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A client recently asked me, “What is the most critical factor that determines the success of a Hotel sponsored Club?” Is it the Product? Marketing? Sales? Member Services? Or perhaps Social Media? Though each of these elements plays a crucial role in the Club’s success, they are merely residual factors of the primary component that determines the level of success of a Hotel-based Club; the day-to-day relationship between the Hotel Team and the Club Team. The spectrum of a successful Club mirrors the success of the synergy between the Hotel and the Club.

In my 46 years in the Vacation Club Industry, I have yet to discover a fully synergetic Hotel-based Club, especially during its initial year of business. If the lack of synergy is never corrected, the Club is doomed to fail. I was a victim of Hotel Management attempt to undermine the success of a Club I founded. With the Club’s opening of each branded resort, we discovered multiple hotel-generated roadblocks to work around. A couple of years later, this same Hotel Management team had me laughing over a few drinks when they confessed to their weekly meetings sharing ideas about how they could undermine the Club’s success. I often wonder how many couples and sales we lost because of these intentional attempts to sabotage the Club’s operations. More important is the question, “Why did Hotel Management go to great lengths to undermine our success?”

Since the early 80s, with the entry of Marriott Hotels into the Timeshare / Vacation Club industry, the internal battle of Hotel Management vs. Club Management has been commonplace. Yes, Marriott led the way for every other Hotelier to enter the profitable World of the Vacation Club Industry. History demonstrates that if appropriately integrated, the Club will become the number one source of hotel guests and will “eventually” represent upwards of 50% of the company-wide EBITA. Yet, even after 40 years, no one has resolved the innate tension created by the Club and Hotel Management’s forced tolerance. Ownership’s “demand to cooperate” results in a superficial smile from Hotel Management, but with an undertone feeling of contempt. Until we understand the “Why,” can we honestly take the available steps to resolve this ongoing battle that determines the Club’s level of success.

EMPATHY – Sorrow or the capacity to feel sorrow for another’s suffering or misfortune.

Club empathy for the Hotel Team is the first step to resolving this persistent 40-year problem, even for well-established Hotels with Clubs. Rather than Club Management charging in with a self-imposed hero identity that the Club is the future savior of room occupancy and Owner profitability, take a step back and first understand the position of the Hotel. In most cases, the Hotel Team has done a great job of meeting their annual budget of occupancy, profitability, and guest satisfaction. Its marketing and sales teams have spent countless hours (years) designing and implementing a network of sources and a strategy to maintain occupancy and profitability year-round. The Resort Operations Team has established an excellent service program to receive these guests and maintain standards that generate high guest satisfaction, an ever-growing list of repeat guests, and a positive social media presence.

Then enter the Club, and this well-established Hotel Organization turned upside down. The Hotel’s Marketing and Sales Team and the Resort’s Operation Team are immediately overwhelmed by “Owner Required Changes” to accommodate the Club’s strategies, all made with the future promises of higher hotel occupancy and greater profits for the Owner. Nothing for the Hotel Team.

  • Valuable Hotel space designated for Club offices, marketing desks, and the Club Sales Center.
  • Disguised Guest Services Desks throughout the Hotel for booking clients, not servicing Hotel Visitors.
  • Invasive access to Hotel software and inbound guests data
  • Higher salaries and commissions are publicly offered for Club staff working a 6-hour day, five days a week.
  • Assigned parking for the Sales Team’s luxury car show, demonstrating they make more money than hotel management.

The Travel Industry’s response to the Hotel’s new Club offers no rewards for the Hotel Team.

  • Guest complaints from overly aggressive Club marketers.
  • Guest complaints from high-pressure sales staff and lengthy sales presentations
  • Complaints from New Members claiming over-promised Hotel benefits
  • A downturn of reservations from one-time loyal Wholesalers and Travel Agencies.
  • Negative Tripadvisor postings have destroyed the Hotel’s positive Social Media presence.
  • Canceled reservations because of the presence of Club Sales.

It is not difficult to understand the perspective of the Hotel Team. The addition of the Club offers no reward, only added problems made up of upset guests and the destruction of their one-time multi-star rating.

THE CLUB PARADOX – The Club’s long-term sales & marketing success is interdependent on the Hotel Team providing outstanding Service that generates satisfied Hotel Guests & Members and a Positive Social Media Presence. Yet, the Club’s antiquated strategies and actions consistently undermine the Hotel’s efforts.

My intent for this article is not
to sway Hotel Owners from opening a Club or closing down their current operation. It is to take a step back and resolve the 40-year battle between Hotel Operations and Club Operations. Using “empathy” and the Hotel’s original “service-oriented” goals as the guidebook, Ownership can accomplish this feat much easier today with the available technology, a few policy changes, and a “service-oriented” marketing & sales strategy. The pay-out will far exceed everyone’s expectations with added profits and a work environment boasted by HR.

Every Hotel-based Club is unique, and as one of the most experienced Club consultants in the Industry, I can assure you that with every unresolved problem, the long-term effects are destructive. With every solution, the payback is monumental.

Please email me at dwe3@mac.com if you want to create a strategy to overcome the Club Paradox and become a Next-Generation Club.

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