The Special Challenges Involved in Managing Airport Hotels

The outlook for airport hotels is positive, with the International Air Transport Association forecasting a 5.3 percent increase in the number of airline passengers worldwide annually between now and 2016 and Smith Travel Research projecting healthy RevPAR growth for each of the next few years.

In light of such positive trends, what is it about airport hotels, whether they’re actually on the airport grounds or located nearby, that sets them aside from hotels generally and makes them a special challenge to operate?

While all types of hotels are 24-hour-a-day operations, hotels at international airports and regional hubs frequently look as busy at 3 a.m. as they do at 3 p.m. Flights arrive day and night, and so do guests, checking in after a long transatlantic journey or for a quick night’s sleep if the weather isn’t cooperating or they miss a connecting flight.

For hotel managers, the extra activity poses important operational issues ranging from maintaining adequate staffing levels to ensuring that the hotel’s shuttle service is frequent, reliable and welcoming. They must be hyper-conscientious about wake-up calls to make sure guests don’t miss their flights. It really helps if hotels are equipped to print airline boarding passes to save guests a few extra minutes.

Shuttle buses perform a critical function, both in picking up inbound guests and transporting outbound guests to catch their flights. Consequently airport hotels typically run 24-hour complimentary shuttle service on a strict schedule. At M&R Hotel Management, we believe that a guest stay begins with the airport pickup, so our shuttles provide bottled water and even snacks to make guests feel welcome (and to differentiate our hotels from the competition!)

Guests who stay at a hotel that offers complimentary breakfast as a standard can count on receiving a basic meal to fortify them for the flight ahead. At our hotels, even those who check out in the middle of the night can request a brown bag breakfast to take with them on the shuttle. The light grab-and-go offering (ready at that unusual hour) represents a level of thoughtful customer service that guests may not expect but surely will remember.

Since hotels that serve international airports can expect guests to show up at the front desk at virtually any hour, front desks must be staffed accordingly as well as housekeeping, which will be called upon to turn over rooms at all hours.

Noise is an unavoidable fact of life for airport hotels that overlook an active runway. Such hotels should be constructed with extra sound insulation and soundproofed windows. But it’s also important for the staff to take care not to disturb guests who may have checked in during the morning expecting to sleep through the day. That means hushed conversations in the hallways and no banging of housekeeping carts.

Given how fundamental the operating issues are at airport hotels, managing these properties provides a kind of Lodging 101 training for new hires. And when executed effectively, there’s no better way of ensuring that guests step onto that waiting shuttle refreshed and refueled.

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