Business Lessons From When The Hotel Inspector Came to Plymouth
This is Part 2 of a series of articles about visit of the TV programme The Hotel Inspector to Plymouth’s Astor Hotel. In my last article, I discussed what it was like to be on the show. Being on the show placed me in a unique position to learn some business lessons that I’d like to share with you here…
After my parts in the filming were complete, I had to cool my heels while the show was finished, edited and have it’s shoes shined ready for broadcast. It was first thought that it might be aired in May, but May came and went. Then, in July I noticed that previous episodes of The Hotel Inspector were starting to be shown. I knew it couldn’t be too long until the new series started. Then I was tipped off by people smarter than me (and who worked in the industry) that the show would air near the end of July. Finally, the agony of waiting would be over. Of course, I then started to wonder whether how I would appear. Luckily I’m a pretty positive person so I held my nerve.
I decided to throw a Twitter party on the night of the broadcast. If you don’t know what that is, it’s easy: just invite all your twitter friends to watch the show at their own homes and tweet during the show. What a great idea that turned out to be. We all had a great time, sharing jokes and pointing out whenever we saw someone we knew. The Plymouth Twitter community really took part and pretty soon it became apparent that most of the viewers tweeting about the show were us.
A Twitter Phenomenon
About half-way through the show, we noticed that The Hotel Inspector was trending. This means that it was one of the top five topics being discussed on Twitter in the whole of the UK. A remarkable achievement that’s not unusual for very popular BBC shows like The Apprentice or Mary Queen of Shops, but unusual for shows on Five. When I analysed some of the stats later I noticed that nearly all of the mentions of the show had come from us. This is a significant fact and should not be missed by broadcasters: if you can tap into an active Twitter community like the one in Plymouth, we can drive your shows to much higher levels of popularity than could otherwise be achieved. I am proud to have played a part in leading this phenomenon.
The Business Lessons
The show’s presenter, Alex Polizzi, has an impressive pedigree in the hotel trade. She is the daughter of hotelier and interior designer Olga Polizzi, the granddaughter of Lord Forte and niece of Sir Rocco Forte. Alex trained at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong, worked for Marco Pierre White at the Criterion, and has done stints at Rocco Forte hotels in Cardiff, Rome, St Petersburg. She also set up her mother’s hotel, Tresanton in Cornwall, and is currently managing the Hotel Endsleigh in Devon. When it comes to hotels, you can be sure she knows her stuff.
One of the questions most commonly asked about business improvement shows such as this is:
“why doesn’t the business owner never seem to listen to the expert?”
That’s a difficult question to answer, but on this show, the hotelier Joseph Louei certainly seemed to fall into the same trap. Joseph certainly is a charming individual with a natty line in distinctive headgear. He nodded at all the right times when Alex spoke and seemed to accept all her main points (except the one about critical client comments left online). However, when she returned to the Astor Hotel, little had changed. And this was the key business issue throughout the show: Joseph didn’t appear to be listening to her advice. As the show progressed though, it appeared that some selective lessons were being learned. After a visit to Kitley House Hotel, Joseph did make big changes to the Astor’s breakfast offerings. Then, after the feedback from the focus group (of which I was a part) serious changes were made to the bedroom decor.
For me, the business lessons in the show were:
- The importance of taking criticism seriously as a springboard for success.
- When you are given expert advice, grab it with both hands
- Independent businesses need to differentiate on quality rather than price (sorry, Joseph my friend, I still think that “affordable luxury” is an impossible phrase).
The Next Steps
Why not stay at the Astor Hotel yourself and judge for yourself? You can add your review to the comments, below. Plymouth can be a stunningly beautiful city, particularly on the Hoe where the Astor is located. The historic areas of Plymouth Barbican and Royal William Yard offer unique charms for tourists. For more information on Plymouth attractions look at our Plymouth Tourist Guide.
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To find the best Plymouth hotels read the Plymouth Hotel Guide.