Welcome back to the accommodation show, season 9! 😃 WOW!
I am beyond excited to be back and let me tell you, this year’s guests are going to be game-changers for the industry. We have an incredible line-up of experts from some of the most successful hotels and resorts, as well as tech companies and marketing professionals, all ready to share their invaluable insights and help you take your accommodation game to the next level! Trust me, this season is not one to be missed! 🚀
You will learn the latest trends, strategies, and techniques to boost your revenue and profitability, and make your guests’ experience unforgettable! Get ready to be inspired, informed, and motivated, because we are going to be diving deep into the accommodation industry and uncovering the secrets to success!
On this week’s action-packed episode of the accommodation show, I am excited to be joined by the industry veteran Barry Robinson, where we will be uncovering the most effective strategies for boosting hotel revenue and profitability! 💰💸
We cover many aspects such as reducing costs, which is a crucial part of increasing profitability, and we will be starting off by discussing the smart strategy of cutting costs without sacrificing guest satisfaction. We will be sharing practical tips and tricks on how hotels can identify areas where expenses can be reduced while still maintaining the quality of service and amenities. 💡
And that’s not all, we will also be diving into the powerful impact of creating unforgettable experiences for guests. Using Barry’s years of experience at Wyndham, we will be looking at how managing a team and delivering impeccable service can help hotels to increase customer loyalty and drive repeat business. 😍 But wait, there’s more! Barry will be sharing his wealth of knowledge on how to tailor strategies to attract the best target audience for the specific hotel. We discuss how understanding the target market and positioning the hotel and its offerings to appeal to that market, can lead to increased revenue and profitability.
This is a must-watch episode for anyone looking to take their hotel’s success to the next level! 📈
What We Cover In This Episode
Ways to reduce expenses and increase profitability for your hotel. 💸
Tips for boosting hotel revenue in the upcoming year. 📈
Strategies for providing exceptional guest experiences. 😍
Ways to increase bookings while minimizing costs. 📅
Efficiency measures to simplify the reservation process. 📝
Customizing engagement tactics for specific customer groups. 🎯
Methods to offer value that appeals to your target audience. 💰
Steps to optimize cash flow for your hotel. 💵
Understanding the distinction between earning a profit and achieving profitability. 💼
With more than 30 years of hospitality experience, Barry has served in a number of leading industry roles covering management, operations, development, branding, and franchising. He has also held a number of senior leadership positions in the Asia Pacific region for some of the world’s largest hospitality companies, including Swiss-Belhotel International, Swissôtel Worldwide Partner Hotels, and Choice Hotels International. Currently, Barry Robinson is the President and Managing Director of International Operations for Wyndham Destinations. His role involves the international growth of two vacation clubs – Club Wyndham South Pacific and Club Wyndham Asia. So, don’t miss out on this opportunity to learn from the best in the business! 💼
Tune in to this week’s episode of the accommodation show and discover how to maximize your hotel’s revenue and profitability. And be sure to come back next week for even more expert insights and actionable strategies from some of the most successful hotels and resorts, tech companies, and marketing professionals in the industry. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to take your hotel to the next level! 🚀
Ok, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of The Accommodation Show. I am joined today by Barry Robinson from Wyndham. Welcome to the show.
Barry: Thanks, Bart. It’s great to be on the show. So it’s a lovely day here on the Gold Coast. Good to be back in Australia.
Bart: I didn’t know that you were on the Gold Coast. I imagine that it’s good times, good weather. And is that where you live as well?
Barry: No, I actually reside in Singapore but we still have a large presence down here in Australia and our corporate office is here on the Gold Coast. So which is an ideal spot to visit, especially today that turned the weather on and you know, the surfs, nice and clean. The water is beautiful out here at the moment.
Bart: So if anyone that’s listening who hasn’t been to the Gold Coast, it’s a wonderful location. We did a conference up there two, three months ago. And when I wasn’t at the conference, I was at the beach so I do really understand that location. But look, you’re very hard to get hold of Barry. I’m gonna get straight into our topic of today, which is profitability. So profitability and hotels and accommodation into 2023 and how to become more profitable and some of our predictions, but look, before I get into it, I would love you to introduce yourself, and let everybody know where you’re from and what your role entails.
