Lodging Lessons From a Master: How to Get the Best for Your Client
by Monique Burns

This is the first of two parts.

When it comes to solving hotel problems, the host of Travel Channel’s hit reality TV show “Hotel Impossible” practically wrote the book. Anthony Melchiorri is a “hotel fixer” who turns around failing hotels – on TV and in his own consulting practice.

So Travel Market Report asked Melchiorri to share his wisdom and advice with travel agents. What should travel agents and their clients do when they run into problems at a hotel? And how can travel professionals ensure that their clients get the best?

A former hotelier, Melchiorri has served as general manager of New York’s famed Algonquin Hotel, where he spearheaded an award-winning basement-to-rooftop renovation. He also repositioned the first Nickelodeon Hotel and Resort in Orlando, Fla.

Here’s his insider advice for agents.

What mistakes should travel agents avoid when booking?
Melchiorri: ‘Do you know who I am? Do you know what I can do to your reputation?’ Any threat or over-the-top comment is not necessary.

Most hotels respect travel agents. Most hotels understand what travel agents can do to their business. If you’re nice, you’re persuasive, and you continue the conversation, you’re gonna get what you want.

Now, if you’ve given the hotel every single opportunity to help you [and they haven’t], go online. Don’t get aggravated, just blow ’em up on the Internet!

How do you get the best room for your client?
Melchiorri: Make sure you’re giving that hotel a lot of business – and the front desk person knows your name. Make sure the supervisor knows your name. Make sure the manager knows your name.

If you’re just sending clients in blindly, looking for your 10% or 15% commission, they’re going to treat them like any other guest. So develop a relationship.

Travel agents should develop a rapport with the front desk. They should call when they book the reservation and right before the guest arrives. If your guest is arriving at 3 o’clock, call at 10 o’clock that morning and say, ‘My guest, Mr. Smith, is coming. Is that room ready?’

Look, if I’m running a 600-room hotel, your guest is not the only guest on my mind, unless you stop me in my tracks and say, ‘I need you to take care of this person.’ Then send me a card, thanking me for taking care of this person.

Whether you’re a travel agent or a traveler, the more you communicate to the hotel your needs and wants, the more likely you are to get them.

How does a guest get the best room upon arrival?
Melchiorri: The first thing is, pack a smile. When you get to the front desk, be engaged. As soon as you walk through that door, just stop. Stop texting. Stop emailing. Stop. And focus on the person in front of you.

Focus on them. Offer them the same courtesy they offer you. Compliment their tie, compliment their suit, compliment them, compliment the lobby. Make it easy for them to be nice to you.

How do you get a complimentary upgrade?
Melchiorri: When hotels are setting up the day in the morning, a lot of suites go vacant because they’re the most expensive. So, the morning you get there, you say, ‘Is there anything else available?’ ‘Well, there’s a suite, but it’s a little bit more money.’ You say, ‘I’d really like that room, but I really can’t afford to pay for it.’

They’ll say, ‘I’m sorry, you have to pay something, so we’ll discount it.’ Or they’ll say, ‘You know what, sir, if it’s not sold tonight, we’ll give it to you for the evening, our compliments.’

I’d much rather show up in the morning [than the evening] and try to get an upgrade. In the morning, there’s more flexibility.

If you have problems, who do you speak to?
Melchiorri: Always start with the front desk. I don’t like being uncomfortable. I don’t like rude service. And I don’t like small rooms. So, I get what I want. But I’m nice about it. I might tip the front desk 20 bucks.

If the front desk isn’t being helpful, go as far as you can up the chain of command. You go all the way to the general manager, and if that doesn’t work, you go to the Internet. Everybody’s obsessed with TripAdvisor.

Who do you cozy up to get good service?
Melchiorri: Before you get there, speak to the reservations manager. Typically, the reservations managers is the revenue manager. They know what the rates are, they know the best rooms, and they know how to take care of you.

If you’re there for more than couple of days, let the general manager know, ‘Hey, I’m in the house.’ If you’re going to be there two weeks, meet the general manager. If you’re going to be there for the night, be nice to the front desk agent.

If you’re there two or three days, tip the doorman, tip the bellman, tip the concierge. And always tip your housekeeper. Take care of people the way you want to be treated.

Who really pulls the strings in a hotel?
Melchiorri: The buck stops at the general manager, but if the general manager’s doing his job right, the buck stops at every employee you encounter.

Are there any warning signs that a hotel might not be what it seems?
Melchiorri: As a travel agent, when people aren’t being responsive to you, they’re not going to be responsive to your guest.

So, if you’re sending emails, and it’s taking three days for people to get back to you, try to get your guest out of that hotel.

It’s the same thing for a guest going to a hotel. If you go to the parking lot and the parking lot has garbage all over it and the lines aren’t painted well and the sign is peeling or the trees are dead or the grass is burned, you’re probably not going to have a good stay.

Next time: Melchiorri weighs in on what makes a great hotel, plus shares his personal favorites.

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