Have you seen the Travel Channel’s show, Hotel Impossible? If you haven’t, you’re missing out. In tonight’s episode, Hotel Impossible takes on the Western Riviera in Grand Lake, CO (show airs March 25th at 10pm/9pm C). Since I’m a hotel junkie, it’s one of my favorite shows. Last week I had the opportunity to speak with the show/s host, Anthony Melchiorri, and ask him about the show, the industry and more. Here’s part 1 of my interview:
Question: What inspired you to take on TV?
Originally, Anthony Melchiorri had no interest in hosting a TV show; he was looking to produce a show about hotels, their guests and suppliers. Until Hotel Impossible, there was not a show on TV that highlighted the hotel industry as a whole. Anthony built an incredibly successful career and reputation in the hospitality industry and as a general manager of several large hotels. After 20 years of management, he wanted to help struggling hoteliers who needed his expertise and Hotel Impossible has allowed him to do just that.
Anthony has run and developed high-profile hotels in the United States including the first Nickelodeon Hotel and the renowned Algonquin Hotel. In addition to roles at holes like the Plaza Hotel, he also has operated hotels within large chains. With Hotel Impossible, Anthony brings his extensive experience and knowledge, to hotels that need it most.
Hotel Impossible is not reality TV, in fact, far from it. The show is completely unscripted, which keeps producers on their toes and makes for a real, honest look inside the world of independent hotels.
When Anthony meets a hotel’s manager for the first time, it’s on camera. In fact, he doesn’t even see pictures beforehand. Everything you’re seeing is real. He loves passion and appreciates when hoteliers bring their passion to what they do – and express it on the show. Many of the hotels featured on the show chose to work with Anthony because of his style – both on and off camera, it’s clear that he’s honest, authentic and understands the dynamics facing the people who run hotels. Anthony’s energy and appetite for helping struggling hotels is real and very contagious. After spending the better part of an hour speaking with Anthony, I can understand why the show is so successful – Anthony gives everything to the people he’s working with and it doesn’t end when the cameras turn off. Anthony frequently speaks with former guests and provides advice and guidance when needed.
Question: How have Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media impacted the hotel industry?
Anthony says that while Facebook and Twitter are not yet at the level of Trip Advisor and similar sites in terms of impact, they’re starting to become more significant. One major difference that Anthony points out between a Trip Advisor type site and Facebook, for example, is that people don’t go to Facebook to book hotel rooms. The concept has been tested for more than a year, and additional research from the industry shows that it just doesn’t work. Anthony suggests that Twitter and Facebook should be used as tools to develop a relationship between the hotel and the guest. “If you send the guest a message before they arrive, they’ll be more likely to come to you when they have a problem. They’ll feel like their friend is running the hotel.” Connecting with guests on Facebook, Twitter and other similar social networks before and after a stay is the best way to maintain that relationship. Trip Advisor, Anthony says, has revolutionized the hotel industry because it’s impactful.
Question: How can independent hotels compete with major brands in today’s economy?
The internet, Anthony says, has leveled the playing field for independent hotels. The top 13 rated hotels on Trip Advisor in New York City are independent hotels, validating the idea that independents can complete when they have the right tools and leadership. Hotels build their brand and reputation based on many things and cleanliness and safety are at the top. This is where independent hotels can shine.
Guests want clean, safe hotels. Anthony is not obsessive, as some may say after watching his show, but he says a clean room is not optional, it’s mandatory. Anthony uses the analogy of a chef plating a meal at a restaurant. You know that your plate has been touched by the chef, but you don’t want to see a single fingerprint on that plate when it’s served to you. This is why chefs wipe the plate clean before you ever see it. Hotels are the same; every guest wants to believe that the room they’ve just checked into is magically brand new, like no one has ever used it before.
If you bought a new car, you’d expect that it had an engine. Similarly, Anthony says that cleanliness and safety are not open for discussion. In season one of Hotel Impossible, viewers learned that using a wooden luggage rack is a no-no because they can house bedbugs. If you caught Anthony on The Dr. Oz Show last week, he confirmed one of my worst nightmares – and now it can be your nightmare, too. The glassware in hotel rooms is not always as clean as you might expect. There have been many recent news stories about how dirty the glasses are in hotel rooms and Anthony confirms that there are times when the housekeepers cut corners. Anthony prefers disposable cups in closed plastic. Interestingly, I was in California when I spoke with Anthony and after the conversation, I noticed that my hotel room had plastic cups in the bathroom. In fact, there was a sign stating that all hotels in California are required to provide sealed plastic cups for health reasons. Personally, I hope more states and hotels start adopting that same stance and provide plastic.
Question: Starwood Hotels and Delta Airlines recently announced a new partnership, “Crossover Reward.” Do you think the program will be successful and that frequent travelers will change their loyalties because of this program? And, do you see other brands following suit?
Anthony says that this new program will 100% impact frequent travelers loyalty and continues on to say that programs like this are why independent and local hotels need pros on their side. “If you’re not an expert,” he says, “you’ll get annihilated.” But he also says that you could put him, or any seasoned professional with the right expertise across the street from one of the big brand hotels in an independent hotel and they will absolutely succeed. Anthony believes that 80% of the people Starwood and Delta are targeting with Crossover rewards are frequent travelers. The most seasoned and most frequent travelers likely already have their status with a particular brand and may not switch because of this, but those who are once a month or slightly more frequent travelers who already stay or travel with one of the two brands will likely switch loyalties to increase their benefits.
As for the future, Anthony says that this program will create a significant domino effect and other brands are likely to follow suit with comparable programs.
Question: Having spent years in the hotel industry and since you’re constantly in hotels, do you still enjoy vacationing in hotels?
Absolutely says Anthony. He recently took his family to a resort in Orlando and he says he ordered room service at 4:30 a.m. “just because I could.”
I wanted to ask this question because as someone who stays at hotels around 200+ nights a year, I get asked the question all the time by friends and family. I never understood why people asked this question. I love hotels; I can’t imagine ever not liking hotels. I was very pleased to learn that Anthony still loves hotels and vacations at them.
It was an absolute pleasure speaking with Anthony and learning more about Hotel Impossible and the hotel industry. Anthony shared some of what’s to come this season and there are some really exciting episodes coming up. If you’re not in front of the TV, make sure you’re recording it!