Barry: Okay, so originally I’m from New Zealand, I’ve been in the hospitality industry for most of my life, on and off. My parents were in the sector. So from an early age, I was brought up, you know, changing beds and doing dishes and all those not-so-pleasant jobs that as a young kid, we were sort of like Foster’s child labor, so to speak. But anyway, it was a really good learning curve and sort of got me ingrained in the hospitality business and installed in my blood and then you know, from there, I spent probably 12 years maybe 12 to 14 years, and my early stages up in Asia, in different parts of Asia, operating hotels, as general manager in Indonesia, China, and then back to Singapore, where yarn base this the second time so I did, I did come down to Australia.
After Asia, I spent 14 years recently down here for 15 years with my family. And that was when we did an acquisition. I was with Choice Hotels, and we bought, I don’t know if you remember Bart, there was a group called Flagins, which was a large group of Cologne glomeruli. throughout Australia, a lot of regional properties. And we were quite quiet that choice really got its foothold in Australia and converted the Flagins over to qualities Clarins and comforts. And then from there, I broke away and ventured into what was the vacation ownership business then I didn’t know anything about it as approached by a fortune 100 called Cendant corporation that owned a variety of businesses. They owned Avis and budget rental cars and those days. They owned all the hotel brands that Wyndham has now bought a few that they’ve acquired recently, but remodels and Howard Johnson’s, and so on. So it was an exciting group to join. You know, that’s 19 years ago and nearly coming up to 20 years when I joined them so it’s been a really, really interesting ride and we had a small business in Australia at that stage, so I do in Fiji and I’m really not a very big presence from a hotel perspective and over those years, were able to grow both our vacation ownership business and our hotel business, not only in the South Pacific but up into Asia, which we’ve expanded dramatically up in Asia of recent times.
Bart: I can only imagine and I think I was talking to someone the other day about the size of Australia in comparison to the rest of the world. I think that in the States and like all of Florida is the same size as the whole of Australia and sort of scratching my head going oh, okay, cool. It’s a tiny territory but with a lot of opportunity as well.
Barry: Right. Well, look, Australia is really vast. And, with close proximity to New Zealand. There’s a lot of cross-pollination between those two countries. They’re both seen as, you know, clean green, and adventurous places safe places to visit. So you know from an attractive perspective for not only Asia but North America and Europe, coming down this way, definitely attractive places for people to visit. We were going through globalization prior to the pandemic where we’ve sort of shifted back to deglobalization, you know, flights were relatively frequent, easy, and inexpensive, prior to 2019. And so pandemics put a little bit of a damper on that, but what it has done is just really increased and especially our focus on domestic tourism, and we saw that through the pandemic.
I don’t see that going away for the next couple of years. So, you know, we talk about profitability and opportunity. I think for those that can, you know, swing if they’re not focused on and focus on the domestic market. I think that’s really where it’s at, at the moment, especially with, you know, where I don’t see the line switching and reducing the prices before the middle of next year anyway, at least and you know, most of us have done a little trip overseas since the pandemic or people I’ve spoken to and you know, go go to prepare to book the next one and go holy crap. You know, what’s happened to the prices? And this is where I see the flick of people going, well, maybe we should see our home country, whether that’s New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, or wherever. So we’re really entrenched in focusing on that domestic tourism market and there are the bright offerings.
Bart: Yeah, fantastic. I think that that leads us straight into our topic of the day so you know if we’re talking about profitability, and what’s going to happen next being well prepared for it is going to set us up in good stead. For being more profitable. I’m interested in what you said, where we see that we’ll get behind more global highs. Now it’s sort of in the other direction. But the domestic traveler was incredibly important during COVID and coming out of COVID. And if we look at airline prices, and I know this, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, flights are expensive. If you look at how much you’re paying per kilometer, even if you’re in Australia, you feel this is expensive, but it’s very similar to other airlines across the world. So it’s not a location thing. It’s just that flights are expensive to get around. The one thing that I am seeing is that domestic demand doesn’t seem to be as good as it was six months ago. And the prices you can command for a room. Yes, they’re higher, but occupancy is starting to drop, and also when people are booking, it used to be that you’d have like six months or nine months ahead of time, you’ll know that people are coming, but now it seems to be a lot more last minute. So I’d love to unpack the sort of why you think that domestic demand is going to stay where it is. Or get better.
