What Does it Take to be Number One?

The following accolades would make any General Manager blush — Number one in the U.S. in 2011 on tripadvisor® Travelers’ Choice®, as awarded by millions of real travelers. Number one in the world on Expedia® Insiders’ Select™ 2011. And finally, Best New Restaurant to open in 2010 by readers of Seattle.

But when the hotel isn’t a five star luxury resort, but rather a three and a half star, 104 room airport hotel, you know the staff is doing something right. So I reached out to Ed Schwitzky, SVP of Sales and Marketing, at Coastal Hotels, a new Revinate client, to better understand how they achieved their success and how they manage the public’s expectations.

The first thing that became apparent from speaking to Ed is that he is a passionate executive that isn’t content to rest on his laurels. Although he has been in the industry for more than twenty years, he is as inspired by his job as he has ever been. He says, “What’s so great about what we do is that every day you wake up and get to learn something new. The playing field is leveled every single day. The wins go to people that wake up early and work the hardest.”

When asked why Cedarbrook Lodge is so highly rated by travelers he says, “We have a gem in Cedarbrook Lodge. It is delightfully unexpected. It’s not your typical airport hotel.” What makes it different from other SeaTac hotels? First, it’s a lodge and far more beautiful than a cookie-cutter hotel. Second, management looked at all the things that guests didn’t like about hotels and most of them involved hidden costs. So they removed them. Cedarbrook Lodge provides free snacks, free breakfast, free internet, free shuttles and more. Finally, led by Scott Ostrander as GM, they put an emphasis on service and training, seeking out people that are hard-working and want to succeed to work in the hotel.

Due to the awards and rankings, Cedarbrook Lodge has seen its occupancy grow and has been able to push its rate. In addition, the lodge is welcoming many guests that would normally stay in downtown Seattle but learned about Cedarbrook Lodge online, tried it out and appreciate the close location to the airport, the free shuttle to the link lite rail station for a quick ride into Seattle, and of course the value and service.

But being at the top isn’t always easy. When the awards starting coming in, management feared that guests would have unrealistic expectations about the lodge. Ed recalls, “Truth be told, we feared the worst. We wondered whether guests would misunderstand the award and think we were the best hotel in the country, versus the best rated hotel by our customers. Thankfully, there were only a handful of disappointed guests. The rest saw us for what we are – – an airport lodge that aims to exceed expectations on service and value.”

On a quest to continue to learn and grow, Ed is looking forward to working with the hotels to expand their use of Revinate and social media. His goal is to ensure that his properties are actively engaging in conversations. He is already seeing guests take to the property Facebook pages and Twitter accounts to ask questions in advance of their stay. He says, “This industry is evolving at an incredible pace.  We now need to figure out how to change the way we staff and operate to meet our customers where they are talking. Revinate will help us get there, I’m sure. But our work-harder ethos will keep us on top.”

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