2016 - 01 January

Guest Service Gold®

Atmosphere Kanifushi Maldives Earns AHLEI’s Certified Guest Service Property Designation

Kanifushi Atmosphere Kanifushi Maldives is the first property in Maldives, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, to earn the title of Certified Guest Service Property from the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI). Tourism is the country's leading industry, so earning this designation provides the resort, which opened in December 2013, with a competitive edge.  

According to training manager Allen Mathias, the human resources and training team of Atmosphere Kanifushi Maldives has a vision of making Atmosphere Hotels and Resorts a learning organization.  

"To achieve this vision, we sought out partners to help in creating signature and unique learning opportunities for our colleagues; that would be instrumental in making them crave for learning about the hospitality industry and cascade the same down to creating delightful service," he explained.  AHLEI's Guest Service Gold® and Certified Guest Service Professional (CGSP®) offered the best fit for the organization.  

"We believe that we are in the people service business of making ourselves better human beings serving our guests. The CGSP® training helped us offer exceptional service to our guests," said Mathias. "Also, being at Maldives where there are limited hospitality training institutes for the colleagues to learn about the subject, this training and certification has given them an edge above others making them more learned and building their skill level."  

The training and certification for the property's 80 employees was conducted in a combination of classroom and online training, which for most employees was a completely new experience, as was the concept of multiple-choice exam questions. Because of these challenges, the feeling of pride among the employees when they earned their certification was tremendous.  

Matthias explained some of the steps taken to ensure the success of the program.  

"To create awareness among the colleagues about the certification program, we used teasers, posters, and cascaded the information to every colleague," he said.  "We also spent time with colleagues in their briefings and convinced department heads to ensure complete buy-in from them. This was essential to initiate interest in the program.  Finally, we organized the training to explain the 'seven elements of gold service' to the colleagues in a simplified format. We used visual aids, games, and photographs of guest interactions to drive home the message."  

To continue the momentum of the training and certification, Atmosphere Kanifushi Maldives has implemented an internal "Atmosphere Delight" program to recognize staff members who "wow" guests with exceptional service. Housekeeper Maajidha Saeed, CGSP, was spotlighted for "terrific delight." Guests were delighted by the good care that Maajidha took of their children, especially by the different towel toys that she made every day for the children.   Another housekeeper, Ibrahim Aadhil, was recognized for "successful delight" after a family raved about his service and personal touch, which included making a fish tank for the family. In his nomination, his manager noted that "the family said they will name their new fish after Aadhil.  That's like raising the bar for personalization for all of us."

Mathias noted that the resort's employees have a feeling of great pride among themselves when they serve guests, both for their individual achievements and for their property being the first in Maldives to be called a Certified Guest Service Property.                 

"This shows that we have raised the bar for learning and development initiatives and have inched a step ahead in reaching our vision of creating a 'Learning Organization' at Atmosphere Kanifushi Maldives," he said.

Rocky Mountain Lodge Becomes First Air Force Lodging Operation to Earn Certified Guest Service Property Designation

Rocky Mountain Lodge Staff The American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI) has awarded Rocky Mountain Lodge, Aurora, Colorado, with the designation of Certified Guest Service Property for the second year in a row. Rocky Mountain Lodge is the first Air Force lodging operation to earn this title, which is presented to properties that train their employees using AHLEI's Guest Service Gold® program and certify all guest-facing staff as Certified Guest Service Professionals (CGSP®). Nearly 40 associates have earned the individual certification after completing the Guest Service Gold® training.  

The property, which opened in December 2011, has 150 rooms, 30 of which are extended stay units. General manager Joshua Coleman, MBA, CHA, CGSP, said that he jumped at the chance to offer his staff the Guest Service Gold® training and certification.  

"We require it of every staff member," he explained. "If it's good for the front line, then it's good for everybody. All of our employees are proud of their certification, and that attitude ripples throughout the organization. It has definitely raised the bar across the board for our team."  