Barry: Yeah, well, look, we’re not seeing that. So on the Gold Coast. You’ve had a couple of ups and downs, but generally, occupancy and average room rates are much higher than prior to 2019. So those are just one market. I mean, there are markets that are still softer. So if we look at Port Douglas, which we’re relying on the international market, you know, that could have a greater domestic push and we need some of the local councils and local tourism bodies to help support the local businesses up there and promote the attractions of those destinations.
Yeah, I think we’ll still see short travel even with air travel prices increasing between New Zealand, and Australia, because, maybe it’s $600 instead of $400 or $800, but it’s not, you know, $3,000 instead of $1,500. So, so, you know, I think between those countries and also, you know, the Australian currency is, you know, relatively weak and New Zealand currency at the moment. So going internationally for our domestic population of 24 million people. You know, a lot of them are going to, you know, look twice about going overseas and maybe to further overseas, travel and go domestically so, so I think, you know, COVID was interesting because there was pent-up demand and everyone all sudden rushed out and either went where they could because they couldn’t get internationally anywhere, especially with the domestic, regional, but I think that’s also been good because people have gone to places like Stanford or wherever and go, Hey, it was actually pretty good going out here. We may go out here out there again, or let’s go and explore somewhere else. So there’s really got that domestic population to go. I’m a big proponent of seeing your own country before you head abroad as well. Because so many times you speak to people and even you know, my grandmother, she was I think 80 before I took her down to the South Island of New Zealand and couldn’t believe how beautiful was yet she had been to the United States and all over the world. It’s something that we’re going to figure out how to do better. As a population, we seem to get fascinated with things abroad versus the offerings that we have here at home. So yeah, I’m really supportive of whether it’s a Gold Coast tourism board or certain tourism boards or whatever to you know, getting behind them to push the attractive attractiveness of the local attractions not only in the cities but especially in some of the rural areas.
Bart: I definitely agree that I think that sentiment will still be there. And I think that what you said before if you can do that one international trip and then it gets pretty expensive for that next one. I do wonder about that price sensitivity that people will have though, because even now if you travel domestically, you know, you’re paying almost double for accommodation, if not, you know, 40 or 50% of what you were in the past. And as those you know, the inflationary pressures go up and you’ve got low-interest rates, which are going up as well. So you’ve got all those pressures. I wonder, the travel demographic as well, whether that’s going to change, whether it’s the same sort of people, whether you’re gonna have different people visiting. Have you had any thoughts about that?
Barry: Yeah, look, I don’t think it’s going to be easy next year. I think it’s going to be rocky. But I think there is a captive audience and that domestic market and, you know, some of the younger generation that typically goes abroad. I think there’s an opportunity to attract them to travel domestically, around Australia. I see, you know, we’re talking about, you know, really about the profitability of properties, whatever, you know, whether it’s a hotel-motel, a caravan park, or whatever it is, and you’ve got to have a look at what are the some of the controllable costs and things that maybe you can look at, you know, mitigating or reducing on a go-forward basis.
So, you know, such as power, the fixed costs of power, we see that power is going to increase, probably double-digit growth in the next year, going into 2024. You know, how do you move quicker maybe into solar or into long-term fixed, long-term contracts I know with AAA the accommodation or hotel association or what’s going to be called soon the Australian Accommodation Association, the new merge bodies, they’re working with the industry to secure long term rates, you know, seven to 10-year rates in different areas. So they’ve done one pack and Sydney they’re working on another one now, I think in Western Australia and other markets.
So, you know, I think for operators, you know, there are certain things we can control, certain things we can’t control. We can’t control that there’s no labor around at the moment. So you’ve got to get what you can, but I’m a firm believer that’s the kind of switch I think we’re going to have a non-shortage of labor by the middle of next year or by the third quarter of next year. You have to ask yourself, Where have all the people gone? Because if there’s another planet and everyone’s just shifted to another planet, there will be a return but I think it’s just a matter of time. I mean, some people have been sitting on the sidelines, either utilizing their savings or with the grants and so on that the government has handed out.
