Perhaps one of the most difficult part for anyone involved with creating a product profile for a “niche specific” product is to visualize the ultimate product in its totality. Airport hotels are very unique products demanding inputs from business, leisure and investment extension elements tailored in a manner that speed of service delivery is enhanced without compromising the quality. The problem is that often by the time a profile for a techbased product is cast, discussed and agreed, it is time to review it again as technology has trashed that entire one that was agreed.
Before one sits down to define a product profile, three important factors have to be kept in mind, “who will use the product” , “what are the expectations of the user” and what is the scope of applying the principles of “investment extension” to generate additional revenue with marginal addition capital infusion. Naturally your planning must address and satisfy all these factors, keeping always in mind “what our competitors are offering” which adds a challenging dimension to the task.
Basically, as the term suggests, an airport hotel is used by travelers, those who use the airport for departing and arriving, those who transit through the city and require accommodation from as short as 4 to 6 hours to over a day, and, the airline crew both cabin and cockpit. It is important to mention all these segments as all have different and specific demand on the product. There is yet another segment; some airport hotels also act as a filter to the city, filtering the traffic at the airport itself where the guests may stay for as long as three to four days. These are typically those hotels which have an activity zone attached to it or in the close proximity, like an international convention center or an expo center.
Another important aspect is the actual location of the hotel in relation to the airport. Is the hotel located in the terminal building itself, is it attached to the airport with a direct walk way or it is in close proximity to the airport and can be reached within minutes drive from the airport. All these factors will act as a base to define the product profile.
Airport hotels also derive their personality from the nature of the airport they are on. Is it a destination airport or is it a transit hub? Hotels that are in or attached to the airport or within a close proximity to it, are generally low rise buildings with a horizontal lay out. While this gives rise to long walk to the rooms, it avoids the vertical transportation by elevators.
An airport hotel should ideally have a spacious lobby with proportionately larger seating area than in a city hotel. However care must be taken to ensure that this area generates adequate revenue by providing snacks and beverage service. This also acts as a hold area for sudden arrival of hundreds of passengers on account of cancelled or delayed flight and those waiting for the declared check-in time to get their room assigned. Many hotels operate on a 24 hour check-in system but this can put additional pressure on hotels wage bill as housekeeping staff has to be available in odd shifts. It is advisable for the hotel lobby to provide flight arrival, departure status either on properly positioned TV screens or on an on-line flight status board linked to the airport system. Those involved with the planning of the hotel must give adequate consideration to requirements of a left luggage or luggage hold area. As people stay for a short period, they may like to carry just the overnighter to the room, leaving the heavy boxes with the bell desk. While this aspect on one hand increases the storage space and security requirements, on the other this helps in reducing load on bell services and wear and tear of carpets and walls.
The check-in experience should be a smooth affair with as little formality as would be required by local law and hotel policy. Many hotels have self check-in automats which record all required details of the guest, assign the room and issues the room key. A guest must be made aware that on departure, unless he checks-out manually or via the automat, his stay bill will continue to add room rent and charge it to his credit card.
Rooms & Suites
Since an airport hotel caters to various segments of users, an ideal hotel will therefore have a very wide offer of accommodation ranging from normal rooms and suites to day-use rooms, family rooms with extra, normal or bunk beds, group lounges with individual settee cum beds, studio rooms, rooms with work cum sleep possibility and the list ends where our imagination ends. The quality of accommodation, irrespective of its type assumes paramount importance as the guest arrives after a long flight, tired, different time zone hence with an unadjusted bio-clock, expecting a very smooth and hassle free in room experience with high tech yet friendly operations of various facilities. The rooms have to be totally noise pollution free with capability of attaining total darkness for sound sleep even during the day.
While the rooms of an airport hotel are no different than the normal city hotel, it is high in technology in security and billing aspect. For example the door lock may be biometric, video enabled door bell, electronic safe with biometric lock, TV with pay channel, mini bar with direct billing to the guest folio, paid high speed internet, to list a few. Hotels with express 4-hour laundry and dry cleaning service report higher revenues than the normal 24 hour service. While most hotels provide an alarm clock in the room, care must be taken that these clocks are electronic and not battery operated to ensure correct time. A hotel can be held liable for a guest missing his flight if the clock in the room displays wrong time.
Restaurants, Bars and Entertainment Facilities
A well planned airport hotel must have a large buffet restaurant serving international cuisine. The restaurant timings would ideally depend on the operating hours of the airport. In addition to this there should be at least one or two speciality cuisine fine dining restaurants. The bar should ideally be a lounge bar where people in small groups could enjoy a drink. A well planned night club or discotheque could complete the dining and entertainment offer of the hotel.
It is observed that hotels with self dispensing automates on each floor stocked with quick cold bites, bottled drinks and other eatables record good revenues during odd service hours. Automates also take some load off the otherwise busy room service.
Meetings and Conference Facilities
Airport hotels in transit hubs could do very well with a battery of conference and meeting rooms backed up with a well equipped business centre. Travelling executives could utilize their transit time in conducting business meetings. Cities like Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam and Singapore, to name a few are examples of best transit hubs.
In terms of leisure or recreation facilities, there is a mixed view from the profitability angle. However hotels with a gym, sauna, Turkish and massage facilities do quite well in transit locations where people want to utilize the short time available to them and get rejuvenated for the next lag of the trip.
An airport hotel must plan for a small kiosk open round the clock with items generally required by a traveler, genera across the counter medicines and souvenirs.
At the end of the day, Airport hotels enjoy good volume utilization for most periods in a year. Investment in an airport hotel also offers investment extension possibilities in related areas like on board catering services, lounge management and onsite food and beverage operations.
Ram Gupta is a professional consultant with specialization in hospitality. He has over four decades of experience in Asia, Far East, Middle East and Europe. He has been associated with over two dozen luxury hotel projects and a number of state of art wellness centers and spas. His web site can be viewed at http://www.bcgglobal.com and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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