The Radisson RED hotel in Cape Town opened just over a year and a half ago, with Dale Simpson as the property’s Curator. From the get-go, the brand set out to do things differently, to shake up the hospitality space by, for example, holding auditions rather than interviews to find staff with the right personality fit.  Here, Dale shares the top 5 things he’s learned by ditching tradition. 

Creating Local and Genuine Experiences

Well, my role as Curator assumes all the same responsibilities that the role of a traditional General Manager would. But, it also takes into account the importance of curating a space and curating an experience for our guests. Assuming this role, for example, allows you to look at the areas in a hotel much like you would a museum; the look and feel of the place is what guests will see, so this is why these spaces should constantly change and be updated. What I have learned in doing so, is that it is important to constantly create new experiences that are local and genuine.

Ask the Right Questions

Challenging the traditional hotel model has led to us asking the right questions:“Why does the model have to be like that?” or “Where in the hotel ‘rule book’ does it say that?”. In doing so, we can ask the relevant questions that enable us to meet guest experience expectations without applying a “one-size fits all” mentality. For example, we launched Chilli Bang Bang, an open-air urban massage experience in February. This concept was something simple, creating a story based on the Chilli Bang Bang gang and using the plant area of our rooftop for a natural urban landscape and treatment space. Would this be something that we’d have done if we only did the traditional? Probably not. I’ve learned that there is an underlying beauty in doing things differently, which appeals to guests more than the traditional way.

Let your People be Themselves

To explain the concept of being a leader of ‘personality-driven departments’, I’d like to point out that the only unique thing in your business, is your people. In businesses, our goal is often to recruit great people, but traditionally when we find them, we mold them into robots through a training process. What I’ve learned is that if we are only molding them into robots, do you really need to recruit great people? The only key thing that differentiates us from each other is our personalities. If you find a great person, the best thing you can do as a leader is to let them be great. This way, I coach and encourage them to be self-confident in order to deliver greatness, their way, removing a lot of stress.  Words like Director and Manager are thrown around a lot, but what do they actually mean? In my world this doesn’t mean a huge amount. If you were to ask me if I would rather be known as a leader, a manager or a director, I am always going to say a leader. I think that this already changes your mindset when you deal with someone.

Constantly Change the User Experience

Current shifts in the hospitality sector include integration of seamless technology, sustainability and a focus on millennials. As such, what I have learned is that we constantly need to change the user experience. From a technology perspective, we have online check-in, keyless door entry and you are able to use your phone to book tours, concierge facilities, order room service or chat to the team or other guests. Sustainability is paramount in our thinking and after one year of being open, we were awarded the Green Key Award, which was a great indication of how important that is to us. We don’t do buffets as this reduces food waste by 35%, we are paperless for the most part, and we actually engage with our clients. For example, we have a group coming from the US in March who will do joint community activities with the hotel. More and more clients want this,  and for me, that’s proper collaboration and hospitality. In the future, I think you will see over-the-top guest personalisation in the hospitality spaces, whether that be through apps and visuals in rooms or spaces that can adapt and showcase the client’s likes.

Imperfection is Key

Lastly, I’ve learned that imperfection is key; a weird thing to say, but guests are tired of the consistent ‘branded’ approach. Guests already have so many boxes and rules in their lives that when it comes to travelling, a bit of freedom and a touch of personal choice and control is what they seek. Guests appreciate a different hotel model, one that gives them something new, with elements that reveal that the creation process had their personal guest experience in mind. Regardless of whether or not that element is perfect, they appreciate the approach.

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