James Berry on running an airport hotel: “Your engine room is housekeeping”

By Liam Garrahan contact

- Last updated on GMT

James Berry was talking at the hotel's 10th birthday celebrations
James Berry was talking at the hotel's 10th birthday celebrations

Related tags: Hotel

The most important cog in an airport hotel’s machine is housekeeping, according to James Berry, general manager of Sofitel London Gatwick.

Speaking at the hotel’s 10th​ birthday celebrations, Berry told BigHospitality that without a good housekeeping team airport hotels would fall apart.

“Your engine room is housekeeping, you are only as good as your weakest link and if you’ve got problems with housekeeping, room attendance and getting those rooms turned around then everything else just stops,” he said.

“You’ve got day let’s, you’ve got crew rooms and 400 or 500 checkouts during night hours, let-alone day hours, so it’s a constant machine.”

Berry says that his staff have to remember that the guests are there to start their holiday and that it should start at the hotel, not the next day when they go to the airport.

“You’ve obviously got airport traffic around you all the time and you have to have the right team around you that do it because of the love it – hospitality people love hospitality.

“If you have the right people that have the right understanding that every guest that comes here is very anxious, very stressed, very disorientated, waiting for their holiday, and if you can make this the start of their holiday and not the next morning when they wake up and walk into the terminal then I think you’ve cracked it,” he said.

Good feedback needs a good response

Dealing with complaints is something that Berry and his team take seriously, if a customer takes the time to give you feedback you have to take the time to give a good response.

“Don’t send a generic answer and if you’re going to look into something do it yourself and answer the guest. If they’ve bothered to send some constructive feedback to you then take the time to get back to them,” he said.

“A holiday is supposed to be a relaxing experience but it certainly doesn’t start like that, and I think that if you can understand that and understand what’s coming at you, I think that puts you in a better place.”

With Gatwick competing with Heathrow to build a new runway, Berry acknowledges that if Gatwick were to win the deal it would bring more competition which he relishes.

“They are hitting passenger numbers that they expected to hit in ten years already, so we’re already very, very busy, which everybody is already. With the expansion of a second runway it will obviously bring more supply and competitors, which is a whole new world and a lot more fun it itself.”

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