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As I watched the Hotel Impossible episode about the Hotel Iguanazul in Costa Rica, I saw a very familiar story unfold with predictable results. Still, small hoteliers and even larger chain hotel managers can learn a lesson or two about making sure they have the proper mindset to run a hotel operation.

Setting the stage, the Hotel Iguanazul is a 22 room hotel on the coast of Costa Rica. The hotel features a beautiful pool and offers a gorgeous view of the ocean. The downside was that the owner (David) did not possess any hotel management experience before purchasing the hotel.

David’s perception of the hotel’s problems was that he needed better marketing. He was completely oblivious to guest complaints and had no concept that the hotel and hotel premises were not being maintained properly.

Without the needed leadership, the hotel staff had no idea how to do their jobs well. It was up to the show’s host, Anthony Melchorri, to help David and his GM Roberto understand that the condition of the property was chasing guest away.

Episode Recap: No Maintenance and Insect Heaven

The episode contained the usual elements including inspections of the premises, rooms and the general facility. It was clear from the beginning that the Hotel Iguanazul’s 2nd biggest problem (after the owner) was a lack of maintenance. Maintenance related issues included:

“87% of Americans look at their hotel rooms for cleanliness when they first check-in.”

Source: Anthony Melchiorri

Hotel Maintenance Improvement Opportunities

  • Garbage in full view of guest as they arrive, garbage strewn about the entire premises
  • Rusted laundry equipment in full view of guest
  • Filthy and cheap pool lounge chairs
  • Dirty hammocks
  • Broken swing sets
  • Loose light pole and lamp in parking area
  • Broken furniture
  • Blood stained sheets
  • Mold on pillows
  • Mold on mattresses
  • Large mounds of deadly ants
  • Termite infestation. Termites had killed numerous trees and were eating away doing significant damage to the hotel.

The funniest moment came as Anthony stood by the broken swing set and asked David what the solution was? David’s response was “Its certainly easier to fix the marketing“. It was this statement that demonstrated the owner did not understand hotel operations.

After inspections, Anthony met the GM Roberto, hotel staff and an exterminating company. He discovered that the staff had a lack of direction which could be fixed if the GM stood up and took charge. Discussions with Roberto indicated he had the potential to take charge of hotel operations and make the needed hotel maintenance changes.

Lastly, Anthony realized the hotel was missing an opportunity to market destination weddings better. The hotel was doing some weddings but was not taking advantage of their best asset (the ocean view).

The Fixes and What Hoteliers Should Learn

In keeping with the show’s format, Anthony made several changes and suggestions for the hotel to continue. Among these were:

Hotel Iguanazul Fixes
  • Renovating the Pool Area
  • Renovating a room for $500
  • Hiring an exterminator
  • Partnering with destination wedding expert
  • Hosting an online marketing event to win a free 3 month trip to the hotel
  • Getting David to step aside and let Roberto run the hotel

The episode hammers home the need to perform proactive maintenance in a hotel. The impact of poor maintenance and a lack of hotel systems can destroy an investment. If hoteliers want guest to return they must provide clean rooms, working amenities and an accommodating staff.

Finally, it is important hoteliers learn that if they focus on only marketing or revenue driven activities, they will not succeed in increasing the value of their hotel. Ultimately, they will fall into the same trap that David did and put their dreams and investment in jeopardy.

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.