Several employees also hold other AHLEI professional certifications, including the Certified Hospitality Supervisor (CHS®), Certified Hospitality Department Trainer (CHDT®), and Certified Hospitality Housekeeping Executive (CHHE®).   

Coleman said that while the property recognizes employees of the month, quarter, and year, it's hard to pinpoint any individual staff member for their Gold service, because everyone aspires to that level of guest care.  

"Our guest service standards are already high.  As a Certified Guest Service Property, we try to exceed that.  When guests see our plaques behind the front desk, they are impressed," he said.  "This is who we are.  If you are in front of us, you are the most important person on the planet."

CHA® Spotlight

“Culture of Service” Creates a Platinum Experience for Guests

Mike Rice By Elizabeth Johnson, Senior PR & Marketing Manager, AHLEI 

How does a medium-sized hotel in a third-tier city in a flyover state consistently beat out 1,300 other properties nationwide to be named the top Quality-branded property in the United States?  For Mike Rice, CHA, general manager of the seven-time Platinum Award-winning Quality Suites in Lansing, Michigan, it all comes down to delivering value to your guests. 

"Price is what you pay; value is what you get," said Rice, whose property was named Quality Inns' Hotel of the Year in 2011, 2013, and 2015. "Guests want value, so we do our best to not just satisfy the guest, but to delight them.  We live out the Choice mantra that every guest wants to be welcomed, wanted, and respected. We want people to say, 'I'm staying here the next time I'm in Lansing.'" 

And they do.  On a brand guest survey, one question asks "Have you ever stayed at this Quality Inn before?"  According to Rice, the average "yes" response is 20 percent; for the Quality Suites in Lansing, the answer is 65 percent.  On the morning when I chatted with Rice, a guest named Lois approached Rice to exclaim about the hotel, its breakfast service, and Tom, the breakfast chef who serves up happiness and cheer with a side of bacon.  She explained she and three friends were in town for an annual shopping vacation. They usually stay at the property across the street, but it had been sold out when they made their plans. 

"We've never stayed here before, but I'll tell you right now, we're coming here again next year," she said.  

A similar sentiment was expressed by marketing professional and blogger Matthew Theis, who stayed at the Quality Suites this past summer.  In a post titled, "When was the last time your expectations were exceeded?" he raved about the impressive service that he had not expected from the Lansing hotel, and concluded, "The next time I have to travel near East Lansing, Michigan, I will find a way to stay at the Quality  Suites."  

What particularly impressed Theis was the attitude of the employees, especially the breakfast team of Tom, JoAnn, and Julie.  He used phrases like "present and fully engaged," "sincere and genuine happiness," and "it was clear that there was no place they'd rather be" to describe the Quality Suites staff, noting that "everyone in your business is an extension of your brand." 

Rice, who has been the general manager at the Lansing Quality Suites for 13 years, understands that. He acknowledges that hiring and retaining the right people is the key to the Quality Suites' success because the people are the ones that deliver the service that keeps guests coming back. 

"I have the honor of telling people that I hired Tom, JoAnn, Julie, and every other employee here. And I mean that. It is MY honor. A lot goes into selecting and hiring the right people, but it's even tougher to retain the right people," Rice wrote in response to Theis' blog post. "We have created a culture of service here that allows talented people, who have the right attitude, to thrive.  As a result, we have very little turnover, and our guests see the same faces every time."  

Among his hiring practices are weeding out (during the interview process) anyone who thinks of the job as "just a paycheck" and hiring people without prior hospitality experience. 

"I don't want to have to break bad habits an employee might have learned somewhere else; I want to teach them good habits," he said. 

He also looks at attitude as equally, or sometimes even more, important than skill. 

"The job can be taught. I can't teach someone to care," he noted. "I need to find the right person and then teach them the job.  It's very rewarding to hire someone and watch them succeed and thrive.  I'm always delighted to be able to promote someone from within our staff. That's why we have very little turnover." 

