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Top 9 Things to Know When Opening a Hotel In Jamaica

Jamaica has always been the tourism hub of the Caribbean, as our tropical weather, natural attractions, rich musical culture and fabulous all inclusive hotels have all been considered one in a million. All of these unique features have made Jamaica one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean over the years. The tourism sector has continued to contribute immensely to our economy and is also experiencing stable growth with a lucrative contribution projection of 13.4% of the total GDP by 2027, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s analysis of the economic impact of travel and tourism on Jamaica in 2017.

The success of the tourism industry is remarkable and owes a great deal to the beautiful aesthetics of Jamaica’s north coast hotels. Tourists flock to these resorts for their fantastic service, delicious food and breathtaking views, yet they could never imagine the painstaking work that goes into establishing, maintaining and running them. Therefore, if you are thinking about opening a hotel in Jamaica here is a list of a few things that you should know before doing so.

1. Understand the Regulations Surrounding the Opening of Such an Establishment

Understanding the laws surrounding the creation of hotels are mandatory in the business. Not only do these laws ensure safety for all the stakeholders involved, but failure to comply with them will result in fines, lawsuits or even more drastically, having the hotel dissolved. For example, it is impossible to start building a hotel near a beach if it is not compliant with the Beach Control Act. You can click on the link below for the tourism laws and policies page on the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) website to fully comprehend the specific legal requirements surrounding opening a hotel.

2. Location

The location of the hotel will play a major role in its success. There are various factors that should affect the choice of location for your hotel such as:

The target market- Understanding of your target market so that there can be proper alignment of your hotel accordingly is imperative. The target market may include local or international customers coming for business purposes, weddings, honeymoons, beaches and so forth. You will find that the locations would certainly differ in relation to the specific target group whether it be in the city (for customers coming on business) or on the coast line (for beach lovers and cruise ship passengers) etc.

Accessibility- Hotels inherently have a massive need for frequent deliveries of goods, furniture and other amenities. As such, your hotel needs to be located in an area that takes logistical considerations into account. This would play a part in ensuring little to no turnover in suppliers for the hotel, the lifeblood of your business. Having sufficient parking space for all the customers is also vital, as well as ensuring that the hotel is accessible by car and not too far away from the main roads. One must also take into account customers who may be physically disabled and therefore requires special accomodation by the hotel. Accessibility for your employees is another critical factor as a good location (easy to access, not too far away from transportation hubs etc.) would play a major part in the recruitment process.

Rent/Lease- If you are not buying the land that you would want to use for your hotel initially, but rather leasing or renting, then you need to be aware of whether or not you would be able to pay that fee each month while sustaining other expenses of the hotel.

Government Policies- One needs to be mindful of being located in a specific area/region where the government’s rules or regulations may or may not negatively affect the potential operations of the hotel.

Expansion- As your hotel becomes more established it will experience immense growth and therefore would need room for expansion. Ideally, your hotel’s real estate should allow for the possibility of future expansion.

3. Suppliers

Your hotel needs to have various amounts of products and amenities (bar soaps, bed sheets, towels, food etc.) on a regular basis to facilitate your guests’ various needs. Maintaining a good relationship with suppliers is essential as they are ultimately responsible for the provision of these necessities, which makes them extremely valuable to the hotel. It is of utmost importance that great care is taken when considering which suppliers are right for your hotel and as such here are a few factors that should guide your decisions:

Suppliers’ History and Reputation- If the suppliers you are currently thinking about have had a track record of being late in delivery schedules and provision of low quality goods, then it is recommended that you omit them from your considerations.

Suppliers’ customers- If you are aware of some of the customers that your potential suppliers have then you will be able to make an intelligent assumption on the quality of goods you will receive as well as the service and reliability of the supplier.

Size of the Suppliers- Your suppliers should have the sufficient capacity to provide the specific quantity of products needed weekly, fortnightly, monthly etc. One should not contract a supplier who may struggle to meet your demands for products as shortages will certainly have disastrous consequences for your hotel.

