One of the most stressful events in hotel ownership can be the dreaded Property Improvement Plan or PIP from your respective hotel brand. These programs ensure consistency across brand properties to give customers a consistent level of service and comfort that can be invaluable to keeping a hotel full. The obvious downside to these plans is they usually cost the property owner hundreds of thousands of dollars on changes they may not agree with or be ready to accomplish. The best way to make this process as painless as possible is to remember the following ten points.
1. Clean your hotel and do routine maintenance before PIP inspection.
The overall impression of a property can weigh heavily on an inspectors mind. If they perceive the property to be old and dirty they will mandate as many changes possible to bring it up to the highest standard. Some dirty grout can cost thousands when you are forced to re-tile the space because it didn’t show as well as it could have.
2. The most important detail to be worked out in a PIP is the schedule.
The overall schedule can help make sure the construction starts at the most opportune time of the year so your hotel is not torn apart in the busy season. Once the project goals are defined, scheduling work and laying out phases with a contractor can mean the difference between guests not noticing construction and asking for a refund. Work hours are critical and basic, but you can also stage sections of the hotel to be renovated. Consider doing all room on each floor at one time. This way guests do not need to traverse through the construction area. The plans will also need to accommodate breakfast areas when the lobby is down and other common space.
3. Review hotel PIP and rank importance of requirements.
Depending on the brand there is always leeway to bush back on changes being required. Make sure you are not pushing back on the wrong thing. One of the biggest mistakes that can be made in this area is trying to do minimal work to common areas. The first impression of a hotel is critical. You want your guest to walk into a bright new clean lobby as it sets the tone for their stay. This is true even though they will be spending 98% of their time in their room. With a great first impression you start out on the right foot rather than spending the rest of the guest’s stay trying to overcome a negative impression.
4. To mirror the world outside, hotels are increasingly putting more emphasis in technology and electronics.
In the past, PIP projects required changing finishes and furniture. As technology creeps into every facet of our lives it does so too in hotels. Soon every room in the country will need it’s own WIFI with large capacities for multiple tablets and devices. We also see requirements for streaming services for every room whether it is provided by the hotel or just needs to be accommodated for guest’s devices. All of that streaming content needs better infrastructure as well as services that may require multiple connections to service providers if there are speed limitations in the area. Ever increasing as well is power needs for rooms. Places to charge phones, tablets and laptops are being required in every corner and this could mean upgrades to electrical panels and service in addition to adding outlets and USB ports.
5. As with any construction project this process takes longer than you think.
This is especially true of hotel PIPs because of all the approvals needed. The design team needs to work with you, the owner, to make sure the changes fit your style and budget, but those changes all need to be approved by the central office of your brand flag. Those reviews and comments often take 30 days before you receive feedback requiring changes or authorizing the construction to proceed. Unless you plan to do everything the brand corporation asks for exactly from prototype, assume there will be some back and forth before the plan is accepted.
6. Decide early if you want to follow brand standards strictly or try to make your property somewhat unique.
Emphasis is being put on brand standards of care and comfort but allowing hotels to have unique pieces to help create a local feel people want on vacation. While this is gaining traction with many brands there still will be some negotiation. It is also not safe to assume your unique feel will be less expensive than the brand standard.
7. Be prepared to pay extra for accessibility upgrades.
Handicapped accessibility is nothing new but there is an increased emphasis on these requirements. Hotels are one of the largest targets for lawsuits dealing with accessibility. In all PIPs there will be requirements to conform to federal accessibility laws. For existing hotels this can be very painful and expensive. There are times when some of the more expensive changes can be excused by the brand but that still leaves the hotel owner open to lawsuits as the owner. There are ways to escape upgrades mandated by the brand, but owners will need to sign paperwork assuming all responsibility for accessibility deficiencies.
Working with the design team alternatives may be found that can effectively respond to the intent of the Federal Standard. If the property has historical significance the flexibilities are greater.
8. One of the best investments for your money is hiring quality designers and contractors.
Both parties are going to help you accomplish all the goals above. At the end of the day the disruption to your guests is going to be the most expensive part of the remodel. Having outstanding professionals help you through the job will keep the plans running smoothly and make sure the project matches as close to your vision as possible. They also allow you to stay focused on what you do best. If you want, or need, to spend long hours on this project that means you are losing time being as profitable as you can be. A great project team will relieve stress not add to it.
9. Once the renovation project is over there is still one final important piece to the cycle.
You need to take professional photography of the newly remodeled spaces. A PIP is aimed (whether it feels like it or not) to increase revenue. Customers would rather stay at a new hotel rather then the old one. In order to show off the money you have invested get quality photographs taken and put them all over your website, Facebook, Instagram, and local newspaper. Make sure the reservation services of the Brand Flag also has these photographs on their website.
10. The overarching piece to this process is everything is negotiable.
Brand corporations and circumstance may not play in your favor but with a great team having your back, the PIP can be molded into be what you make of it. Remember to take advantage of the buying power offered by your Brand Flag and promote the remodel to everyone including the local Chamber of Commerce and Convention Bureau!