What Does ‘Activation’ Mean To You?

The hospitality industry has long been a catch-all for words and phrases used to describe seemingly new trends.  “Yield Management” evolved to “Revenue Management;” “Sales Management” is often referred to now as “Sales Automation;” “RevPAR” (Revenue Per Available Room) is well on the way to being replaced with “RevPAC” (Revenue Per Available Customer), and the list goes on.  Another word that has worked its way into our hospitality vernacular, even if it is not truly understood by all that utilize it, is “activation.”

In its most basic definition, “activation” essentially means what you think it means; the concept of making something more ‘active.’  So, now that we’ve cleared up any uncertainty as to the meaning of this frequently-used term, we should endeavor to understand why “activation” takes on so many different definitions in the world of hospitality.

The most important single experience that we offer to our guests is hospitality.  As part of our never-ending commitment to hospitality, we provide services and experiences such as restaurants, bars, lounges, spas, and the like.  However, the physical act of operating such outlets does not, of itself, ensure that true “activation” is taking place.  At one time or another, all of us have experienced a hotel outlet that, while open for business, may be anything but ‘active.’ There may be very few other customers in the space, or there may not be any true activity taking place, leading to an environment that may be dull or un-interesting.  This can happen even in the highest-quality outlets; the food may be great, the service may be great, but is there activity in the space, is there ‘buzz’?

The reality is that, while operating outlets in hotels is difficult under the best of circumstances, making those same outlets exciting, interesting, and ‘active’ is far more complicated.  Part of the challenge with this is that this “activation” requires a distinct plan, and often a plan that varies from one outlet to the next.  It is our responsibility as the leaders and operators of our hotels to demand that such plans become a standard part of our strategy, just as we do with our forecasting, marketing, and overall business planning strategies.  Such plans might include a weekly jazz combo performance in the lounge, rotating art exhibitions in the lobby, and similar types of events which appeal to a wide variety of in-house guests as well as local residents.

Just as the most effective business plans are those that are concise, dynamic, and frequently updated, so too should our multiple activation plans.  Part of a successful activation plan must include an analysis component; do we know how to measure the success of our activations, and do we know how to improve upon them?  Without the ability to measure these outcomes, how can we truly know what is working and what is not?  Included in this analysis should be targeted revenue/participation numbers just as any other potential revenue sources would be forecasted and then evaluated against these forecasts.

From our perspective, the strategically-planned activation of specific hotel outlets and amenities is crucial to the success of those outlets and to the success of the hotel itself.  However, this activation must be carefully thought-out and reflect tactics that are consistent with and truly reflect the positioning of the property.  “Activation” is an important part of any property’s strategic plan; as such, it must be carefully planned and diligently executed against.