Did Your Hotel Take a Vacation From Public Relations 101?

As the summer travel season heats up, I’m reminded of many hotel stays over the years, some good and some bad. The really bad ones are always the first to come to mind.  While the incidents aren’t always memorable, the way they were handled leaves a lasting impression.

At the pool area of a Key West hotel, I was approached on my back by an iguana. Quite scary for a Philadelphian. Surprisingly, the hotel really didn’t seem fazed. Didn’t even ask if I was okay. And yes, this was a major hotel chain.

Once at the Jersey Shore, a major storm knocked out the power, including the key cards into the hotel rooms. No owners were to be found, and hotel guests were stranded outside during a monsoon for hours. The next morning, there was no form of compensation, credit or otherwise, for not being able to get into our rooms during the storm.

This year, I got locked inside the hotel bathroom after the door knob broke. For a change, this hotel reaction was positive; in fact, I was impressed. Not only did the engineers come to the room within five minutes to fix the knob, the front desk called three times that day to make sure I was okay.

That positive experience made me think back to my not so positive experiences. Isn’t the role of hotel management to be effective public relations practitioners — even if that is not their title? To care about what their stakeholders and customers think of the hotel by the time they leave? Today it doesn’t take long for a guest review to go up on TripAdvisor.  The hotel owners often post a nice response and take the conversation offline. But isn’t a face to face discussion with the guest the best way to address the incident?

Acknowledging that these hotels are in business to make money, we all know they can’t compensate guests by not charging for their stay every time an incident happens. But calling a guest to confirm that the matter has been appropriately resolved doesn’t cost money and goes a long way.

That’s handling your public.

These types of incidents are not exclusive to mediocre hotels; anything can happen at the high end chains as well.

I hope your hotel doesn’t take a vacation from public relations this summer.

But if it does, let’s share our ideas about how they could have effectively reversed the impact without being forced to operate in the red. Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!

Karen Toner is a PPRA member and communications member at ParenteBeard, an accounting firm in Center City. She assures you in spite of her hotel “incidents,” she’s had many great vacation stays — made possible by the help of awesome hotel staff members.

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