In conversation with: Peter Kilby, on the challenges of hotel renovations

Drawing on the groups extensive experience in the hotel and leisure sector, Peter Kilby, director of Project Management at global architecture and design consultancy, the rpa group, talks us through some of the pitfalls to avoid during hotel renovations…

seating in lobby at Accor gloucester road by rpa group

The expectations of a hotel stay have changed in recent years, with customers wanting much more than somewhere temporary to stay. Increasingly, it is about the experience, beyond a comfy bed and a clean bathroom and more about the different elements and spaces within hotels.

public seating lobby area with round disc ceiling lighting

Image credit: Adagio

We are seeing how increasingly, hotels are responding to these changes, with many focusing on becoming social hubs for the local community and destinations to work, eat, meet and relax. More corporate guests are extending their stay into weekends , giving rise to what has become known as the ‘bleisure’ trend. This in turn is driving the need for hotels to be flexible with their social spaces, such as bars able to be transformed into meeting rooms, or restaurants into night clubs. It is the hotels that respond to these trends and changes by embarking on a rejuvenation scheme approximately every seven years, which are the least likely to experience a dip in profit.

refurbished suite with wooden floors and geometric blue patterned carpet

Image credit: Adagio

When done properly, renovations can take considerable investment, both financially and with time. It is important to have a well thought out plan of action, with clearly defined steps. Criteria to consider include ensuring that refurbishments align with low reservation periods, to help reduce or avoid hotel revenue loss. But rather than closing the hotel entirely during the works, another option could be to close it in sections, commencing with the lobby and ancillary areas, and then dividing the bedrooms into smaller unoccupied sections, to try to avoid noise disturbance impacting on guests.

Having a strong procurement plan and committing to a programme with realistic deliverables and timescales is essential to help drive value engineering. Nobody wants to waste time by tendering a project for a desired scheme, only to find out that it comes in over budget. If as built information is not available, it helps to undertake a thorough dimensional survey and MEP survey of the entire building. This is where it is prudent to obtain the support of an experienced Project Management and Cost Management team.

bench seating in blue and open plan kitchen in white with wooden dining table

Image credit: Adagio

One could say that choosing the right team with a ‘can-do’ attitude and experience that reflects the project type and having them in place from the beginning, is key to the success of the entire project. After all, there is no point in undertaking a rejuvenation scheme if it becomes sabotaged by spiralling costs and unnecessary delays.

Tenders for Main Contractors (MCs) with the correct pedigree, need to be carefully considered and they should be able to demonstrate previous experience of the project type. It is advisable to lock them into the tender and to check their financial status and the project value against their turnover and current order book. MCs also need to submit a detailed programme with their tender, including a description of their logistical plan and most importantly a weekly prediction of their labour resources on site each week. This is again where an experienced Project Manager who is familiar with a host of local MCs can offer pertinent advice before awarding the contract. It is also prudent to ensure that the correct type of Contract is in place with the Main Contractor before works commence, to avoid potentially a multitude of unexpected costs and complications arising during the refurbishment scheme.

refurbished guestroom in citadines berlin

Image credit: Citadines Berlin

Knowing who the clientele is and how to accommodate their needs is paramount. From this, a clear concept can then be developed, with the help of an experienced design team. A good Project Manager will be able to work alongside a design team, utilising their experience to ensure that realistic solutions are achieved, without compromising on the creative elements that will give a hotel its own robust brand identity and customer appeal. Whilst schemes should require an initial sample room fit-out for sign off, an experience Project Manager will help to ensure that the physical delivery of the concept is right and kept within budget, as it is rolled out to other areas.

Good communication cannot be underestimated and having a good Project Manager in place, enables all communication to be overseen and communicated through one individual, which will help facilitate a smoother process all around. The old saying ‘you get what you pay for’ rings very true when it comes to refurbishment projects and it is advisable not to skimp on consultant fees, as they are employed to look after the best interests of both the client and the project.

There is no denying that embarking on a refurbishment scheme can be challenging. However, by having the correct team in place and ensuring best business practice and good communication from the beginning, it should result upon completion in a profit increase, through being able to potentially charge more per night and attract new audiences, and ultimately to drive occupancy rates.

Main image credit: Accor