CASE STUDIES

Opening an Independent, Sojourn-style “Hotel Condominium”

Comprehensive Support Provided for Hotel Opening

Background

Abilitas Hospitality provided support to premium hotel-condominium N as it newly opened its doors in one of Japan’s leading resort locations. The accommodations feature suite-style specifications, including kitchens and balconies for all rooms. In addition to preparatory activity related to running the newly opening business, support included developing concepts and marketing strategy, as well as establishment of operations. As a result, during the Chinese New Year period a mere six weeks after it began welcoming guests, the hotel was able to attain essentially full room occupancy, and continues to garner favorable reviews for staff service from both domestic and overseas guests1.

The business start-up support provided by Abilitas Hospitality includes the following aspects:

Opening Support for Premium Hotel Condominium N

Preparations for Business Opening

Abilitas organized a task force team of specialists from various fields, and formulated a schedule leading up to the start of operations. Since there was only a short run-up period of three months before the opening, preparation was steadily conducted in close cooperation with the owners, starting on the physical side with such things as the necessary equipment and furnishings.

Example of Hotel Opening Critical Path Schedule

Specifically, a list was compiled of the various systems, such as PMS2, POS3 and PBX4, and the required equipment. Then, based upon the special characteristics of the hotel, comparative studies of specifications were carried out, selections made, possible installation locations researched, contracts signed   total support provision until actual installation. Meanwhile, market strategies were devised and marketing activities started; the necessary business permits were obtained and support for personnel recruitment was provided. Although only a short period of time was available for the preparations while the buildings were being renovated, thanks to efficient project management by the task force team, whose members possessed ample experience garnered from multiple hotel openings, the standards required for operations were successfully put in place.

Formulation of Business Plans

Within Abilitas, it was known that compared to other domestic resorts, this resort attracted a high proportion of overseas visitors, and that resort areas suffered particularly from wide fluctuations between busy and slack periods over the course of the year. Therefore, based on extensive data analysis, a concept was devised that differentiated the hotel from other facilities in the area, and support was provided to formulate a business plan.

Concept Key Words

In specific terms, the company established a strategy centered on proactively addressing guests’ long-term needs by making use of aspects such as the area’s pristine, beautiful scenery, which has managed to escape large-scale development; facilities improved according to designs by a well-known architect which, while novel, create an atmosphere of privacy and relaxation through their lavish use of wood; and the fact that, save for rental villas and cottages, the hotel is the only one in the area to have complete kitchens in all rooms. The company also supported concept creation by selecting “natural,” “quiet,” “local charm” and “relief” as keywords for the hotel product.

Data analysis and marketing plan formulation

In the process of formulating a business plan, the company provided support ranging from predictions for domestic and overseas guests by region of origin and estimations of their needs and stay styles to the drafting of daily revenue forecasts for the first fiscal year and the formulation of a mid-term revenue plan and comprehensive marketing plans, including a sales promotion action plan. Abilitas believes that creating realistic business plans that take various factors into consideration leads to an effective, efficient PDCA5 cycle after operations begin. To that end, the company involves on-site hotel management and staff with abundant operations experience and works toward the creation of practical hotel plans that are far more than simple armchair theories (idealism).

Operational Structures

Concerning the framework for hotel operations, while working to emphasize the convenience and freedom during the stay offered by a hotel condominium, support was provided for the creation of services that allow for a slower-paced life, such as enjoying hot-spring baths in a supremely local atmosphere. The foundation for this is the establishment of representative guest “persona.” By writing scenarios of stays at the hotels for various patterns of model users, how staff respond to the desires of various guests can be demonstrated. This facilitates research concerning the creation of products and the content of services, collection of essential information, and individual plans for guest stays.

Persona Stories

As it was expected that many foreign guests would be arriving—especially from Hong Kong and Australia—it was essential to provide the kind of service that would also make foreign guests feel at ease. Efforts in this area include close communication with the Tourism Association, the preparation of multilingual materials explaining facilities and activities in the vicinity, and the provision of detailed local information. In addition, because the hotel-condominium guests would have the use of their own kitchens, the option was included of preordering packages of fresh local ingredients, which, for a fee, would be stored in the guest room refrigerators prior to their arrival. In addition, so that guests will not grow tired of the food during a long stay, the hotel’s restaurant offers a wide-ranging culinary repertoire, from Japanese to Asian and American, aiming to create a style in which guests can enjoy themselves as they wish during their stay.

Moreover, by using a multitasking approach to the work, the points of contact between guests and staff are increased. This results in the creation of personal interaction with the guests, while simultaneously holding down personnel costs on the business side.

  • According to TripAdvisor evaluations, it continues to hold top place in the area (as of October 2013). Furthermore, specific comments and recounted episodes extolling the high level of staff service mention how staff members politely conveyed sightseeing information about the prefecture as a whole as well as the immediate surrounding area, how one party so enjoyed their stay that they cancelled plans to travel to other areas in order to extend their stay to three nights, or how one guest wept with gratitude when the hotel arranged to have valuables which had been left behind rushed to the airport.
  • Abbreviation for Property Management System, a system used for front desk operations and management operations within hotels.
  • Abbreviation for Point of Sales, a system used for the foods and beverages outlets, etc.
  • System for telephone exchange systems.
  • Process of: P (Planning-establishing targets/formulating plans), D (Doing-conduct/implementation), C (Checking-process verification/evaluation), A (Acting-Putting into effect while making changes as needed)

A Word from the Person in Charge

Since we had only a few short months in which to prepare for the opening, we established a priority list for the things that needed to be done and then plunged right in. We paid special attention to ensuring that the architectural concept, the intent of the owners, and the expectations of the local community were reflected and given tangible form in the management of the hotel. Since the Abilitas goal is to provide management services and support in a manner tailored to individual locations, simply continuing conventional hotel operations as things had been done in the industry up till now was out of the question. Instead, we sought to develop intimate knowledge of a particular location, achieve deeper understanding of what our customers really want, and then provide support for the creation of services and business plans from a clean slate.

Furthermore, the fact that nearly all Abilitas staff can provide operational management and accounting/legal support in English means that we can contribute when it comes to communicating with guests from abroad and with international business partners, which in turn has facilitated support for the start of business in a short period of time. We are determined that, in the future, we will continue to raise the level of operations management to a level where it will be recognized globally as a one-of-a-kind hotel.

The operation and management of a hotel involves many facets, including recognition of differences in levels of understanding, amount of experience and expectations, and striving for close communications and shared goals with the owners. I have come to feel more than ever the importance of these points in the smooth opening of a hotel. Although we continue to oversee the operations of the hotel following its opening, in our relationships with the owners and hotel staff we want to act as a reliable partner, whose foresight concerning markets allows us to respond to needs with consummate professionalism.

February 2016