I think with, you know, the inflationary pressures, with the interest rates changing, and they do the economic dynamic. Notice that’s changing quite rapidly at the moment. I think you’ll see that change in the labor force, so I’m less concerned about the labor component. You know, what I’m always concerned about is the quality of the land and the people that we recruit. So we spend a lot more time on recruitment. We’re actually probably classified as a really slow recruiter and go through quite a rigorous process to make sure that we get someone that understands our culture. And what we’re really what’s in our DNA. You know, they’re going to fit in with us, and we’re going to fit in with them. So this is sort of a two-way street, from our perspective, and that seems to be working reasonably well. And you’re, I must say, most of our top talent has been homegrown, whether that’s in our general managers or our vacation ownership business or in our corporate business and our consumer finance business. Most of them are people that were bought in at the lower levels and sort of rapidly trained and great grind them which is really rewarding, and exciting. As a leader, I mean, it’s, that’s the best reward you can have is to see someone develop through your organization.
Bart: Yeah, so a few things I want to unpack a little bit there. So one of them you said about cutting costs and one of the things that I feel is that when COVID hit, everyone was cutting costs quite dramatically to survive. And now you’re talking as well. It’s kind of almost managing costs, relooking at all your contracts, and finding those different opportunities within the business to either become more efficient or like you said, to establish longer-term contracts. Insurance is another one, which is a huge, huge cost that just keeps on going up at the moment. Are there any other thoughts that you have in terms of the cost-cutting side of things and what would you say to someone that’s listening to that say, you know why Barry I’ve done it all already? I’ve cut the cost as far as I possibly can.
Barry: Look, I’m not a big proponent of just raw cost, cost cutting. What I am especially through COVID. We managed to maintain and hold on to the majority of our staff right through COVID. And where possible, we were opening resorts and we weren’t operating as a COVID property or COVID Hotels either. So this was, you know, raw operating costs. What we did do to go against the grind is to sort of reflect on our business and say, Well, how can we change or modify our business to attract and retain our customer, retain and retain a different type of customer? And so we went down the experiential route and challenged all of our general managers with coming up with how they could create some unique offerings, especially for our club, Wyndham members, to create a point of difference with each of our properties. So you know, there were different things that we did at different resorts.
So in Tasmania, our general manager created a hobby farm down there where now we’ve got all sorts of things we’ve got not only you know, fresh green veggie patches, but we’ve got a house cow, we’ve got chickens, we’ve got llamas, we’ve got she and it just create a really unique experience for our guests coming through, especially for our club environment got people asking about well what is this Windham club, all about, you know, down in, in Phillip Island, you know, we’re on a reasonable size block of land down there probably 40 acres I think we’re on. We’ve got outdoor cinemas, and we’ve got free kids. Pedal-powered go-karts. We’ve got electric bikes, scooters and surfboards, and boogie boards. In Ballarat, we created a gold sluice to keep them with the environment down there.
So you know, for my thing, whether it’s those big things or the small things, what are the unique propositions that you’re offering your property whether it’s a caravan park, whether it’s Airbnb, you know, What’s the surprise and delight because I mean, we can cut costs, but the more important thing is how do you drive revenue? And so I’m really about driving revenue.
You’ve got to be cost-conscious. But you don’t want to cut costs so that it’s going to sacrifice your offering to your consumer because long term you know, that’s gonna kill your business anyway.
Bart: Yeah, I love where you’re going with this Barry. I can sniff it already that we’re seeing domestic travelers and we’re going to experience to increase that profitability. I love it. And this is something that we talk about a lot on this show and within our businesses, you know how your USP, what makes you unique, especially in a competitive environment. It really begs a couple of questions for me, probably the more complicated so the two of them actually, let’s start off with this one. So in terms of identifying those unique experiences, and you said you challenge your managers to come up with some ideas, do you have any strategies, or any thoughts of how people can kind of get themselves into the right headspace and to go, alright, well, I’ve got this and how do I create those experiences? How do I start to think of things in that way? What are my opportunities? How do we get into that mindset?
