will eventually be applied across Park Inn properties worldwide. The property has completed the refurbishment of 100 guest rooms, with the remaining rooms to be refurbished this summer.

Speaking about the evolving aesthetic of the rooms, Bayley says: “As a company, we have identified the customers’ needs going forward for this brand. In 2015, they identified how a new Park Inn room should look. The new design will be rolled out in all properties to fulfil the brand standards and also the brand expectations from the guest’s point of view.”

More than a cosmetic upgrade, the technology and hardware featured in the new rooms are markedly different from their predecessors.

Bayley continues: “What has changed is that the upgrade of technology is visible. The size of the televisions has increased from 37 to 43 inches. Each room comes equipped with an Apple TV and we have free internet. We need to show the latest technology. We’re here to create guest satisfaction and to fulfil the expectation. The expectation when it comes to technology is changing.”

GOING GREEN

As well as technology and design, safety and sustainability also contribute heavily towards guest satisfaction and sway decision-makers when it comes to corporate bookings. “In the last four or five years, there are things which really make a difference to guests in terms of why they choose to stay at a hotel. They are interested to know if the property is environmentally friendly and see it in operation,” he says.

Bayley continues: “Changing to LED lighting was one initiative and we also installed a different shower system which still gives guests shower pleasure but it saves four litres of water per minute. We can already see the difference in consumption as we have the three completed corridors.” Officially recognised for their efforts in environmental responsibility and sustainable operation, the hotel is a Green Key site. This ecolabel represents a commitment by businesses that their premises adhere to the strict criteria set by the Foundation for Environmental Education. In addition to the environmental benefits, these practices are also good for business.

OPERATIONAL CHALLENGES

At the property, the renovation is being carried out in two phases. Though this means that it will take longer to complete, there are benefits associated with refurbishing in stages.

Bayley explains: “We have to consider the displacement of revenue. It would be nice to get everything done in one go but there’s a responsibility to balance expectations of revenue income so we made this plan of doing it in two steps, using lower occupancy periods such as Ramadan and the summer season.”

According to Bayley, the refurbishment at the Park Inn has not been a difficult one. Remaining operational during a renovation does come with challenges but ensuring that everyone on the team is well informed helps to minimise issues which may arise.

More than training, the focus during the refurbishment has been on communication. Bayley says: “Communication plays an important role. We all have to be aware of what’s going on. Especially the people in operations who manage this process by creating and sharing the programme with the rest of the team. Communication is key. What shouldn’t happen is that there is any guest impact.”

Still, when guest impact can’t be avoided, there are contingencies in place. Bayley details: “We will have some operational challenges in places like the breakfast room as we’ll need to close for a couple of days but then we have the benefit of using the Radisson Blu Hotel on Yas Island as an alternative and we’ll do this when the occupancy is not so high.”

POSITIVE FEEDBACK

Going into the second phase of renovation and working with the same contractor, the team at the Park Inn will have the benefit of experience. Bayley talks about the process: “The second phase will go quicker because we know what the potential snags may be and I have to say our contractor (Orsini SPI) did a very good job. We worked very closely together and it’s been positive.”

As guests experience the rooms completed in the first phase of the hotel’s renovation, Bayley says that they have been sharing their thoughts with the team. He reveals: “We did three corridors in 2016 and at the start of Ramadan this year the rest of the corridors will be refurbished. Because half of the hotel is already done, we are getting feedback and it’s very positive and that’s why we’re doing it, so I’m very pleased about that.”

Internally, the refurbishment has presented an unexpected opportunity to build morale within the teams across different departments. According to Bayley, despite the initial challenges, the staff is very proud of what has been achieved in the first phase of the renovation. “You feel the excitement of the team. We did climate analysers where we asked our employees to provide us with feedback and it was quite impressive to see that the Park Inn hotel did extremely well compared to last year. I think it was because they were part of what happened. At times it’s stressful because you need to deep clean 10 times but we are all working together to get it ready,” he says.

Bayley concludes: “The sales team are also happy, they’re excited to go out and have a new story to tell people.”

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