Recently voted Donegal Person of the Year, we caught up with award-winning hotelier Deirdre McGlone of Harvey’s Point to find out what it takes to run an acclaimed hotel. What began some time ago as a humble cottage has since been transformed into a well-appointed, highly celebrated hotel, known among the Irish and globetrotters alike. And we were dying to know how the hotelier responsible made it happen.
Recipient of the trivago Awards 2017 for The Best 4-Star Hotel in Ireland, Deirdre, and her team are hospitality experts, with an unmistakable passion for running a hotel.
The insights revealed in the interview come from a lifetime in the business, and they’ll prove invaluable whether you’re an aspiring hotelier, finishing hospitality school, about to take over the family business, or already running a hotel.
So, let’s get to it and learn the ropes from a leading hotel owner and manager.
What are your three biggest marketing channels?
Over the years, we are fortunate to have built up a substantial loyal customer base of repeat guests. The profile of these guests is retired or recently retired couples, mainly from Northern Ireland and from Dublin and other border counties. This channel amounts to over 25% of room sales.
We use the Net Promoter Score as one of our key questions in measuring guest feedback. On a scale of 1 to 10 we ask our guests: “How likely are you to recommend Harvey’s Point?” The average score is usually between 9.5 and 10. Referral business is over 25% of room sales.
We’ve seen a significant increase in online bookings during the past year. This is mainly down to our new website harveyspoint.com which has been designed with our customers’ needs in mind.
We also work with metasearch engines such as trivago to reach a wider audience. Not to forget Social Media which offers a very good way to interact with previous, current and potential new guests and hear their stories and experiences of Harvey’s Point. Ultimately, it’s about knowing our customers and listening to our customers. Our strategy revolves around our customers.
Another way to increase revenue is by cross/up-selling. How important is it to you? Do you promote ancillary services? Which ones and how?
This is important to us in terms of increasing revenue. Upselling involves persuading our customers to spend more on an existing purchase, such as upgrading their choice of room. We train our reservations staff on how to give our customers compelling reasons to upgrade by describing the additional features of the room at ‘only’ a certain price.
Cross-selling involves selling ancillary products such as beauty treatments, wine, chocolates, flowers on top of the original purchase. For us, this is not only a source of revenue, it is perceived as a service.
Key questions are: “Are you celebrating a special occasion” etc. However, we have found that a pre-arrival email is the best time to cross-sell as this has been shown to encourage impulse purchases as well as give us valuable information in terms of dinner reservations, arrival times etc.
Guests are most receptive to cross-selling during the lead up to their stay.
At all stages from reservation to check-out, we take note of guests preferences, comments and this is recorded in their guest profile for future reference.
Your website opens to a video, how effective have you found video marketing to be for your hotel compared to other visuals?
As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. If that’s true, then a video is worth a million.
At Harvey’s Point we pride ourselves on offering a personalised service to all our guests.
For many people, our website is their first point of contact with Harvey’s Point, therefore we aim to show our guests what the “Harvey’s Point Experience” is all about in the best possible way.
What do you love most about being a hotel manager?
Harvey’s Point is a remarkable success story and I am proud to have been part of that story.
As an owner / manager, it is richly rewarding to see the fruits of our efforts, having opened the hotel over twenty-seven years ago and it having developed into a multi-award winning hotel from what originally was an old cottage hidden in the hills of Donegal.
I love the interaction with people, with guests and with our dedicated team. I always say: “it’s the people who make the place.” There is a unique family culture throughout our organisation. No two days are the same.
What advice do you want to share with aspiring hoteliers?
Managing a hotel requires a love of the industry, an interest in people and a passion to excel in the highest standards of hotel-keeping and hospitality.
It is very important to have a good product in the first place and to build a solid team around you.
Understand the financials. Don’t be a ‘busy fool’.
Keeping up to date with industry trends and using innovation to differentiate and stay ahead of the competition is key.
Know your markets, learn about and listen to your customer.
Make sure that the entire team understand and believe in your Vision for the hotel. Have plenty of stamina. Don’t give up.
Try to keep a work-life balance. Enjoy!