We caught up with award-winning US hotelier and designer Barb Shadomy of Stonehurst Place to find out what it takes to run an acclaimed hotel.
In less than 10 years, Stonehurst has transformed from historic family home into a boutique lodging and an award-winning accommodation.
When Barb Shadomy was a recent graduate student at London’s prestigious Inchbald School of Design, she discovered the historic Stonehurst Bed & Breakfast for sale and immediately fell in love with it.
So she bought it.
The mansion house located in Midtown, the heart of Barb’s hometown Atlanta, GA, was originally built in 1896 and in need of a new life. Barb gave it that—and more. Not only did she and her team restore the property to its former glory; they transformed it into an eco-friendly oasis. Boasting luxurious beds, gourmet breakfasts, and loads of character, it certainly deserves its reputation as “the huge house you wish you lived in.”
Below, Barb divulges her top priorities when it comes to running a renowned accommodation, gives us her take on staying competitive in the market, and reveals her biggest marketing challenges last year.
So let’s dive in and talk shop with one of America’s leading hoteliers.
What are the very first things you attend to each day?
As the owner, the first thing I do every day is go online to make sure we are still the top-ranked accommodation in our market across the online platforms we’re on. So far so good, but if something were to happen to make us drop, I want to be able to address it immediately.
Next, I look at the reservation board to see what’s on the books for the upcoming week and month, and send personal emails to some of the guests offering them a discounted upgrade (a successful opportunity and win-win for everyone). For the current day’s arrivals, I’ll see if it’s possible to upgrade repeat or loyalty program guests—something that always makes both them and me happy!
After that, I look at the booking intelligence reports on our partner and booking channel sites to see how we compare to our set of competitors over the next month(s) and make rate adjustments accordingly.
How do you compete with traditional hotels and the sharing economy?
To stay competitive with traditional hotels, I take them seriously as my competitors and keep a close watch on them. Stonehurst Place is more like a small boutique hotel than a bed and breakfast, so the B&Bs in our city aren’t comparable to Stonehurst Place in many ways.
Our service, pricing, and amenities set us apart and make Atlanta’s top hotels, such as the Ritz-Carlton, the Four Seasons, the Mandarin Oriental, and the W Hotels, our true competition.
I run my six-room inn as if it were one of these large luxury hotels, even though in size we’re like a small Riva boat next to the ocean liner Queen Mary 2 . . .
I find it incredibly important to stay informed about the industry. I read Skift every day, as well as other online sources of hotel-relevant information. Travelers’ wants and expectations evolve constantly, so I spend a great deal of time reading up on them. It’s how I can compare our offerings to guests’ wishes, and make adjustments where I can to help them match up.
While such adjustments often involve technology, there are other important factors in delivering the best guest experience that can be addressed without it. For example, what guests today expect from their private room vs. the public spaces of a property is now changing; I want to stay on top of these changes to ensure that I consistently deliver what guests are searching for.
To stay competitive, it’s also critical to engage with the media. We regularly publish press releases to spread the word about our accomplishments—like when we win awards.
What was your biggest marketing challenge in 2016?
We have a strong clientele of repeat guests: people who grew tired of the large impersonal hotels and love “coming home” to Stonehurst Place when they travel to Atlanta for business. For them, it’s like staying with friends.
Our biggest marketing challenge in 2016 was getting in front of new potential bookers. Our target audience is made up of travelers who are searching for hotels but prefer a more intimate experience like the one we offer at Stonehurst Place.
Some platforms list B&Bs separately from hotels. This means we won’t show up in the same search results as our competitors or appear to many of those travelers for whom we’d be the ideal accommodation—and there’s not much I can do there, but I’m trying!
Where we do perform strongly is on the sites where we’re listed alongside hotels. To be closer to the top in those search results, I’ve joined platforms where we pay a bit extra to have a higher ranking with greater visibility.
What do travelers love most about Stonehurst?
Stonehurst Place is known for its beautiful décor and unassuming surroundings—we’re the dressy casual of luxury, the huge house you wish you lived in!
Our innkeepers are the friendliest team, knowledgeable about Atlanta and gifted in delivering exceptional guest service.
It’s this winning combination of surroundings and service that travelers rave about.
Are you a US hotelier? Let us know what your daily priorities are in the comments below.