How Do Hotels Get to Hotel Hell? — Common Hotel Management Mistakes

We’ve all had at least one lousy hotel stay. Service was subpar. There was that noisy neighbor next door who kept you awake all night. The food was awful. The AC kept breaking down. Some people might even call their stay “hellish.” As a customer, we always have advice for hoteliers and their staff as to how they can make our stay better. Do they listen? Do they care? What can hotels do to avoid being labeled as “hotel hell”?

Read these two hellish reviews of recent hotel stays (the names and locations of the hotels have been withheld):

“Ever get into a hotel bed and get someone else's urine on your body? That's what happened to me at this hotel!!!!! Then once I switched rooms, the faucet in my second room would not turn to hot which I did not discover until I had just enough time to take a shower and get ready the next morning.” 

“We stayed here based on a travel guide which was outdated. We wanted a pool, and this is the hotel that has one. Unfortunately, it was not filtered water so it was murky and the birds were using it as a bath. At one time this was probably a nice place, but not in many years. The shower had low pressure. The coveted had to be changed because they were dirty. Towels were requested and grudgingly supplied. It was so hot at night we opened a window and then had to deal with a bird trying to enter as well as a hoard of mosquitoes. The game room was full of broken equipment.” 

These aren’t exactly glowing reviews. No hotel wants to have their reputation stained with commentary such as this. Most often, whether the review may be a bit exaggerated or not, you are probably not going to want to stay at these hotels and may even steer others away from the establishment based solely on the review.

This is why it is so important for hotels to be vigilant and aware of the needs, complaints, requests and even recommendations of its patrons at all times.

Welcome to HOTEL HELL

The first season of HOTEL HELL premiered on FOX in the summer of 2012 featuring chef and hospitality expert Gordon Ramsay as he traveled to America's most horrendous hotels, troubled inns and struggling resorts, many of which are on the brink of closure. From sleeping on stained mattresses, taking cold showers in moldy bathrooms and confronting hotel ghosts, Ramsay endures hotels at their worst; all so unsuspecting guests don't have to. After he uncovered the most pressing issues at each place, Ramsay put hapless hotel owners and employees to work as he attempted to turn around their failing establishments, doing all he can to rescue these floundering hotels. The series ran for three seasons (2012, 2014 and 2016). It was a very eye-opening look at the hospitality industry and why some facilities were destined to fail no matter what.

So what are some of the reasons a hotel could fall under the “hotel hell” moniker?

Big Vision Without Execution

At its core, hospitality is the feeling one gets from the services being delivered. Many hotels have grandiose visions of what they strive to be but ultimately fall short. Many hotels claim to have opulent rooms, state-of-the-art technology, and guest amenities that are top-notch. When in reality, it’s anything but.

Any hotel can take a stunning photograph and post it to social media and the internet, but if the reality doesn’t match the perceived vision of the potential guest, the hotel is already on a downward spiral.

It used to be the case that if you had a comfy, clean bed and working wifi in your hotel, that’s good enough. Nowadays, consumers are faced with a vast range of choices on where to spend their money on lodging. Hotels have to stand out and be able to create an emotional attachment to their brand for the customer to want to stay and to want to come back again and again.

From the front desk to housekeeping and maintenance to food services, the hotel has to keep all of these roles in mind and what’s appealing to their clientele. Everyone needs to be on-board with the mission and vision of the hotel and its management staff and ready to meet or even overachieve for their guests. You can have the biggest, best-intentioned plans for your establishment, but you have to follow through. Your guests will notice … and they will tell others about their experience.


It is so important for hotels to be vigilant and aware of the needs of its patrons at all times.


Poorly Maintained Facilities

Probably the most common gripe you will read about on the many travel sites is that the hotel was poorly maintained. One traveler shared:

“We stayed at this very expensive hotel to find that the hotel lacks serious cleaning and upgrading to their carpets, decorations, and mattresses. Very uncomfortable. The environment of the hotel has the old stingy feeling to it.”

Hotels must be responsible for the general upkeep and maintenance of their facilities – and that includes the tools and equipment they use within the hotel premises. From kitchen equipment to housekeeping items, they go through an extraordinary amount of use every day. These items are subject to aging, wear, mechanical issues, negligence and lack of maintenance. By keeping an accurate record of all of a hotel’s vital assets, including when they go into service, where they are used and how often as well as a complete maintenance history of repairs, hotels can be in-the-know of how these items are working (or in some cases not working) and if they need to invest money elsewhere for better more durable items to keep the hotel and its services in top shape.