Rice also hires many interns from The School of Hospitality Business at nearby Michigan State University, from which he graduated in 1991.  He became a hospitality major at the suggestion of his older brother, who also attended MSU and told him about the hospitality program. 

"I got my start in hospitality when I was 16, working as a busboy at Bill Knapp's (a Michigan restaurant chain)," Rice recalled. "I worked all the jobs-host, server, cook.  I fell in love with the hospitality culture-I loved the rush and the people side." After graduating from Michigan State, he worked at two different Marriott properties in Chicago, and spent five years in Detroit at another Marriott property. Since 2002, he has been at the helm of the 117-room Quality Suites.  Some of the employees have been at the property even longer than he has, which creates a solid foundation for a successful property. 

"I like to say that I'm tough on my standards and easy on my people," said Rice. "I show my employees that I value them as people.  I thank them every morning.  I trust them to make good decisions.  Hospitality is a people business, and the way you treat the people who work at the property shows in the way they treat your guests.  To have guests who come back, you have to have employees who stay."

Financial Issues Impacting the Lodging Industry

What is this thing Called EMV?

Credit Cards by Dennis The Financial Management Committee (FMC) of the American Hotel & Lodging Association was established to provide superior financial management expertise on issues of common interest to owners and operators of hotels and motels. In an effort to assist hotel owners and operators, the FMC is presenting a series of monthly articles that address current and emerging financial issues impacting the lodging industry. Some of the potential topics to be discussed include the standardization of industry definitions for distribution channels and associated costs, benchmarking green and sustainable practices, cyber security, loyalty program accounting, and the impact of labor-related legislation. 

For this month we discuss recent changes to credit card processing and liability. The article was prepared by FMC committee member Dennis DuBois. 

* * * * * * * * * * * 

What Is This Thing Called EMV?  

By Dennis DuBois  

On October 1, 2015 there was a shift in liability for those who accept credit cards as a form of payment. If this is news to you then you're already behind the curve, but definitely not alone. 

EMV or what is commonly referred to as chip-enabled credit cards are being issued by U.S. credit card companies to their cardholders. EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, which were the first three companies to create the standard for the chip system. Subsequently, all the other major credit card companies have followed suit. If you travel outside the U.S. you likely notice that most merchants use terminals that can accept both card swipes and chip-enabled cards. Most individuals living outside of the U.S. have been using chip-enabled cards and using a pin with each transaction for quite a while. The U.S. is the last major market to make the transition to EMV, even though it accounts for more than half of the total global loss due to fraud, as compared to only 25 percent of the volume of credit card payments. (The EMV Chip Card Transition: Background, Status, and Issues for Congress, Congressional Research Service 11/27/15)  

Prior to October 1, the credit card companies took responsibility for 'card present' fraudulent transactions - those transactions that are done face to face. After October 1, whichever party has not invested in EMV technology will now have the liability of a card present fraud transaction. 

For example, if the card issuer has sent their card holders a chip-enabled card and the merchant has not invested in the technology to accept it, then the merchant would bear the risk of any fraudulent transaction as a result of a fake credit card.  If the cardholder is not using a chip-enabled card in this transaction and the merchant has the EMV technology to accept these types of cards, then the card issuer bears the risk. If both the merchant and the cardholder are using EMV enabled technology or both have not embraced EMV, the assumption of risk of a fraudulent transaction is the same as it was prior to October 1. 

To the consumer the liability shift is transparent. They will notice that new cards that have been issued now have the new chip embedded in the card. They may even notice a change to the terminals that are being used by some merchants. Some merchants have even gone so far as to require the cards that they issue require a pin be entered when the chip-enabled cards are used when making a purchase. 