Barry: First of all, travel by yourself and put yourself in the consumer’s position. So yeah, my take always when I’m going into a property or thinking about you know, our offerings is you know, if I was the consumer coming in, you know, what would I like? You know, what, what do I want? As my first touch point, I mean, the first touch point is when you’re making your reservation, your engagement upfront, how are you interacting with that consumer, when they first touch you? Yeah. What are the things that you’re sending out to them?
Are we just sending out a plain confirmation or are we sending out an inviting, you know, exciting note to say, Hey, Mr. Smith, really excited about you coming to our property? You might not know this, but there are some really unique things. We’ve got 10 ducks on our lake, they’ve just laid eggs hopefully they’re going to hatch when you arrive or something like that, or we’ve got a bread damper-making session or we’re milking the cow or whatever it may be, you know, there’s always something there all we’ve got really neat restaurants around us, would you like us to make a special reservation because we know the owners down manual ever great experience.
I mean, those are the things for me, you know, I travel prior to COVID 272 days of the year. So, you know, to walk into a property or have some unique sort of engagement or a staff member that you know, that just lights up your day. You know, that’s what counts for me or a little something special in the room. Just different, different things. I mean, you know, one of the island resorts they had yo, yo welcome
“Mr. Mrs. Robinson, or Berry and Lee on a coconut you know, carved down on a coconut it cost them nothing.” But you know, it was just saying you go well, that’s it. That’s actually great, you know, fitting the environment
Bart: It is really fascinating as well, because of the way that we use technology, the internet now. It’s almost a lot of these wow moments. That are Instagrammable there is actually kind of like a direct correlation between you doing that action and driving a positive return on investment.
Barry: 100% So, a classic example of this. We created a hotel in Brisbane, which was called a Trip, which was the first Trip hotel, it was the first trip hotel in Brisbane in the Fortitude Valley. And it was a hybrid between the two brands. We had one brand that was Trip and the other brand was Dream. The dream was a little bit funkier than the trip. And that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to merge the two brands, which we did with our GM, who’s now our head of resort operations, a chap called Warren Callen, who did a fantastic job and we could turn that with with the developer valve was a chap called Jay McPhee and we created a graffiti theme so throughout the hotel, it was all about street art outside of the hotel was all street art. There was a famous mural of a lady’s face on the outside of the property. Each of the floors was done by a famous street artist, that you know, in those days, they were just getting started and to your point all of our marketing actually when we interviewed for that property, people had to send in a video as why they would fit into the Trip model.
And we didn’t have proper uniforms and we had to create uniforms that were comfortable and they were T-shirts, with street art on it and whatever something that they could actually do they were comfortable because of the younger generation they were comfortable to go out for lunch or to the bar straight after work. So that was sort of the theme we brought in this really grant with a great bunch of unique, engaging, individuals. And that property from the opening went off the charts, especially from an Instagram perspective. Everyone wanted to go there and take photos posted on Instagram. We had some spars and TV set out on a couple of the rooms on the balconies so you’d have them in the balconies taking all sorts of shots. You know, some of them were censored, but most of them were able to be publicized. But it was a great project and it was really good learning for all of us. So we’re about to open up another trip down there. Laden’s South Australia. So, you know, the challenge for the team is how do they trump what we did in Brisbane from a social media perspective, because we didn’t spend a lot of money on, you know, on pure traditional marketing, it was all through social networks, and it was through people having it in their own experiences, not about us promoting the experiences.
Bart: What I find fascinating as well is that it’s very obvious to me that you’re also realigning your guest’s avatar, and looking into 2023 in where you think people are going to be in which target markets you want to actually look at in terms of people that are coming, but I’m very conscious as well of time and getting short on time. And there was one other thing I really wanted to ask you. And I also need you to wrap up because there might be some other things that we haven’t talked about that were very important and I want everyone to at least hear them before we finish but on this experiences point, when you run a disparate group as you guys have, it can be very difficult to know whether the experiences are on brand. How, how are you dealing with that?
