If you’re opening a new hotel, you’ve likely got a lot on your plate. Whether you’re an independent owner or you manage a group of hotels, you know how important and complex opening day is.
There’s a lot that goes into a hotel’s opening day—from last-minute décor details to securing the right staff for the property, more often than not, your attention is pulled all over the property.
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With so many things going on behind the scenes, sometimes it’s hard to keep track of it all to ensure nothing has slipped between the cracks before doors open to guests.
In this post, we’ll discuss what you can do to help control the chaos behind your hotel’s opening day to plan a successful opening. We’ve also included two opening day checklists to provide you with the outline you need to have the best opening possible. For more in depth insight, check out our Ultimate Guide to Hotel Operations Management.
Why Hotel Openings Matter So Much
We’ve all heard it time and time again: first impressions are the most important. At the heart of it, that’s why a hotel’s opening day matters so much. The opening day sets a precedent and provides the first impression many guests, employees, and shareholders will have of your property. It can impact your properties financial bottom line in a multitude of ways.
If it goes well, you may attract a lot of media buzz and attention. You could bring in new guests and gain repeat customers through your first guest stays. Your property could attract additional investors or shareholders. However, if your opening day goes awry, it could attract the wrong kind of recognition: negative reviews before you’ve even had a chance to establish the property, poor impressions on stakeholders and potential investors, loss of new, current, and future guests. There’s a lot on the line.
That’s why it’s so important to go into your opening day with a plan. By adequately preparing yourself and your team with a clear procedure of action and defined expectations, you can guarantee the best opening experience for everyone involved.
Who is Involved in Opening Day?
Everyone at the hotel is likely going to play a role in your opening, so having the right people on staff for this crucial day is of chief importance. Make sure you and your hiring manager are properly vetting potential employees for the skills and experience you’re looking to have on board both for opening day and in the long run.
You want to be certain your property is properly staffed with enough people in each department to be prepared for the potential of complications. You don’t want to assume that things are going to go wrong—but it’s important to be prepared for risk prevention.
You’ll want your housekeeping team to be well staffed to support the cleaning of all booked guest rooms, public guest areas, and hotel facilities. Additionally, you should secure the right hotel maintenance technicians or maintenance team to make sure everything at the property is in working order and prepare for any last-minute maintenance needs that could arise.
Finally, make sure you select the right team at the front desk to greet opening day attendees and guests, too—you may even want to specifically designate someone as the greeter or assign the property manager this duty, just to ensure everyone is met at the door with a smiling face and a helpful demeanor.
Here are a bunch of tips to get you started. Read on...
Top Tips for a Successful Opening Day
Tip #1: Set a realistic opening date
Set your property up for success with a realistic opening date. If you’re scrambling to finish details, furnish rooms, or meet maintenance goals and it’s one week out from your opening, you might want to reconsider your opening date. It’s better to have to push back an opening than to have one you’re ill prepared for and create irreparable damage to your property’s reputation. Look at what you have to accomplish before you open and try to plan accordingly.
If everything is ready to open before the opening day, you could consider a soft opening and a grand opening. The soft opening allows your property to begin taking in guests and getting your employees valuable experience. The grand opening is a pre-planned, publicized event where you attempt to engage the community and communicate the specific value that you bring to the area. It is better to have extra time than be pressed for time or consider a rescheduling.
Tip #2: Get everyone on board and communicating
One thing that can make your hotel’s opening day all the more complicated is lack of support from your corporate team or miscommunications with leadership about budget and timing goals. Getting everyone involved on board with clear dates and expectations is critical. Get everyone on the same page by communicating intentionally from the start and getting executives or high-impact stakeholders to sign off on important details so you know nothing is missed.
Once you have the team's support and expectations are set, you must provide means of communication to report progress and solve problems on the go. With large properties, it is inevitable that an unexpected event will occur. Given manager and owners will be spread thin, team members must be able to communicate problems as the arise and connect with the relevant team members who can help remedy the situation. You could use walkie talkies, but a centralized communication platform with built in task creation and tracking is best practice to managing these situations.
Tip #3: Create a marketing and advertising plan
Who are you expecting to show up to your property on opening day? Are there particular people you want to invite or ways you want to promote the opening to the public? Why would each type of guest come? Where can I reach these people? Ask yourself and your marketing team these questions to prepare for a marketing and advertisement plan.
Once you decide who is the target guests of your opening day, you must establish how and where you are going to communicate with them. Managers must choose both the platform for communication and the messaging, tone and incentives to be used on that platform. Traditional channels such as TV and Radio are great for reaching a large audience, but can be expensive, difficult to measure and drive engagement. Digital channels such as Social Media, Google Search and Display Ads provide more targeted audiences and better tracking but may miss key demographics that owners are looking to target. We recommend combinations of both digital and traditional channels to ensure proper coverage of brand voice.
No matter which channels you choose, the key is to be intentional about aligning the channel, messaging, tone, as well as spend allocation with the target customer segment. It is important to cultivate and manage your property reputation in both traditional and digital channels. Using social media networks to increase brand engagement and improve property image will help increase opening day turnout.
Tip #4: Utilize a checklist to manage all the moving pieces
Create a plan of action for your opening day—include any last-minute details that will need to be addressed, any cleanings that need to take place, any inspections that need to be completed, etc. From there, create a checklist your team can work through to track these tasks and guarantee everything that needs to be done is completed before the doors open for guests.
Checklists provide powerful operations insight for managers and owners. Checklists provide management the ability to clearly define standards and expectations. If something goes awry, checklists provide managers necessary data to assess what were the key driving factors of that issue. Only then can they make an informed decision as to how to remedy the situation. By digitizing these checklists, managers can track process improvement over time to see both a qualitative and quantitative picture of hotel health.
Tip #5: Leverage modern hotel optimization technology
Utilizing a software solution to optimize your hotel operations can streamline opening day processes and help you to better manage your property in the long run. Platforms like Xenia allow you to create, manage, and track checklists digitally, for better team accountability and clear data insights. With a tool like Xenia, your team is able to access and complete checklists directly from their mobile devices, for consistency and clarity every time.
For hotels to compete in today's rapidly expanding technological economy, they must empower teams to collaborate in new ways. Xenia combines the checklist capabilities with messaging and data reporting tools tool provide much needed oversight into the front line. Managers have clarity of their operational and maintenance health in the palm of their hand allowing them to sleep as easy as the guests.
Hotel Pre-Opening & Opening Checklists: Free Templates
Here are a couple of checklists that cover recommended pre-opening and opening tasks. You can download each checklist via the link below and edit them to further suit your property’s needs.
To learn more about how Xenia can help with your hotel operations, visit our website and schedule a free demo now!