Pricing of Suppliers- A key consideration for choosing suppliers is affordability. There needs to be financial security on your part to ensure that you will be able to purchase these goods at the cost that the suppliers require when there is need for them. One must also note that even though affordability is key, the lowest priced suppliers are not always the best way to go as their quality of goods may be inferior.

Suppliers’ Financial Security- It is best to confirm that your potential suppliers have a strong cash flow to deliver what you need at the time that it is needed. You could perform a quick credit check or use other methods to ensure that the suppliers are not likely to experience financial failure in the future.

Partnership Approach- It is best to employ suppliers that want to develop a strong relationship between your hotel and their business. This type of relationship will benefit your hotel, as the suppliers will make every effort in their power to ensure that you are provided with the best service possible and there is also the potential for discounts and other incentives.

4. Maintenance

Hotels operate on a 24 hour basis all year round in an industry where the margin of error is very narrow. Therefore, every aspect of the hotel should always be properly maintained to facilitate satisfaction of needs and wants of guests of your hotel. A strategy that could be implemented is the preventive maintenance strategy.

Preventive maintenance refers to a regular routine check up (done weekly, fortnightly, monthly etc.) to ensure that the equipment of the hotel is functioning correctly. Cleaning, lubrication, oil changes, adjustments, repairs etc. are some of the actions that should be taken out by your maintenance personnel during these regularly scheduled check ups. It would be even more beneficial for you to have a preventive maintenance software to record the company’s maintenance data so you can be aware of all the inspections and repairs taking place in the hotel.

The preventive maintenance strategy is in itself a very advantageous system because:

Decreases unplanned downtime- The preventive maintenance strategy is focused on initiating regular check ups on equipment. Due to that routine check up, the percentage possibility of equipment being broken down unexpectedly is significantly lower, which also decreases the expensive costs that could be incurred because of this.

Less expensive repairs- The maintenance strategy alleviates the problem of unexpected equipment failure which can cause drastic and often expensive repairs, not to mention the risk of dissatisfied customers as a result.

Increase in the equipment life- The constant check up and maintenance of equipment gives added benefit of ensuring that they are in the best condition. This will extend their lifetime and reduce the cost of future replacements.

5. Energy Issues

In order to satisfy their customers, hotels often have massive energy consumption needs. Factors such as growth in occupancy and changes in consumer demand due to modern lifestyles has created more intensive usage of electronic (computer,TV etc.) and operating equipment (electric cooking, cold rooms etc.) which ultimately increases the energy consumption of a hotel. In fact, about 3%-6% of a hotel’s operating cost is allocated to energy consumption on a monthly basis, thus making it the second largest spending category. However, there are ways to minimize the level of energy consumption for your hotel:

Daylight sensors- It would be best to install occupancy and daylight sensors to ensure that the lights are only on when they are needed or required.

Do not overheat water- It is suggested that the water in the bathrooms should be heated to about 60 degrees Celsius as it is considered the ideal temperature for comfortable hot bathing water. Overheating of water is a waste of energy and will increase your expenses.

Installation of a Building Management System (BMS)- A BMS is a computer based control system that can be used to monitor the hotel’s mechanical and electrical services. For example, the BMS could be used to control the mixture of heating and cooling of the rooms of your guests while ensuring that the guests receive optimum comfort and at the same time saves energy (at least 10%) for the hotel.

Buy cost efficient equipment- When acquiring electrical appliances for your hotel, it should be a point of duty to look for those that are more cost efficient. This in itself will decrease energy consumption for your hotel, saving you hard earned money.

Consider solar power- Solar power should also be one of your options to decrease energy consumption. Solar power uses energy from the natural environment (the sun) and converts it to electricity to be used by your hotel.

Educate your employees- Reducing the energy consumption of your hotel will definitely require the cooperation of your whole staff. Educating your employees on certain energy practices, tips and tricks will help in your bid to reducing energy consumption.

