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Thread: Evaluation of Hotels, Airlines, and other Travel Businesses

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    Moderator Speedy1's Avatar
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    Evaluation of Hotels, Airlines, and other Travel Businesses

    In the course of my business, one of my primary tasks is the evaluation of travel-related businesses. I had to "Get Real" with a business owner tonight about that. Business owners on this board may or may not understand what I am talking about... but they should...


    Nobody in the entire world gives a flying fucksickle how "difficult" your business is.

    No tourist in the entire world wants to hear any hotelier or other business owner bitch about how hard he works to "please his customers." Nobody wants to hear how many hours you put in to make your hotel the "best in the world." Nobody gives a shit. If you're not smiling and doing whatever it takes to please your customers, then you don't have the balls to be in this business. Just give up and go home, cryin' to your mama about how mean the customers were to you... because your mama is the only person who cares.

    A tourist only cares about one thing... how AWESOME your place is. "Above Average" don't cut it... so don't bitch about it when you're accused of being only "above average." If you don't have the chops to be better than "Above Average", then... NEWS FLASH... you are Fucking Worthless! You picked the WRONG business! You SUCK! And nothing will ever change that. There are over 5000 legitimate hotels/resorts in Costa Rica, and I have YET to see a single one that was even CLOSE to being what I would consider to be "Five Star." I know "Five Star"... and there is NOTHING close to it in Costa Rica.

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    Moderator Speedy1's Avatar
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    OK... Fair Question... What is "Five Star?"

    Here are a few examples...


    "That can't be done" is an automatic failure.

    "Extra charge" is an automatic failure. Five-Star resorts are, by definition, All-inclusive.

    When you ask for fresh-squeezed O.J., the hotel asks "Valencia or Cara Cara?" Actually, they don't ask... they already know...


    ----------


    No hotel in Costa Rica will ever reach this level of service.

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    Moderator Speedy1's Avatar
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    The best hotels understand the number-one thing about a hotel that screams "trailer-trash"... "Extra Charge"

    I hate it, and so does every high-end client. The rich don't mind paying, but they hate being scammed. It's OK to charge $1000 per night for a room, but if you charge them $200 per night for a room and $7 for a Coke, there will be hell to pay. It's the sure mark of an amateur hotelier.

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    Y'know Speedy1...as much as I respect your long experience in the travel and tourism business I simply can't agree with you on this one. What you say may be 100% true for your upscale and well-heeled customers but there are a lot of different kinds of customers out there with different budgets and a lot of different kinds of expectations and desires.

    In the course of my years as a Caribbean tour operator/wholesaler I sent many tens of thousands and probably over 100,000 customers to the Caribbean and I was known and loved by a select few hotels because I trained my staff to SELL the hotels I taught them to and to be 100% honest about the goods and yes...bads of those hotels. NONE of them were "5 star" but they all represented FANTASTIC VALUE for money spent. And when it comes to "mass market" tourism few people are willing to spend the money for a true "5 star" hotel. Even an "all inclusive" one. And I was around in the early days of the "All Inclusive"...long before Sandals and the many others of their ilk. In fact I had already been in the business for several years when the very first Sandals (the old Bay Rock Hotel) opened in MBJ.

    In my experience anyway most customers are simply looking for "the best bang for their buck". There are of course fools who have Blatz Beer budgets but expect Dom Perignon but IME they are few and far between. Most simply want to have a really good idea what they are paying for and then get what they expected and a bit more. When you send a hotel that costs you $80 a night (European Plan) an average of $30,000 a month in business those hotels just plain naturally go out of their way to make sure your customers have a great experience...or anyway the ones that aren't just plain idiots do.

    "5 Star" is great for the customer who doesn't mind paying for it but for "the great unwashed masses" simply getting what they expected AND A BIT MORE is enough to make a vacation experience they will remember forever.

    JMHO.

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    And just because I still love talking about the tourism business to the Caribbean I'll tell a few stories from "the good old days".

    Back in the late '80s and early '90s there was a Miami hotelier who also owned two hotels in Ocho Rios. We never did a huge amount of business together but when we did do some business it was usually quite a bit of business in a very short time. He had learned that I could fill big holes in his res book on short notice so he would from time to time call me up on two weeks notice and ask if I could send him some business for a certain week and what would I need from him to make it happen? He was a good guy and fun to do business with and he had a VERY HOT daughter! He also NEVER let me buy a drink when we would meet at the annual Caribbean Hotel Association meeting in January. Double

    Anyway, he owned Golden Beach Hotel and Silver Sands Hotel in Ocho Rios. These were both very simple "old style" Caribbean hotels. Beachfront, a pool, a restaurant, a pool/beach bar and very simple rooms with AC. Plain Jane oceanview or oceanfront bungalows. They bordered on "spartan". But it was clean with nice staff and great for a cheap beach vacation. Beginning of November of '91 he calls me. He says..."Hunter1...I am trying to sell Golden Beach. I've got a German investor coming to look at the place and stay for a week over Thanksgiving. And I have nothing on the books for that week. I need a full hotel to try to make the deal happen. Can you fill me up?" Says I...."That's a tough sell. Especially on short notice. Whats in it for me?" He says...."Anybody who stays here at that time that is here for at least 2 nights while this guy is here gets their entire room stay for free. But I need you to fill the place up. If the deal happens I'll make sure you get compensated." Says I...."And you will treat everybody I send you like gold and make sure they have the time of their lives....RIGHT?" He says...."Like platinum with LOADS OF FREE DRINKS! I just need a full house!"

