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6 Steps to a High-Caliber Property Conversion

6 Steps to a High-Caliber Property Conversion

4. Communicate with guests
During a conversion, communicate with guests early and often through “pre-stay messaging,” such as notices during room reservation and reservation confirmation, Marr suggests. Winslow agrees that reservation agents should be informed of the switch and details of the conversion should be noted on the hotel’s online reservation system. “[Guests] weren’t booking a hotel room without having that understanding,” she says. Grippo adds that there were no surprises for Hotel Irvine Jamboree Center guests thanks to the company’s advance communication with everyone from the Irvine Chamber of Commerce to meeting managers to travel agents nationwide.

When guests are on the property during conversion, communication is key. As the Holiday Inn Express was becoming the Hotel Indigo Anaheim, Winslow says, the majority of on-site communication occurred when guests checked in. The front desk team informed guests as to which areas of the hotel would be impacted during their stay and answered questions, such as whether breakfast would still be complimentary in the new Hotel Indigo restaurant during conversion. Hotel staff also slipped letters about the conversion under room doors after guests checked in, Winslow says. “We pulled out all the stops.”

Marr recommends looking at the conversion through the guest’s eyes, not the contractor’s. While packing the parking lot with construction vehicles and drilling at 8 a.m. might be convenient for the work crew, such inconveniences will likely leave guests feeling less than accommodated. Though it could be more costly to dress up renovation areas with professional-looking construction walls (some feature artwork, so guests might not even realize they’re looking at a temporary barrier), the extra effort is worthwhile, Marr says. “You do not want to be doing a massive renovation without doing it right and thinking it through strategically.”

5. Communicate with employees
Before the transition to the Hotel Irvine began, Grippo says he personally met with the hotel’s employees while they were still technically Hyatt staff to help relieve any anxiety about the conversion. “We communicated up front,” he says. “I had several sessions, so every employee would hear our message.” The employees then met with human resources and with their counterparts from other Irvine Company properties to get a sense of what it would be like to, for instance, work on the Hotel Irvine cleaning crew, Grippo says. “We didn’t just show up weeks later, send them a note, and hope they understood. We went to them right from the beginning and communicated every step of the way.”

The hotel retained more than 95 percent of its employees in the conversion, Grippo says. On the day of the formal transition to the Hotel Irvine, the staff celebrated being part of the new company with music, prizes, and lunch in the ballroom. “At the center of our hotel business, we should always remember there are employees and the guests,” Grippo says. “Yes, it’s a building and asset and investment, but it’s a living sort of place with employees and guests.”

6. Change the culture
It’s just as important to change a hotel’s culture in a conversion as it is to change its appearance, Grippo says. Before adding frosted glass sliding doors to guest bathrooms and redesigning desks to be more ergonomic, he says, the revamped Hotel Irvine changed its name and logo and what the brand represents. Rather than representing Hyatt—and its properties around the globe—Hotel Irvine employees now stand for a single, unique property. “We only worry about what a customer needs when they come to our part of the world,” Grippo says. “That’s a different mindset when you’re thinking of being the face of the brand. That’s been the greatest shift in our culture.”

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