By Lauren Carter
When Victor Hayter acquired London, ON’s Four Points Sheraton in March 2012, it was lagging in the TripAdvisor opinion polls. Since then, the experienced hotelier and his staff have been so successful in improving guest reviews that the property was recognized last May with a 2013 Certificate of Excellence from the influential website.
The award is given to hotels that achieve consistent ratings of four out of five for at least a year, putting them in the top performing 10 per cent of businesses worldwide as represented on TripAdvisor.
The honour is a fitting tribute to the efforts of Hayter and his company, Sylvanacre Properties, to turn around a tired property with low ratings.
“[When we purchased the hotel] we were something like 19 out of 42 London hotels and that wasn’t healthy,” says Hayter, company president. “It was mid-range and I didn’t buy [the property] to run a mid-range hotel.”
An extensive facelift of the lobby and banquet and meeting rooms was 80 per cent finished upon acquisition and was completed under Hayter’s watch. The renovation expanded the lobby to include a second floor mezzanine. New floor to ceiling windows let in natural light on a common area which features a fireplace and flat screen TV where guests can gather. Four thousand square feet of meeting space were also added, including an entirely new ballroom.
The hotel then turned their refurbishing focus to all 181 guest rooms, addressing each of the property’s three blocks of rooms one at a time. Two of the blocks are expected to be finished by October 2013, and all of the room renovations should be done by February, according to Hayter, at a final cost of nearly $6 million.
“These are extensive renovations,” says Hayter, who owns two other hotels in Stratford, ON. “We’re lengthening bathrooms, taking out tubs, putting in showers, replacing furniture. Everything is brand new.”
While ongoing construction does result in some negative reviews, Hayter strongly believes that the inconvenience to guests represents “short-term pain for long-term gain” and expects to see TripAdvisor ratings climb further in the long run. Appreciative comments about the renovations and ongoing changes to the property are already appearing in reviews on the site.
Currently rated at 14 out of the 42 area hotels, the property’s rank is improving. “We’re making headway,” says Hayter, who clearly recognizes the influence of TripAdvisor on potential and future guests. The site has over 200 million visitors every month, according to a TripAdvisor Fact Sheet, and Hayter cites an impressive statistic: “75 per cent of travellers make use of a
The London Four Points has a staff person assigned to respond to negative reviews. Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, parent company of Sheraton, insists that comments are tracked, says Hayter, and “any complaints must be addressed within 24 hours.”
Focusing on what people have to say about the property also makes good business sense. “Once I know, I can take action,” says Hayter. “But if no one says anything, I can’t do anything about it.”