    I WENT TO TOWN! Called up 3 big travel clubs I dealt with and offered them a "net-net deal" that was my cost plus $75 per person for any 3-10 night stay with a $100 bonus per booking if they moved more than 20 passengers. I also offered a similar deal to 6 DC area travel agencies if they would co-op a Washington Post Sunday Travel section with me for 2 Sundays. We PACKED HIS HOUSE with "bargain shoppers". When the potential buyer left he called me up and said..."Hunter1...I think you closed the deal for me. I'll be in touch."

    In early February he called me up....."Hunter1...The deal closed today thanks to you. Your bonus will be in the mail tomorrow." 3 days later I got a check for $5,000. I didn't make much more than expenses and staff costs on the business I sent him but the bonus more than made up for it!

    Those were fun times.

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    Moderator Speedy1's Avatar
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    I don't mind great value, but it's not the same thing as upscale or five-star. There will always be a place for the $80-per-night hotel, and I'm one of those customers, myself.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Speedy1 View Post
    I don't mind great value, but it's not the same thing as upscale or five-star. There will always be a place for the $80-per-night hotel, and I'm one of those customers, myself.
    Understand completely. You deal in a specific niche market and God Bless you for having found a way to making a living in that market. I envy you. What you do is no less work but I suspect there is a whole lot less drudgery and headaches than what I did. And what you do is probably more fun. I just always figured that if I was REALLY HONEST about the product I was selling then the customer (mass market) would always feel they had gotten great value-for-money--especially if they went to one of "my" hotels where "my" customers always got treated a little "special".

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    Moderator Speedy1's Avatar
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    Keep in mind... I get paid... I literally get paid... to bitch. I've been doing it for a long time, and I'm very good at it.

    It's tough to keep friends when you spend your entire day looking for everything that's wrong with everyone and everything.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Speedy1 View Post
    Keep in mind... I get paid... I literally get paid... to bitch. I've been doing it for a long time, and I'm very good at it.

    It's tough to keep friends when you spend your entire day looking for everything that's wrong with everyone and everything.
    Speedy1.....as I said....I TREMENDOUSLY ADMIRE what you do. In the "brave new world" of the Travel Business you have figured out a way to make it profitable while guys like me are rapidly becoming extinct. I worked in the "regulation era". I worked in the "deregulation era". I worked in the "capped commissions" era. But I was out of the business by the "internet era". Now I just buy tickets over the internet. Once I was "someone" in the business. Now I am "no-one".

    Funny story....In my first job in the business (summer '78) my boss once said "we'll see a time when almost no tickets have a price on them". He was right. For 10 years I almost never sent out a ticket that had a price on it other than tax and PFCs.

    Times change. Some adapt. Some become extinct. YOU have adapted.

    But I still have fond memories. 500 blank Air Florida ticket stock that I kept in my desk drawer right next to the bottle of JD. They flew to STT, STX and MBJ. And yeah...unlimited freesell. Their res manager (Dahli Maya) was in STT on a freebie I arranged for her when they shut down. IAD to NAS on the BahamasAir-Eastern wetlease....with unlimited "sell and report" for $166 r/t with a guarantee of 60 seats per week. Mexicana on the BWI-CUN route was a GAS! Unlimited sell and report with 12 hours notice to their sales rep (his name was Roberto). Yes...I had his pager (remember them?) and I even once paged him at 8:00 pm and interuppted his dinner with a high-class DC call girl. But he got it done. And then there was the Trump Shuttle service to BGI.....THAT WAS CRAZY!!!!! $186 r/t with once again the ticket stock in my desk drawer next to my JD. And then there was BWIA from BWI to BGI and ANU. Those people were just plain NUTS!!!!

    I lived through the failure of Air Florida, Eastern, Pan Am, the end of the BahamaAir IAD-NAS service and a zillion other problems. Each new crisis was just another excuse to go into crisis-mode and make sure that all my customers got home with minimal difficulties.

    They were the best of times and the worst of times.

    No place in the business for old dinosauers like me anymore and frankly I would never get into it again unless I had the cash to put at least 3 of MY OWN PLANES in the air. But that doesn't stop me from remembering "the good old days".

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    Moderator Speedy1's Avatar
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    Once I was "someone" in the business. Now I am "no-one".
    That's the best way to be, these days. Anonymity is like a warm blanket. The second that someone knows who you are... you're screwed.

    Everything nowadays is done "on the fly." There aren't any more pre-sold seats, at least not for the real pros. We rely on all the idiots buying their tickets on Expedia and doing their research on TripAdvisor to make the market for us. I've got 2 guys coming in tomorrow for a Labor Day Weekend trip... flying First Class on United for $385 round-trip, staying at a 4+ Star hotel that you'll never see on TripAdvisor.

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