Valor Hospitality Europe has recently completed the rebrand of four former Holiday Inn properties in to new Crowne Plaza hotels. Here Valor’s operations director, Mark Thacker discusses why it’s the people, not the physical changes to the hotel’s décor that is key to a successful hotel rebrand.
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Rebranding a small collection of hotels is not a task to be taken lightly, but with a clear strategy and a commitment to change, the results can be very rewarding.
First, where to start amongst the myriad of tasks and meetings that need to be completed? That’s easy I thought; change the external signage, roll out the new collateral and complete the transformational internal refurbishment.
Indeed, the latter is a vital part of the rebrand. Of course, we need to ensure the hotel meets all the brand requirements but most importantly it has to satisfy the guests’ needs. Guests will usually have a preconceived perception of certain hotel brands, even if they haven’t stayed there before. Or if they have stayed at your hotel but under the old brand, they need to be able to see a distinct difference. Will nice chairs, great décor, in-room connectivity (and the list goes on), really make us stand out from the crowd? This is the question I was asked.
Did any of this work? In short, yes. Guest feedback is fantastic and our teams love the newly rebranded hotels
On reflection, it is not what we did with the building, but how we did it, that was crucial to our success. Creating links to the local area in the designs of our fantastic bedrooms and food and beverage areas, ensuring scene setting and usability is perfect and learning from the simple mistakes we have all made in the past. Are the tables the right height and size for a laptop and a sandwich? Can guests connect in all the right areas? Are the speakers directly above the best seating area? Can we adjust the lighting to the correct time of day? These are all challenges that if we get right, can make a real difference to the guest experience.
But the game changer was, and always will be, the hotel team and how did we get them on board? Simple, we involved them from the outset and explained why. It is too easy to be busy, juggling many tasks, looking for answers, then realising the team needs development only two weeks before you open. We engaged immediately, always being mindful that the team had a day job, after all, we all know a hotel never closes. We engaged professional trainers alongside brand immersion training and really encouraged individual personality to shine through. We also showed them what good looks like and removed the assumption.
Brand processes are great and vitally important, but good old-fashioned hospitality adapting to the different guests’ needs was our clear focus. It was also key not to forget the hotel team member areas. As our greatest asset, the hotel team also needs great connectivity and a modern space to socialise and relax in.
Did any of this work? In short, yes. Guest feedback is fantastic and our teams love the newly rebranded hotels. They take real ownership and pride in what they do, because they all understand the ‘why’. Oh, and yes, the hotels are more profitable too.
The hotels we recently rebranded from Holiday Inn to Crowne Plaza included, Crowne Plaza Solihull, Crowne Plaza Stratford-up-on-Avon, Crowne Plaza Harrogate and the Crowne Plaza Plymouth. They have all seen a significant uplift in the brand metric measurements with overall service and great hospitality being the key.
It’s also important not to forget how hard the team worked to deliver great service through a transformational refurbishment programme and all the challenges that presents, whilst learning and developing in readiness to launch the new brand. Simple reward and recognition went a long way, after all we do expect a lot!