Hilton to close California call center, cut 300 jobs according to USA Today

USA Today’s travel blog ‘Hotel Check-in’ is reporting that Hilton is going to be closing the reservation call center in Hemet, California and moving the call center to the Philippines.  Unfortunately, over 300 jobs will be eliminated in Hemet.  From the USA Today article:

“Hilton previously closed call centers in Illinois in 2008 and Pennsylvania last year, according to the Press-Enterprise. Some of the Pennsylvania workers had said they, too, went to the Philippines to train call-center workers, the paper says.

Hilton will offer employees positions at Hilton’s call centers in Carrollton, Texas, and Tampa, Fla., where workers make roughly $9 an hour, the story says. Those who don’t take the jobs will be offered severance packages.

Further details about the layoff aren’t available, because the employees told the paper that Hilton ordered them not to talk to the media – or, if they did, they’d lose their severance pay.”

Be sure to check out the full article by hitting the link above.  Warning:  there are a few hundred posts from very angry American’s following the article.  Here is a follow up article regarding the reader’s comments.

USA Today: Hotel Guests More Satisfied During Downturn According to J.D. Power

According to the Hotel Check-in section of USA Today, guests are more satisfied with hotels during the downturn.  You can read the entire article and some pretty insightful comments here.  From the article:

“Hotel guests have generally been happier with their hotel experience in the past 12 months vs. the prior year as room rates dropped and crowds thinned, according to J.D. Power and Assoc.’s latest study that measures how well hotel chains satisfy their customers.”

The reasons for increased satisfaction according to the article:

“The travel downturn: With fewer people on the road, people who did travel found emptier hotels, which meant they encountered less competition for the treadmill in the fitness center, or less of a chance to stand in line at a busy convention hotel.”

“Cost: Hotel rates fell in the last 12 months, and customers generally felt more satisfied with what they received for their money.”

“Hotels operations: Hotels genuinely got better at pleasing their customers in the past year due to stiff competition for guests. “All of them are focused on improving guest satisfaction,” Schwartz says. Almost all of the chains increased their scores on a year-over-year basis – and not a single hotel chain saw its score drop significantly, he says.”

Our take:  It is somewhat surprising to see increased satisfaction as we are all battling with being understaffed.  Most hotels that we talk with have similar or higher occupancy but have much lower staffing levels because the ADRs are so low.  We believe that much of it comes down to cost.  Many guests are more satisfied simply because the rooms cost less and there is much more perceived value.

USA Today reports ‘Hard Times Send Hotel Industry into Survival Mode’

A really good article from USA Today about hotels struggling to survive.  Check out the full article on USA Today’s website.

The article features some high-profile hotel closures such as the W Hotel in San Diego and the Ritz-Carlton in Las Vegas.  The article also mentions how 76 California hotels have already fallen into foreclosure and that 330 out of the states 10,000 hotels have defaulted on their mortgage payments in the last year.

As far as the cuts, the article really only mentions that Concierges are being replaced by lower-cost employees and some hotels are changing their approach to food and beverage.

We have noticed quite a few changes at hotels over the last year or so to cut costs or drive revenues.  A few of the changes we see:

  • Many hotels have closed restaurants and bars.  Instead of having 2 or 3, many have closed all but one restaurant and one bar.
  • Hotels have cut costs and gone green by eliminating newspapers and printed folios.
  • Parking rates are on the rise.  Many hotels have increased the parking fees for both self-parking and valet parking.
  • Breakfast buffets have really been changing.  The prices have increased and the quality and selection of food have decreased.
  • Overall staffing has really decreased.  Many hotels have eliminated positions like bellmen or concierges.  Also, we see longer lines at check-in because the hotels have fewer GSAs with similar occupancy as in the past.

What are you doing to survive?  Please post in our comment section!

USA Today Reports that Cybercriminals Still Consider Hotels Easy Targets for Credit Card Info

There is a great article in the USA today on how criminals target hotels and steal their guest’s credit card info.  You can read the entire article on the USA Today website by clicking here.

The article says that hotels are considered hacker’s number one target and mentions how Wyndham was breached 3 times in the last 12 months.

Our favorite post from the comment section:  Ladies Man writes “A bigger and far more serious crime is coming down to breakfast and discovering it consists of bagels, honey buns, and those weird chewy off-brand fruit bars. If my credit card info must be stolen, I’d rather find out after I’ve had a large and proper breakfast.”

Hilton to Devalue Honors Points in 2010

Hilton HonorsHilton is taking a lot of heat after announcing they will change the number of points required to book a free night stay, essentially devaluing their Hilton Honors points by about 20 percent.  Check out the full USA Today article and the nasty comments, here.

Our take:  We agree with the travel industry analyst who said ‘it is absolutely the wrong decision to make at a time when hotel demand is down from corporate business, conferences, and leisure.”  It will save cash, but the timing is very poor.

In a follow-up post, found here, three other brands seemed to distance themselves from Hilton’s strategy.

Our favorite comment was from IHG’s Jim Abrahamson who said that rewards members are twice as profitable and elite-level members are 12 times as profitable.  He goes on to say “if one platinum-level member leaves us, we’d have to go out and find 12 new customers just to replace that one.”

USA Today Article About Guests Noticing Hotel Cutbacks

USA Today posted a pretty good article titled ‘As Hotels Struggle For Business, Some Guests Find An Upside’. Click on the link to read the entire article on their website.

The article talks about how guests are finding much better deals on hotel rooms now than ever before, especially at luxury hotels.  But the most important part of the article is the section titled ‘Guests Notice Cutbacks’.  From the article: Hotels cannot hide all the cutbacks. Some frequent travelers say they’re starting to notice little things.  From the article:

usatodaySome amenities — such as a bottle of water in the room or a newspaper delivered to the door — are gone. The quality of complimentary food and beverages has diminished in some club rooms or lobbies, or at hotel managers’ guest receptions, they say.

Because many hotels have cut their staffs, frequent travelers say they’re waiting longer to check in and out, have rooms made up and have cars retrieved by valets.

“There are fewer people to provide basic services, answer questions and make suggestions for restaurants and activities,” says Howard Knoff, an education consultant in Little Rock.

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