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Hotel Impossible: Turning Around The Problem-Plagued Hotels

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logo (1)Travel Channel’s Hotel Impossible, which premiered in April 2012, is a reality television program in which struggling hotels receive an extensive makeover by veteran hotel operator and hospitality expert Anthony Melchiorri and his team.

After a hotel is chosen to be on the show, Melchiorri secretly scouts each establishment and identifies the property’s biggest issues. He meets with the staff — including desk clerks, housekeeping, maintenance — and the owners. If Melchiorri’s changes fail to turn the establishment’s fortunes around, some owners would lose their hotels.

After devising a plan for the recommended changes with his designer (usually Casey Noble or Blanche Garcia), Melchiorri works to revamp the hotel, and solve its problems.

WHO IS ANTHONY MELCHIORRI?

Of Italian descent, Melchiorri was raised in Brooklyn, New York. Upon finishing high school in 1986, he joined the U.S. Air Force and served until 1990 at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. During that time, he took night courses to complete an undergraduate degree in business at Park University in Parkville, MO, and worked weekends as a night auditor at the Embassy Suites hotel in Overland Park, KS.

Out of the military, Melchiorri’s first job was at the Embassy Suites in Times Square, New York City which was later converted to a DoubleTree hotel. He has said his career goal at the time was to work at the Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue. That goal was reached when began working at The Plaza as a night manager. Over the next four years, he worked his way up to the position of Director of Front Office Operations.

When a young girl came into the Plaza and asked him “Mister, where’s Eloise?” he got the idea for the hotel’s Eloise Tour (based on the children’s book).

He was later appointedplaza hotel general manager of the Lucerne Hotel on the Upper West Side of New York City. While under his direction, the Lucerne was named the New York Times Travel Guide’s “Best Service Hotel.”

In 2005 he left the Lucerne to assume the position of general manager of New York’s historic Algonquin Hotel. He convinced the owners to close the Algonquin for much needed refurbishing, and oversaw the $15 million roof-to-basement renovation of the hotel. He updated the rooms, repositioned the restaurants, and earned the hotel a high rating as a Michelin Guide Hotel. He orchestrated publicity campaigns such as the Algonquin’s “$10,000 Martini”, won a Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International “Best of Show Award”, and greatly improved the overall marketing strategy of the renovated hotel.

After starting his own hotel management and consultanting company, Argeo Hospitality, and establishing a reputation based on his repositioning of the Plaza Hotel and the Algonquin, Melchiorri decided to bring his skills as a “hotel fixer” to television. He sold the Hotel Impossible concept to the Travel Channel, and the rest is history. Three years and more than 70 episodes later, 49-year-old Melchiorri is in his sixth season of the show:

"I just knew I wanted to do a hotel show, and I'm a pretty straight shooter," he said in an interview. "I really wanted to be the executive producer, not the host. The more I spoke to them (they said) 'We can't find the host. You're going to be the host.' My dream was never: I want to be on TV. My dream was, I want to tell people about the hotel industry. If you ask me how it happened, it's just, I had an idea, and I'm authentic."

Melchiorri admits he’s been through 17 producers because not everyone shares his vision of a true-to-life TV show that isn't scripted.

WAS HOTEL IMPOSSIBLE SCAMMED?

In 2013, nine months after Hurricane Sandy cut a swathe through the northeast, Hotel Impossible launched its two-part special, “Operation Sandy.” Melchiorri and his crew headed toThunderbird-Motel Seaside Heights, New Jersey, where they started out at the family-owned Thunderbird Motel, owned by Jayne and Ray Brawn, and managed by their adult children, Ray Jr. and Jane.

Ray told Melchiorri he was going to let Ray Jr. run the Thunderbird, and that the motel represented Ray’s 401k. These were the main reasons Melchiorri said he agreed to help.

At one point during the episode the family accused Melchiorri of making their son look like an idiot, because Melchiorri berated him for his lack of management skills. Melchiorri thought he had managed to get things back on track — until the father let slip that the Thunderbird was one of hundreds of hotels he owned. Not only was the hotel not his 401K, he actually had $40 million worth of properties. And he never planned to let his son run the hotel.

The result? Melchiorri walked away from the Thunderbird, and the show found some Jersey Shore establishments that actually needed help.

SOLVING PROBLEMS AT THE WATER GAP COUNTRY CLUB

In 2013 Hotel Impossible went to the Water Gap Country Club in Pennsylvania which was reopening after being purchased by new owners. It was hosting its first-ever destination wedding in 48 hours, and the first guests were arriving the next day.

water gap country club copyBecause of the time constraints, Melchiorri  was forced to cut his turnaround time in half.

The guests came, the bride and groom arrived, and Melchiorri’s team pulled the wedding and reception off, pretty much on their own.

It turned out the new owners knew nothing about hotel or event management and had hired people with the same level of experience — all of them thinking that their previous business experience would translate into the hospitality industry. It didn’t. As Melchiorri advised, “ You have no experience in the hotel business. You need someone who knows hotels.”

The owners were on their way to success after implementing Melchiorri’s suggestions:

  • The Water Gap Country Club’s golf course has a storied history, and could bring in hundreds of thousands in revenue, if there was a marketing plan.A golfing consultant was hired to make the golf course profitable.
  •  A management consultant would conduct an executive search for an experienced general manager.
  • A computer system now links the hotel, banquet facility and golf course, and supports online reservations.
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