Old school travel management is the way of the future

For a disclaimer on this article, please go to the end of the document Read 

Old school travel management is the way of the future

Fiji 1981.

Domestic transfer from Adelaide to Sydney, Sydney to Nadi, six hours of 747, poorly projected movie piped audio headphones. I was six years old. An analog world. Fiji had no television. Unmade roads.

Total old school.

36 years has seen digitisation in the industry with next stop “AI” challenging the place of humans. I’ve been back to Fiji five times and seen the good and bad impacts of technology. Having just gotten home from visit 6, I’ve had my eyes reopened to the value of a slower pace and the value of old school.

Enter Peter Hopgood, jovial, smiling, personable and incredibly successful GM of the Outrigger Coral Coast in Fiji. Old school is his thing.

“A lot of hotels have forgotten that old school definition of what is important – your staff and your guests. A lot of managers find themselves stuck in an office filling out reports all day. They aren’t engaged with the business and that’s what hospitality is all about – get out there, show your guests around, talk with your staff.”

It’s a tricky one because as managers we are taught to become more efficient, delegate, understand the numbers, rise above the menial,  tweak here and there. Is that too hands off? But how often do we walk around our own business? How often do we sit with one of our staff and say “hey, what’s up?” When was the last time you contacted a customer and said “hey, just checking you are happy – how’s it going?”. If you did, did you talk about how wonderful your business was, or how great your staff were ?

Peter is not just talking the talk here. On any given day around the pool I would see himself or EAM Lindsey Palmer chatting with staff and greeting guests. A smile, acknowledgement and an introduction to the staff member they were speaking to. We chatted at a cocktail party about managing the staff.

“Conveying the urgency of a situation or the key messages of a drama across cultures can be challenging. Getting upset, frustrated or raising my voice doesn’t help. If I start getting angry, I walk away for 15 minutes and calm down. Getting back to the basics, getting the staff member perspective and building the solution is a very positive way forward.  ”

These positive old school attitudes reflect across every staff member at the Outrigger. I have two other favourite hotels around the world, but the key difference between them and the Outrigger was the soul.

To have soul you need life, to have life you need a heartbeat. Heart, soul and warmth in this case come from great managers who are embracing an amazing culture. And it works.

In the eight years since Peter has been general manager of the Outrigger, it’s gone from a “tired old girl” to being the highest occupancy properties across all of Fiji ; in Peter’s words, from being the Hunter to the hunted.  Worse problems to have!

Everything old is new again, Old School is back.  Can you bring the old school back into your business?


DISCLAIMER: For Christmas 2017 I travelled with my mum, wife and daughter for a seven night flop and drop in Fiji at the Outrigger on the Coral Coast. I took the back of house tour and then spent an hour interviewing GM Peter Hopgood. These articles speak in glowing terms of Peter and the Outrigger, but neither myself nor roomsXML have received any payment, discount of travel or any other financial benefit for these articles. In short, it’s a great hotel run by a great team that we can all learn a lot from so here we are.

 

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