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Good people, perfect location, a first class restaurant, clean rooms and a well-maintained hotel – so what could possibly be so wrong at the Alpenhof Lodge that is causing it to go under? Last night’s episode of Hotel Impossible explored this question only to find an age-old cause that resulted in the lodge being run exactly like a hotel stuck in a time bubble from 40 years ago.

Episode Recap: 40 Years without Change

Before we get into the details, it is important to see the scope of the opportunity that was being missed by the owner of the Alpenhof Lodge, Robert Schaubmayer. The lodge was a 45 second walk from Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort, on one of the most popular ski resorts in the nation that was drawing more than 1.7 million visitors per year.

No other hotel or lodge was this close to the ski resort yet the occupancy rate for the Alpenhof Lodge was 14% less than their competition and their ADR was $28 per night less. In short, this lodge should have been booked solid.

The Alpenhof Lodge Opportunities for Improvement

When the episode first started the cause of the problem was fairly obvious. The lodge was being run by a very controlling father who was making virtually all the decisions. As seen in previous episodes, this type of authoritarian management rarely works long-term.

In this case the owner’s management style actually worked far longer than it should have. The reason it worked was because the hotel owner had experience and the methods he was using were effective when he first purchased the hotel in 1973. Because of his dedication to something that did work – he was able to mask the need for change for many years.

The real problem with his management style is that it suffocated needed change. The lodge was essentially being run with the same look, room furnishings, amenities, hotel systems and know-how of 1973. Efforts by his son’s and other family members to modernize the hotel were not being heard.

The long-term results were inevitable and the leading signs included:

  • No online reservation system, guests could only make a reservation via phone or fax.
  • No revenue management system, management had no idea of their competitiveness or how and when to adjust rates.
  • A manual maintenance system. The current system was based on paper tickets posted in the office of work needing to be done.
  • No proactive maintenance system
  • A continental breakfast in a small lobby when a robust breakfast in their
    restaurant was needed.
  • No way to evaluate or react to online feedback
  • No joint marketing being done with the ski resort

The nicest part about this situation and episode was that the owner despite initially coming across as defiant of change and as very controlling was very accepting of the changes that host Anthony Melchiorri. He understood that his pride was hurting the future of the family.

The Fixes and What Hoteliers can Learn

Once the owner accepted that change needed to occur he made the decision to step aside and allow family to step up. The owner’s sons as well as the new GM (owner’s daughter-in-law) seemed intelligent and capable. This management change immediately made the future look brighter.

Other changes included but were not limited to:

Alpenhof Lodge Changes
  • An online reservation system.
  • A revenue management system.
  • A very basic maintenance tracking system.
  • Breakfast was moved to the restaurant.
  • An agreement was reached with the ski resort to provide discounted tickets.
  • Rooms were renovated to be more modern.
  • The lobby was renovated

The only needed change not made was that a proactive hotel maintenance system was not implemented. Without this, the lodge will still struggle to schedule preventive maintenance and inspections to ensure that maintenance is not being missed.

This will be a very interesting lodge to revisit next year and see how their fortunes have progressed.

Tell us about the hotels you have stayed at. What were their opportunities to improve? Come back next week for another recap of Hotel Impossible.