University-Based Hotels Serve as Campus Living Rooms While Contributing Bottom Line Benefits
By Rory B. Loberg President, Loberg Hospitality, | November 23, 2009
What do all of these scenarios have in common? The likelihood is all of these people will stay in the university-based hotel. Most universities and colleges want to make a favorable first impression. Whether it is for a potential faculty member, future dean, major donor or visiting parent being able to house and entertain them in their campus based lodging facility is a major advantage.
The trend over the past few years has been for more colleges and universities to add lodging products to their campus community. Some of these are single use facilities dedicated to executive education and weekend MBAs. Many are mixed use facilities that cater to all of the university departments and administration. Many of the departments on campus will have lodging and meeting needs. It is intended that these facilities serve as the front door and the living room of the campus.
One of the keys to the success of these lodging facilities is that the operator fully embraces the philosophy and mission of the campus. There will be times when campus requests and business results are not in alignment. The operator needs to understand and accept that there will be occasions that they need to be flexible and accommodate the needs of the campus.
There are key departments on campus to which the operator needs to be very close. Admissions will do a number of mailings each year to current and prospective students. A part of the mailer is normally for the parents to talk about their campus visit. An operator who has close ties to this office will be able to include a flyer to address the advantages of the on-campus facility. Once you lock in new students' parents, you have a customer for 4 -5 years.
The potential upside to the operator, a huge built in base of business, should by far to off set any potential of business interruptions for accommodating the needs of the campus community. Deans and university presidents are going to have special events and short-term visitors who need to be accommodated. Most of these facilities have a very robust weekend business demand with sporting events, visiting parents and alumni events. The operator needs to be tied into the Alumni web page and the parents' web page to be sure his property is first on the list of lodging options.
The universities that have had the foresight to make the investment in these lodging products have been rewarded many times through the goodwill, positive impact on visitors, positive exposure to major donors and visiting parents. Well-established properties like the Carolina Inn at University of North Carolina have long been the favorite place on campus to stay. The Inn has established a very strong reputation for excellent service, outstanding food, and spectacular special events that coordinate with the university calendar. Other properties that have been in the marketplace, e.g., The Inn at Harvard and The Statler Hotel at Cornell, have accomplished the same reputation with excellent service and a true understanding of the university mission.