Despite its reputation for luxury and as home to the world’s only “7-star” hotel, the UAE has seen a significant shift towards mid-market hotels, according to JLL. The consultancy found that about half the 3,600 new hotel rooms entering the Dubai market late last year had a 3-star or lower rating. Here, Shibu Baby, general manager, Citymax Hotel Al Barsha reveals his top 10 tips for running a successful budget hotel.
1) Be seen
As a budget hotel, you’ve got to be in the right location to be seen. There is no point in having a great affordable hotel in the middle of the desert. The hotel must be easily accessible with different modes of transport, shopping malls, leisure and fun activities for guests to frequent the property.
2) Competitive pricing
Considering the competitive nature of Dubai’s hospitality industry, the rise in mid-market and budget hotels should offer a period of stabilisation for rates, but with so many hotels in the pipeline and the ever-changing market conditions it is often difficult to secure business without offering a competitive price plan. Budget hotels are known for their value for money, but there is no harm in going the extra mile for your guest just because you aren’t labelled as a 5-star establishment. Value for money includes impeccable customer service and staff that know the area who can advise on local attractions and things to do.
3) Breakfast and not just a bed
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it’s also great for business which is why it is important to offer guests breakfast and not just a bed in the rate! Visitors on a budget are given greater value for their money when breakfast is included, it also gives the hotel an opportunity to show off its F&B facilities, which in turn may convert guests on a B&B basis to stay for dinner and other meals alike.
4) A variety of foodie findings
There is no rule stating that affordable accommodation must limit its F&B offerings, but regularly you will find that many budget brands only offer the one restaurant in their establishment. Travellers are looking for variety, and by boasting more than one all-day dining restaurant you are increasing the hotel’s potential to spin revenue from food and beverage sales which are of course not limited to staying guests.
5) A diverse team
Every hotel wants to guarantee 100% customer satisfaction whether a budget brand or not. Hoteliers want guests to leave with lasting memories and great experiences, but to achieve high levels of customer satisfaction it Is important to focus on our teams. Nourishing career growth and personal development between staff members gives them the confidence to exude professionalism with the guests which in turn guarantees a lasting memory of the hotel and staff in visitor’s minds.
6) Engine power
It’s no secret that the internet is the engine driving revenue and bookings into hotels across the region. Gone are the days of travel agents and over the phone bookings. Budget hotels need to capitalise on the power of social media and online booking channels across the Middle East. As the market is saturated with upscale properties with often high room rates, budget brands can showcase their affordable facilities online to create a point of difference – for example on booking.com there is an option to search through hotels via ‘lowest rate available’ – a great place for hotels such as Citymax to be seen.
7) The things that matter
It’s easier for hoteliers to assume that they know what the guests want, but it can be a different case entirely when asking the guests their needs beforehand. Investing a little time and money into market research alongside a touch of personalisation will aid guests in becoming brand loyalists. It can be the simplest of things – a favourite chocolate bar left in the room to a happy birthday singsong in the bar.
8) Minimising costs cleverly
Running any hotel is a costly process, but for a budget hotel it is even more important to count the pennies. Design low cost services involving less or no staff – for example install vending machines for quick and efficient snack solutions or install self-service laundry rooms, all of these elements give a home from home feeling, whereby guests can organise their own laundry or grab a soft drink from the vending machine – it’s like their own fridge and their own washing machine!
9) Outsource when possible
It is often necessary to outsource certain tasks across the hospitality industry. This way it is easy to get the best talent in a highly specialised area without having the long-term cost attached to the service. For example, if you are installing new software or computer system across the entire property, it can be more cost effective to hire in someone for the job in hand, this way it is a contracted price at a predicable cost for the hotel.
10) Loving loyalty
Encouraging guests to engage in your brand’s loyalty scheme helps build trust between the guest and the hotel. It is also a great source of data for the marketing guys, which means you can subtly drop hints and new offers across to them. Price conscious travellers will appreciate the small touches of a loyalty scheme, including late checkout, complimentary breakfast and exclusive deals, these are the things that will make your guests feel special and ultimately love your loyalty scheme.