You may have seen my post about the Crowne Plaza London Docklands. As the hotel is in the centre of the Olympic Games, I caught up with the hotels general manager, Joanne Taylor Stagg whilst staying at her hotel, to hear how they are preparing for the busiest time in the properties history.
Q: With the Olympics fast approaching, what planning have you had to put in place to cater for the demand the event puts on your property, and what has been the biggest challenge?
Our Olympics planning process has been on-going for over a year and in the past 6 months has really been ramped up to ensure that we try to cover every eventuality. I think the biggest challenge is that nobody really knows what to expect so we are making plans and ever mindful that our most important part is our ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances.
From the elements we do know, travel poses the biggest challenge. Due to the anticipated high demand on public transport throughout the games, we have changed our teams working hours to allow them to travel to the hotel with as little disruption as possible.
We have reviewed all of our stock levels and where possible e.g. stationary we are placing bulk orders pre-games to ensure are well equipped during this high demand period. For all our orders that will be required during the games, we have set up a delivery rota throughout to handle the overnight drop offs, that we have never had to cope with before. This has required additional staff and a significant amount of planning and training.
Q: Do you still have availability for any of the Olympic Games period?
We currently have a few rooms in inventory over the Olympics period; however we do anticipate we will be operating at full occupancy throughout the games.
Q: Across London we are seeing highlight inflated rates, with even ‘budget’ hotels being sold for well over £350 a night. How do you personally view how London hotels are inflating rates? Has revenue management been a challenge in the build up to the Games?
We have seen a lot of London hotels increase their room rates during the games due to the high demand; this was in part driven by the significant number of rooms that LOCOG held across the City. This led most hoteliers to believe there would be more demand than there actually was and when tens of thousands of rooms were released by LOCOG, prices inevitably fell.
We have tried to keep a pragmatic approach and balanced our long term relationships with our existing clients with the Olympic impact.
Q: How has your property been getting ready for this critical few weeks, and how long ago did preparations start?
Preparations started well over a year ago, and our Olympic Strategy Action Plan is being reviewed more and more frequently as the 27th July rapidly approaches. We have covered everything from counter terrorism to our linen order, cycling to work and transport options to cross training our team and pretty much everything in between. We have tried to plan for every eventuality.
Q: How have you found dealing with the Olympic committee’s, in terms of committing stock and organisation? Reportedly a huge about of room stock was released back to London hotels – have you found this?
Large numbers of bedroom stock was released back to hotels in various phases as has been widely reported in the press. This has made it difficult for the hotels to set their pricing as any revenue manager or system relies on accurate data to make good decisions. I believe this is one of the main reasons we saw very high pricing early on, which has subsequently been reduced.
Q: Your team will be at the centre of ensuring everything runs smoothly at probably the busiest few weeks the hotel will have experienced – how have you prepared them – are they gaining excitement?
Training, training and more training. We have covered everything from refreshing our service behaviours to disability awareness training. During the games our support staff will be moving into operational roles, so cross-training plans have been a great help and also given the teams a taste of what to expect. The teamwork has never been better in the hotel. The race around the world charity events where IHG sponsored us $1 for every KM we cycled, definitely helped get us in the mood and having Victoria Pendleton in the hotel to cheer us on was something all our cyclists will never forget.
We have already planned a much deserved party for the whole team between the Olympics and Paralympics to thank them for their hard work and to make sure we are all geared up for the Paralympics too. And once it is all over, I’m certain we will be able to look back with pride and know we did our bit to ensure London 2012 was a real success.
Q: Have you got to know any of your Olympic related guests in the build up and heard their stories? (I’m thinking about the couple you told me!)
In the build-up we have got to know a number of Olympic related guests and hear their stories. We hosted Tommy Godwin who won 2 Olympic medals for cycling in the 1948 games. He brought his medals in to show us and told us what it was like to compete back then, it sure has changed a lot over the years. We have also had a number of Paralympians stay with us and every time I meet one of them I am truly humbled by the obstacles they have overcome to compete in the sport they love. Then there have been the very proud family members, I particularly remember the American lady who called us the day she found out her son would be representing their country. She was so excited and emotional; the reservationist who took her call also shed a tear or two of joy at his selection.
Our thanks to Joanne for her time in talking with Hotel Insight and sharing her experiences – good luck to the whole team!