Barry: Not all of them are on brand, but that’s what makes them unique. So it looks like the brands are there for a purpose to create, you know, some uniformity to a certain degree. But you have to provide flexibility and empowerment to your staff. Otherwise, you’re not going to create the hospitality or the hospitable experience that we should be providing any property whether it’s a two-star property through a five-star property. So you know, otherwise you’re going to be too starchy and stiff. So yes, there are brand guidelines around signage and certain other aspects that you know, we follow most of the time but you know, you’ve also got to work with your developers. I mean, you know, what are they actually wanting and what can they actually afford?
Because sometimes we’ll stipulate it must be this type of marble but you could get something else that’s half the price and looks relatively the same. So you know, are you going to enforce that from profitability and a return on investment? No, you shouldn’t be so you know, from our perspective, I think you know, from a Wyndham Hotels and Resorts perspective, you know, we work diligently with, you know, our developers, our vacation ownership business, we’re fortunate enough to have our own capital. So, you know, I get the luxury of developing whatever I think’s appropriate in the market and we’ve been able to do some really creative things we just, you know, my recent one was, we bought the peppers resort up near the beach and spent another probably 15- $20 million on that revamping it and created some really unique three and four bedroom presidential units that are probably the best in the marketplace up there. So it’s exciting to be able to do that. And that’s a good thing about having your own capital.
Bart: Are there any other points that you wanted to bring up today in terms of profitability as we wrap this up?
Barry: Well, I think from our business perspective, I mean, you know, where we’ve been successful is operating in a mixed-use environment. So we run our hotel and timeshare business in parallel together and being able to buy into a property and run part of that property is a vacation ownership property and the rest is a hotel. There are benefits for both parties, benefits for us as the vacation ownership. Operator and from the hotel perspective, because timeshare runs the typically high 80s to 90% occupancies, year on year out whether that’s through a recession and even though you COVID When we were actually able to operate our occupancies were up into the high 80s Which means that we’re paying for those underlying common area costs, which means that from a hotel perspective, be able to yield up and get a much higher greater return from a GOP perspective.
So you know that models really accelerated our growth in not only the South Pacific but also in the Asian market. So I suppose what I’m saying is, whatever your asset is, whether it’s a caravan park or whatever, I mean, how do you better utilize the space you know, have you got cabins on there? Is there something, another offering you could put on there that will give you a better return for your land bank? So I think you know, you just need to look at its case by case.
Bart: It’s just so many great ideas and as you’ve probably realized, probably we could probably go back to all of them and sit down and do another half-hour episode on each of those topics from cutting costs, providing unique experiences to mix use of your property and the list will go on. But I think you’ve got some really great insights for 2023 and given some people some hope of things to think about and to think about things differently and to think once again, and go back and look at what those USPS are and look at their costs as well because you know, even because you’ve done it two years ago, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it again, to schedule out for 2023. Barry, are there any final thoughts that you’d like to add for today?
Barry: No, I think that you know, just again, it’s all we’re in the people business. So we have got to make sure that you’ve got the right people around you and when you do have them make sure you reward them and look after them because they are hard to get a hold of and you can’t do everything yourself. So it’s really a team effort and I’m fortunate enough to have a great team in our organization and they do a fantastic job. So yeah, I just, you know, I liked the hospitality industry. I think there’s, you know, a long road ahead. You know, it is changing, we should make a change. It’s, you know, we got to lead those that are in the sector. It’s dynamic. So let’s continue to make it even more dynamic.
Bart: Beautiful. All right. Well, look, thank you so much. Once again, folks, if you are listening to the podcast, make sure you leave us a note, give us a like, a five-star rating, and all of that. If you’re watching it on YouTube, then subscribe, like, some comments. Let us know what your thoughts are for 2023. Barry, thank you so much for coming on and spending your time imparting us with your sizable knowledge and giving us your thoughts about the future. So thank you so much for coming on.
Barry: Thanks, Bart. And thanks for inviting me. It’s been a real pleasure. Thank you. I really appreciate it.
Thank you so much. Thank you so much for listening to the show. You can find us at theaccommodationshow.com where you can find all the show notes, and links to resources we have talked about in transcripts from the show. I really do appreciate you listening. And if you’d like to support the show, please subscribe. Leave a comment and share it with others.
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