How to Manage the Hotel Renovation Cycle

PLAINFIELD, IL—What are the warning signs of a hotel overdue for a renovation? A dated, damaged or even dirty property can lead to the dreaded bad online review, according to Cicero’s Development Corp. President Sam Cicero. It’s vital for hoteliers to be proactive in order to protect the bottom line.

“One of the early signs that a hotel renovation is needed are poor online reviews. These are the owner’s preverbal ‘canary in the coal mine,’ said Cicero. “Be attentive to reviews mentioning outdated furniture, dirty carpets and such. Online reviews on Yelp or TripAdvisor are free market research. While managing online reviews is time-consuming, it can make a major difference to the overall success of your property.”

It’s an issue that can occur across the hotel chain scale, but Cicero noted that since mid- to higher-end hotels are typically operating under flags and subject to regular property improvement plans (PIPs) every four to six years, it is far less likely that these properties will fall behind.

“In contrast, the decision to renovate a privately owned hotel is up to the owner, whether it is a roadside motel or a high-end boutique hotel,” he said. “While every owner is budget conscious, the lower-end hotel owner is more so. But that shouldn’t stop them from renovating. Paint, new carpeting and wallcoverings go a long way toward giving a major makeover on a shoestring budget. Another good strategy for a lower-end establishment is to purchase the used FF&E of a major chain hotel that is undergoing a PIP. They can pick up inexpensive, but high-quality used beds, chairs, desks and more that are only a few years old.”

Cicero’s Development Corp. works with hoteliers to make sure important renovations are handled within their budget.

“We apply value-engineering to every renovation project. The essence of value-engineering is compromise,” he said. “For instance, can 2,000 pieces of lower-cost ceramic tile be substituted for expensive marble? That answer depends on several things, such as the owner’s expectations and wear and tear the flooring will be subjected to. How does this tile affect the overall design? While the project programming may show the client wants marble, changing to a ceramic tile that looks like marble and multiplying that savings by 2,000 may become worth considering by all parties.”

While every hotel renovation project is unique, value-engineering involves a set of core stages:

  • Identifying the main elements of materials and methods
  • Analyzing the functions of these elements
  • Researching potential alternative materials and methods to achieve these functions
  • Carefully evaluating each alternative to ensure that it is viable and beneficial
  • Accurately costing each potential alternative by taking into consideration all factors (for example, shipping, storage, lifetime maintenance, etc.)
  • Evaluating each potential alternative, and highlighting those that have the highest chance of being successful substitutes

“We believe that compromise simply for the sake of compromise is pointless,” he said. “Instead, our goal at Cicero’s is always to ensure a project is performed and delivered using the best value approach that maintains design integrity without compromising quality, yet eliminating products, processes and designs that generally drive up the overall cost. If something doesn’t provide extra long-term value and we can substitute with an alternative, we know we can exceed our customer’s expectations.”

According to Cicero, a common concern among hoteliers embarking on renovation projects is how to control the renovation project’s schedule, cost and quality. The company’s project management software enables access to data by authorized project team members, including the hotel owner and manager.

“They can access changes to documents, drawings, requests for information, submittals, daily logs, purchase orders, change orders, schedules, budgets, punch lists and even project progression photos and more,” he said. “Changes can be highlighted and clouded areas can be seen by all team members. All updated information should be immediately available to all authorized team members via the web on personal computers and laptops as well as all types of smartphones or tablets. The instantaneous access has proven to be a remarkable tool in keeping projects on schedule and on budget.”

For hotels in need of renovation, Cicero recommends hoteliers take the necessary time to interview and choose the proper project team of professionals.

“Look for an established, experienced general contractor that has good communication skills and workable systems in place, including team members that specialize in this particular type of project,” he said. “Experienced general contractors who perform hotel renovation work on a daily basis will have the answers to many of the day-to-day challenges that are sure to come up. They will help a hotel owner jump over the many hurdles that always seem to cost unnecessary money and waste time. Making sure you can all work together as a team is crucial because you will all be spending a lot of time together. Remember, you can save yourself a lot of money and time if you work to assemble the right project team during the project’s early planning stages and utilize the team’s synergy.”