While many patrons look at a dirty floor or dusty windowsill with distaste, other parts of the facility such as HVAC systems, electrical installations, sanitary facilities, elevators and even room items, such as televisions, mini-bars, and hairdryers need to be appropriately maintained and tracked to ensure they are in good working condition.

No matter what the issue, the key here is that they all require immediate action. Hotel management needs to develop a corrective action plan which is aimed to eliminate the failure and minimize discontent should something happen in a quick and accommodating fashion.

Not Taking Customer Feedback

Feedback from hotel guests, whether good or bad, is the key to managing a successful hotel. Knowing the likes and dislikes of your guests is the first step to improving your hotel, and in turn getting more reservations.

Today’s hotel reservations are impacted by guest reviews and the emergence of online sites such as TripAdvisor,, Yelp, etc. Hotels should seriously consider any feedback – both positive and negative. It gives hoteliers an indication of what you are doing right, and also, what you are doing wrong. By listening to customer feedback, hotels have an opportunity to improve experiences for their guests.

Consider some of these statistics:
  • 90% of travelers avoid booking hotels labeled as “dirty” in online reviews. (LateRooms, November 2012)
  • More than one-third of consumers will not book a hotel room without reading reviews first. (LateRooms, November 2012)
  • 92% of internet users read product reviews, and 89% of people say that reviews influence their purchasing decision. (e-tailing group)

There are some ways to get feedback from your guests:

Feedback cards. It may be old fashioned, but it works! Make sure the cards are easily spotted in the room and consider leaving some in other common areas such as the lobby, restaurant, poolside, etc.

Phone calls. Have a member of the management team call the room during the guests’ stay and even after they have checked out to find out how things were.

Personal interaction. Talk to the guests while they are at the hotel. Ask how things are. Many guests feel like they are just another body in the hotel. Make the guest feel welcome and show that you are interested in his/her stay and what you can do to make it better.

Social media is also becoming more prominent when it comes to booking hotel rooms. In a 2010 Sheraton Survey,64% said they use social media to make their travel plans, and within the 25-34-year-old participant group, the number is even higher; 76%look to favorite social media sites to plan their next getaway. Hotels can’t hide from negative reviews or lousy feedback anymore. It’s more viewable than ever before. If hotels don’t act on what their customers want, customers have the power – and aren’t afraid to use it – to go elsewhere.

Losing Assets

What happens when a hotel isn’t proactively monitoring all the assets needed to keep its establishment running smoothly? The results can be crippling. Loss of sales. A decrease in consumer satisfaction. And potentially a complete closure of the facility, which also means a lot of hard-working employees are left without a job. Tracking hotel assets is a massive undertaking, but the benefits of doing so are worth the effort and help hospitality establishments avoid enormous PR problems and closure.

Hotels that accurately track and manage their assets have a far higher chance of stabilizing, correcting, and even improving their revenue than those who don’t. When hotels can use asset management and tracking software to deter pitfalls like theft and non-compliance, they’re more likely to avoid unnecessary financial losses and grow their income in the long run.

A robust asset tracking and management platform, such as Asset Panda, enables hotels to stay up-to-date on all internal and guest-facing operations and the essential tools and equipment to make that happen. When assets are adequately tracked and readily available for customers when needed, staff are not stumbling and fumbling trying to find a specific item to meet their needs, and guests will not have to wait for you to find a replacement. Asset tracking gives employees instant, real-time access to the information they need on any given asset at any time.

As the hotel industry changes and the needs of your guests change, your inventory of assets also changes. They may increase or decrease in value. You’ll purchase additional assets, and sell old ones. Asset Panda makes it simple to keep your inventory and asset tracking information up to date, so you know precisely what you have and don’t pay more than you owe.

One of the easiest ways to keep customers coming back is by providing them an enjoyable -- even memorable -- experience. Don’t send your guests to “Hotel Hell.” The more satisfied a guest is with their stay at your hotel, the more likely they are to choose your establishment over a competitor for future accommodation needs. Let Asset Panda guide you on the path to the top of the hospitality chain with a free 14-day trial. Visit to learn more.

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Audra London

Audra London, founder of Conceptual Communications, LLC, has over 10 years of writing, public relations and marketing experience and serves as an expert on press releases, media relations, feature writing, web content and marketing copy.

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