6. Employment

The hospitality industry is customer service driven and therefore means that the employees are the brand ambassadors of your hotel. The margin of error is very small meaning any slip up could be detrimental to your hotel as it is very hard to recover from a bad hire in the industry. Hiring in the hotel industry should not solely focus on education, hard skills and experience because that is not what makes them perfect candidates for great customer service. It may be that in your process of hiring you would have to employ on a probationary period to see if your employees are the right fit, but it is also good to identify traits beforehand that indicates they are right for the job. Some traits that you could look for during the probation period and during the initial interview are:

Strong communication skills- Employees should have strong communication skills as they will be dealing with customers on a regular basis. By having strong communication skills, the employee’s personality will create confidence and will allow for ease and friendliness with guests and other employees.

A positive attitude- It is important for employees to always have a positive attitude to ensure that the guests feel at ease and are comfortable at your hotel allowing them to thoroughly enjoy their stay.

Cultural awareness- The hotel guests will not only be from Jamaica. They are coming from various parts of the world which means that cultural values will vary. Therefore your employees need to be culturally aware so that the guests feel comfortable in their own skin.

Enthusiasm- Employees should love what they do and should project warmth and happiness every time there is interaction with guests, giving them the best possible experience ever.

Should be Approachable- The guests at your hotel need to be comfortable with talking to your employees and expressing their concerns and desires. Your employees should therefore be approachable.

Dedication- The level of intensity, effort, strength and energy required to work in hotels consistently can only be achieved by employees that are extremely dedicated. It is therefore important to find and keep employees that show this specific trait.

As much locals as possible- Employing locals is essential as they are more capable of bringing the authentic Jamaican culture for the tourists, whether it be in the form of entertainment, conversations etc.

Labour costs take up on average, 50% of the total operating costs of hotels. Therefore, in an effort to lower this cost one needs to understand when employees are most needed. This knowledge could be gained through the analysis of your hotel’s occupancy rate. Most hotels tend to have seasons for influx of guests (Christmas, summer etc.) which means employees could be temporarily laid off during the low periods and then rehired during the peak season of the hotel. Cross training staff should also be done to ensure that the decrease in staff during the low periods would not negatively affect the normal skill sets the hotel has at its disposal.

7. Security

When guests stay at your hotel they expect that complete responsibility for their safety is taken care of. Inadequate security puts everyone at risk and may destroy the reputation of your hotel as it can be held liable for criminal acts that are committed on the property. It is critical that robust security measures are put into place to keep both guests and employees safe. Here are a few tips to make your hotel accommodating, friendly and most of all secure:

Monitor the Closed-Circuit Television- There must be a constant monitoring of the CCTVs so that a potential threat of security could be better notified and dealt with effectively. It is not enough to have cameras installed; ensure that they are consistently checked.

Installation of Access Control Systems- Your hotel may have specific areas that are exclusive to guests who have paid for them (gyms, spas, swimming pools etc.) to access only. There needs to be implementation of the access control systems (cards, security codes etc) handed to these specific guests so that they are able to access the services they paid for. In other instances there may be areas restricted to only the employees of your hotel (behind reception desk, lockers with customer files, server rooms etc.). Installations of the access control systems would allow only the authorized employees to access these rooms. This is very advantageous as the strict control and enforcement of these restricted areas decreases the risk of suspicious activities taking place.

Control After Hours Access- Assign security personnel during the off hours and provide them with instructions on how to greet guests and turn away individuals that should not be at the specific area at that given moment in time.

Invest in Securing Information- Hotels tend to have an abundance of information vital to their guests stored on their network (credit card information etc.). This confidential data on the network makes it a prime source for potential hacking and data breaches. To prevent against this, your security department should implement cybersecurity systems and other methods (such as data encryption) directly responsible for the protection of the data on the network. There should be regular risk assessment of the security identifying which network endpoints carry the greatest risks so that the necessary procedures and precautions can be initiated before reaching a potential hazard (compromising of guest data).

