QUESTION: What does it mean "walking a guest" and what is a good standard operating procedure for every hotel to follow in this regard?
I hope that term 'walking the guest' has got your interest. So, let's start by talking about how 'perishable a commodity' a hotel room is. Perishable? Yes we can think of it as perishable. If a hotel does not rent a particular room on any given night then the revenue for the room is lost forever, can't be recovered. So what can a hotel do to give themselves a little edge?
Experienced hoteliers also know that a certain percentage guests will not show up even though they have made reservations for a room. So the hotel gambles a little by overbooking the number of rooms they have and so long as they don't overestimate the number of 'no-show' everything is fine and no harm done.
But once in while they have all people show up for their reservations and now the hotel does not have enough rooms for them. The is where that standard operating procedure (a guideline) we were just questioning about come into play. It will 'guide' the hotel's staff in what to do when this overbooking happens and the hotel manager has to "walk the guest" out the front door figuratively speaking.
This Guideline should be printed and made immediately available to all appropriate staff. It should include at the minimum the following:
- how many 'extra' rooms can be booked (keeping a perpetual record seasonally adjusted will give you the number or percent figure).
- It should contain a list of the names and numbers of all available hotels in the area of similar quality and higher, arranged according to distance and which ones to call first.
- The Front Desk staff member should acknowledge and apologize for not having a room immediately available and while they can't honour that particular reservation, they can certainly help the guest(s).
- The staff member should now offer to call his or her superior who will quickly help the guest obtain another room close by. He can also offer to take care of it him or herself, if timing permits.
- The manager or other senior person should be alerted that the situation could be arising before it happens.
- Reciprocal arrangements with nearby hotels with comparable rooms should all ready be in place and, ideally, at the same rates as it is to everyone benefit. It happens to all hotels sooner or later.
- Arrangement must be made to pay for all reasonable expenses to the other accommodations (including taxi fare, phone calls, tips paid to porters etc).
If this procedure is followed and with all such guests being so well treated, there should be little to attract 'legal retribution' for breach of contract when "walking a guest" back out the front door.
- If the guests has to commute back and forth because they would be attending a convention being held at the first hotel, the hotel should pay for the transportation back and forth until a room becomes available.
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