How Hoteliers Are Making Meaningful Investments

SAN FRANCISCO—When weighing the worth of a renovation project, Kokua Hospitality asks a couple of key questions: “Are we listening to our guests? Are we responding to their needs?”

Here’s why.

“Most people will only consider how it impacts the guest, but for me, for us, it’s more and more about what we are doing to change the perception of the hotel and the impressions it leaves on each guest,” said Kirk Pederson, president of Kokua Hospitality.

“Something we noticed is that it has become more important to consider how someone feels based on their stay—and, what can we do to make an impact on that? Changing out a bed is fine and generally necessary for almost every renovation, but in order to have real impact, it has to be done in a way that takes more aspects that aren’t as quantifiable into consideration,” he said. “Whether it’s a brand partnership, technological improvements—it has to be something that really tells a story. It has to be a decision that takes into consideration how it affects how people who choose to stay there are going to feel. The truth is renovating with purpose has a higher return on investment than merely fixing deferred maintenance issues. It often doesn’t cost more money, it just takes more creativity.”

Pederson is inspired by other people in other industries, as well as hospitality, that are getting it right.

“Nobody is doing it all right, even us, but we are consistently working on building our success stories in order to show owners that this philosophy is the proven path of success,” he said. “Our flexibility sets us apart—we don’t have to abide by the same set of standards of other branded or non-independent management companies.”

When looking across the lodging landscape, Pederson sees hotels that are fulfilling their promises, but then there’s plenty that aren’t. “There are quite a few obstacles; it takes collaboration between ownership and operator to really get it right. If only one party is on board, it is going to fall short, and often end up not being worth it at all,” he said.

His advice? Pederson believes hoteliers embarking on a renovation should consider two things:

  • Can you really make a difference with this project and with the resources and relationships you currently have?
  • Can you fulfill a new vision of your hotel in a successful way?

Flexibility is paramount for Kokua Hospitality as it helps hotels to break through the saturation of the hospitality market to make meaningful investments in guests and the properties by being flexible.

“We aren’t bound by a brand or brand limits,” he said. “We can work with owners and hotel teams to create compatibility between what they want to do and what we want to do. Best of all, we can do what makes money because we have the ability to combine those financials goals with creative ideas, which results in a plan that achieves what owners want in a way that will have the most successful impact on guests.”

Pederson encourages hoteliers to invest with purpose and, if you’re going to do it, he says you should commit to it.

“Any investment made halfway is not worth the results,” he said. “The return never looks good and you lose future opportunities. If you don’t put in what you need to get it right, you will never break through the saturation of the market because other people are doing it too, and they might be doing it better than you.”