Not every problem stopping a hotel from success is related to hotel maintenance, sometimes hotel management just needs to change with the times. Last week’s episode of Hotel Impossible featuring the Dude Rancher Lodge was a perfect example of this.

Episode Recap – Marketing in a Changed Hotel Business

A 52 room hotel located in Billings Montana, the hotel had seen the competition increase dramatically over the last few years and was not able to compete. This was unfortunate as the hotel had been listed in the National Registry of Historic Places due to its age and ranch house theme.

Complicating matters was that the hotel had been incorrectly listed as a one-star hotel which in the minds of travelers is associated with dirt, broken down, cockroach infested hostels. Given that 50% of their business was through one website that listed them incorrectly, the hotel was on the verge of closing.

Why the Dude Rancher Lodge Needed Change

A quick tour of the lodge by host Anthony Melchiorri revealed a charming lodge with distinctive carpeting that reflected a history of rancher brands as well as other decor reflective of the old west. The lodge also appeared to very clean with out the usual housekeeping issues seen in earlier episodes.

On the other hand, the tour also identified several areas stuck in the 1970’s that needed renovation such as the front lobby desk and room bathrooms. A visit to the hotel’s guest rooms also suggested that the rooms themselves could use a little sprucing up to reflect the heritage of the hotel.

The real problems were discovered in interviews with key hotel staff that uncovered:

  • The General Manager, Todd Graves was busy performing the work of other staff including lodge maintenance on HVAC and CAT5 cable connections. Engineering should be doing this and this was a result of a lack of staff training and expectation setting on his part.
  • The Director of Sales and Marketing, MJ had lost confidence and had not kept up with the times. There was no effort being made to put together business alliances which could increase room occupancy and revenues as MJ seemed to be full of excuses.
  • The owner, Virginia Karlsen was unaware of the revenue impact of a one-star rating. She was tasked with fixing this fiasco immediately.

The Dude Rancher Lodge Fix

Compared to other hotels featured in the show which usually had a multitude of maintenance issues, the fix for the Dude Rancher was giving the key staff the training and tools they needed to step up to the plate.

Hotel Success Story

Some of the changes and results were:

  • A deal was made with a local microbrewery to have branded beer and provide a mutual marketing effort which was seen in the shows closing moments at an traditional Montana cookout hosted by the hotel.
  • The GM, Tom, started developing a training plan for housekeeping that included quarterly deep cleanings.
  • The GM also met with engineering to develop a room assessment for lodge maintenance planning.
  • The GM also established revenue goals that would be monitored daily and weekly.
  • A deal was struck with a local dude ranch to provide packed deals with them.
  • The owner was able to successfully change the hotels rating from a one-star to a three-star hotel which was significant because it enabled the hotel to start charging significantly more for rooms.