Merchants will eventually need to replace their payment terminals, which can be a costly expenditure depending on the type of terminals selected and quantity of terminals needed. Some merchants that have already changed their terminals are offering the option of Chip and Signature, where they allow the customer to insert the chip card and allow a signature as opposed to a pin. However, this does not provide the full fraud security benefit that Chip and Pin offers. Even though the date has passed, the acceptance of Chip and Pin or Chip and Signature only addresses one form of fraud - card present transactions.  It does not address card not present (Internet) transactions nor fraud as a result of a data breach. 

In order to reduce the risk and potential liability, merchants need not only embrace Chip and Pin, but also tokenization and point-to-point encryption. See table below.   

Credit Cards

It is advised that you work with your credit card processor to assess your individual situation and determine the right solution for your business. The dynamics surrounding accepting credit cards are continually evolving. As a merchant, it's in your best interest to be informed and take the necessary steps to protect your customers from fraudulent transactions and your business from a potential data breach.   

Dennis DuBois is Senior Director of Finance, Managed Hotels, Americas for Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group.

The FMC is also responsible for the production of the Uniform System of Accounts for the Lodging Industry (USALI).  To purchase a copy of the 11 th edition of the USALI, please visit www.ahlei.org/usali.

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Academic Spotlight

AHLEI Certifications Give Boost to New York City College of Technology Hospitality Management Students

City College of Technology In a ceremony held December 17, at New York City College of Technology / City University of New York, Rebecca Charles, The James New York, presented 59 students from the NYCCT Hospitality Department the Certified Front Desk Representative professional designation.  Charles, who is a graduate of City Tech's hospitality program, noted the benefits for the students and their potential employers with regard to industry certifications. She stated, "Classroom simulation interconnected to hands on industry experience driven by the latest technology in today's hospitality workforce is essential for students to launch their careers in our industry." 

The workshop series was supported by a Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education grant secured by Professor Patrick O'Halloran. The Certified Front Desk Representative is one of several professional designations offered by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI) that students can earn before starting their hospitality careers. 

The workshops presented through City Tech's hospitality program were designed to provide high quality training to line-level, front-of-the-house employees. Guest service, employee responsibilities, safety regulations and procedures, and position- specific knowledge- were areas of focus throughout the workshops. O'Halloran noted that there is a growing trend for colleges and universities to require students to earn industry-based professional certifications, which provide their graduates with a competitive edge when they enter the workforce. 

Lily Su, who successfully completed the workshop and earned the Certified Front Desk Representative designation, stated, "As a result of the program. I am now aware of the qualifications and responsibilities needed to perform at front-of-the-house positions in the hospitality industry." 

The certification workshops were such a success that Professor O'Halloran is seeking the funds to host four workshop programs next semester, which will serve 120 students with a focus on AHLEI's security, maintenance, and housekeeping certifications.

New Products and Services

Coming Soon! New Edition of Hotel Asset Management: Principles & Practices

Hotel Asset Management The third edition of Hotel Asset Management: Principles & Practices will be released at the end of January, in conjunction with the ALIS conference.  The book, edited by Lori E. Raleigh, ISHC; A. J. Singh, Ph.D.; and Rich Musgrove, CHAM, CHA, takes a look at the challenges and opportunities faced by hotels owners, lodging industry real estate professionals, and hotel company executives.  

The purpose of the book is to help practicing asset managers advance their knowledge of the profession by providing them with the latest thinking on topics relevant to asset management in the hospitality industry. Hotel Asset Management: Principles & Practices will also appeal to hospitality management students and faculty, along with hotel industry executives who recognize the importance of the asset management profession in value creation in the hospitality industry. 

The book's 21 articles represent the collaborative work of 36 industry professionals-all experts in their respective specialty areas.  The book is divided into four sections that address the following areas: 

  • foundations and processes of asset management
  • real estate and the physical asset
  • contracts and legal aspects of asset management
  • planning and executing the hotel investment

Hotel Asset Management: Principles & Practices, Third Edition, will be available for purchase from AHLEI's website, www.ahlei.org , or by calling 800.349.0299 or +1.407.999.8100.