Practice Emergency Drills with Hotel Staff- Your hotel should have documented action plans varying based on the type and location of the emergency. There must be time allotted for the staff to go over the emergency scenarios so that they can be better prepared to handle the guest with care in an event that the emergency happens.

Contact Security Firm- It is best to contact a security firm to get more advice on other practices that could be done to keep your hotel at peace.

8. Networking

Networks are very important in our modern day world for businesses as they allow for easier sharing of information, file access, communication, data protection (via backups) etc. with other departments and in some cases third party organizations. Your hotel is definitely going to need a type of computer network to survive running on a daily basis. It is important that you work in conjunction with a technological firm to get a proper understanding of the type of network that your hotel may need. Here are a few components that you and the firm should go over when you are considering the design of the network for your hotel:

Security- What should be of primary concern is the prevention of outside intrusion or data theft from hackers. It is suggested that when you should have a network design consisting of a network with hard-wired Ethernet connections to eliminate the risks of intrusions by unauthorized individuals.

Expansion- When thinking about choosing networks, one must think of future expectation in terms of growth for your hotel (guests and employees). It would make no sense for you to choose a network for your hotel that is specifically designed for small businesses as it would not be as effective.

Standardization- The compatibility of the hardware and software used in a network is important for ensuring that it runs smoothly. It is therefore best that your network consists of the same set of programs and identical computers and other hardware devices to facilitate an easier means of manipulating of it. Standardization also reduces costs that would be typically associated with maintenance or repairs.

Recovery- Have a network system that has a disaster recovery plan in place so that in cases of power loss, loss of data or other disasters would not negatively affect the network system. Not only should backup of data be in place, it should be done on a consistent basis so that there is confidence in the data being properly backed up.

When creating a hotel one is aware that the aesthetics is key. However, there also needs to be the implementation of telephone cables, wifi cables, network cables, television cables and others that serve the functions of providing guests with luxury and allowing employees to work. The cables would therefore have to be placed along the hotel in ways that would not affect the aesthetics of it. It is suggested that you acquire the services of a firm that is able to strategically place these cables around the hotel without disrupting the hotel’s aesthetics. The company would also have to create easy to access points for the networks so that in a case of disruption or problem in the networks there would be an easy way of accessing the servers and cables hassle free. This must also be created in a way that does not affect the elegance of the hotel.

9. Online Presence

Operating in the hotel industry and seeking to attract guests from around the world would be very difficult without the hotel’s online presence (websites, YouTube videos, social media etc.). Your hotel will need an online presence to even be considered as a potential competitor in the market. Here are some of the reasons it would be totally absurd to not have online presence for your hotel:

Main Distribution Channel- The most evident online distribution channel for a hotel is its website.The website provides the ideal platform to display their brand image as well as display their marketing messages (pictures, videos, testimonials etc.) appealing to their target audience. It also offers excellent visibility for your hotel. Lastly, it is one of the best methods for customer acquisition as a majority of bookings are done online.

Widens the Audience (Brand Awareness)- With online presence comes a wider audience. Persons are bound to know about you and the luxurious rooms and special services you offer to create the perfect getaway for them. When individuals like what they see they will be willing to share your information thus increasing the brand awareness of your hotel.

24/7 Business Operations- With online presence, your hotel is open for business to anyone, anywhere around the world at anytime.

Boost in Credibility- In the modern age of technologically savvy individuals, if you do not have a website or even a social media page then you are automatically considered as less credible than your competitors and your potential reach shall fall drastically.

Cost Effective Marketing- Your website and social media are very powerful tools that can be used to grow your business tremendously at a fraction of the cost of TV advertising, billboards and even newspaper ads.

These are a few prerequisites that should help you on your way to establishing an illustrious career in the hospitality industry in Jamaica. We wish you nothing but success and prosperity in your endeavours.

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