What does it take to open a new luxury hotel?

5 mins·25 Jan, 2024

If you’ve never worked in a hotel before, you’ve probably never thought about what goes on behind the scenes to make your holiday seamless at every stage of the journey.

The video of that amazing view that catches your eye on social media. The website where you book your stay. The form you fill out when you check-in. The design of your room. The selection of treats in the mini bar. The way you order room service. The room cleaning schedule. The type of towel waiting for you on the poolside sunlounge.

Every single detail has been thoughtfully considered, meticulously planned, and specifically chosen to create that unique experience; and everything has a team of people making it happen.

So, what does it actually take to open a brand-new hotel? Beth Van Kooten might know a thing or two about the subject.

As the Front Office Manager for The Ville Resort-Casino and more recently of Townsville’s first five-star hotel Ardo, Beth and her team were involved in the huge task of making the concept of relaxed, North Queensland luxury a reality.

In December, Beth was able to watch as 18 months of tireless work finally came to fruition when Ardo officially welcomed its first guests.

“For me, being at the grand opening and seeing everyone’s faces when they saw the final product was such a full circle moment,” Beth said.

“I could finally step back and see everything we accomplished.”

Getting to that point was no easy feat. Leading the hotel operations team meant working through quite the to-do list if Ardo was going to be ready for its highly anticipated opening.

Aside from some of the fun little jobs like testing mini bar options and bathroom products, Beth and her team were tasked with building and preparing all of the systems that work in the background to run every aspect of the hotel.

There was also developing labour plans and rostering; forecasting the hotel’s revenue and developing revenue strategies; working closely with travel agencies, major corporate accounts, and third-party booking sites to build anticipation about Ardo, quality control over the hotel rooms and amenities; and setting up office spaces to run as efficiently as possible.

But there was one aspect of the project that was crucial to Ardo’s success pre-opening and beyond.

“The biggest job was training and motivating the team. It’s easy to get bogged down in the administration requirements when you’re opening a hotel because it’s a huge feat, but you can’t do it without a dedicated and passionate team,” she said.

“Recruitment was very challenging. We have a big skillset shortage in our industry after COVID, so we had to be innovative and not focus on putting people in roles for the sake of it and spend the time finding the right fits.

“I’m so proud of the team we’ve pulled together and what we’ve achieved. Without them we wouldn’t have seen the hotel open as successfully as it did. I feel so lucky to be working with such a wonderful group of people who have dedicated a lot of their time and energy in ensuring this project was a success.”

To help with the huge task of training a fresh team to operate a shiny new hotel and make sure it lives up to the Ardo promise of luxury, Beth enlisted some help from within Morris Group’s ranks.

The team at Northern Escape Collection (NEC) is all too familiar with what it takes to deliver a true luxury experience at Orpheus Island Lodge, Mt Mulligan Lodge, and the newly opened Pelorus Private Island.

Enter Ian Ireland. One of NEC’s long-serving team members, Ian first started as Restaurant Manager on Orpheus Island back in 2016 and has since been an Assistant Lodge Manager at Mt Mulligan Lodge, worked in the reservations team, and provided management support across the lodges.

Having worked in hospitality and tourism for over a decade, Ian’s also had a crash course in opening a few new hotels including Hayman Island and Crown Towers in Perth.

Ian’s role on the Ardo project was to support Beth in training the team and setting up all the processes behind the scenes to ensure the Ardo experience was a memorable one for its guests.

“The main goal was to ensure a seamless first interaction with the reservations team,” Ian said.

“We knew that guests at Ardo would have higher expectations from their stay, so the level of detail we needed to collect from the beginning was really important; from asking for arrival times, some of their food and drink preferences, and making restaurant reservations prior to their arrival. It’s knowing those details that make the difference in service.”

From there, training was all about following the simple ‘practice makes perfect’ method.

“I always say a hotel is like a rugby team. The longer we train together the better we perform together,” Ian said.

“It’s about looking closely at the daily operations, pinpointing what doesn’t work, and finding ways to fix it; whether we need a quick five-minute catch up with the housekeeping team to go over room allocations, or to liaise with the VIP Concierge team to go over pick-up and drop-off times.”

Beth says the collaboration with Northern Escape Collection has been instrumental in helping her build a strong and efficient team.

“Ian has been so supportive throughout the process. Together we’ve been able to set up a way of doing things that works best for our team and ultimately our guests,” she said.

“The team has grown so much. We are more adaptable, we are more innovative, we have a larger skillset, and we support each other every step of the way.”

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