How to Run a Small Motel

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A sign for a rural motel.
A sign for a rural motel. (Image: duha127/iStock/Getty Images)

Operating a small motel gives you the opportunity to use a variety of skills as you provide services to weary travelers. But running a motel requires more than offering a comfortable room with all the amenities. As a small motel owner, you must successfully manage a handful of important tasks that lead to loyal customers who tell others about their stay and book again when they're in the area.

Computerize Your Operations

Buy a desktop software program that can handle reservations, bookkeeping and payroll for small properties. Look for features such as creating guest invoices and keeping track of inventory such as linens, toilet paper and furniture. The software should provide space for details about guests –– useful for making returning travelers feel remembered and welcome –– and histories of small groups that stay at your motel. The software should also help you track revenue and price your rooms in a way that lets you turn a decent profit. If you offer online reservations -- a great way to save time if you have limited staff to handle bookings -- make sure the software integrates with your online system.

Focus on Customer Service

Guests expect more interaction at a small motel, unlike a large hotel where your name may be forgotten as soon as you walk away from the front desk. Strive to meet these expectations by providing training to your front desk staff. Teach them to go over and above what’s expected of them. For instance, if a guest cannot get ice out of a machine, don’t send her back to the icemaker with instructions on how to do it. Instead, tell her you’ll deliver a bucket of ice directly to the room. Train housekeeping and maintenance staff, too, to always act professional, smile at guests and make them feel welcome.

Promote, Promote

Keeping your rooms solidly booked requires several tactics, including providing a website that appears in local searches. The website must tell people why your small motel is preferable over larger establishments or competing smaller motels. For instance, talk about the history of your motel if it is compelling, or focus on unique aspects of the property, such as the individually decorated rooms you offer. Provide links and information about nearby attractions so people know what’s in the area. Get involved with your local Chamber of Commerce or tourism bureau to obtain referrals from people who inquire about lodging. Network with owners of nearby attractions and restaurants to get referrals to your motel. Ask satisfied customers to post reviews on Yelp, Trip Advisor and Google Local to help convince others to stay at your establishment.

Keep Property Maintained

Creating a pleasant setting for your motel is crucial to making people feel comfortable staying there. Plus, an attractive setting means last-minute travelers may choose your motel based on first impressions. Hire a person to handle maintenance and landscaping. Make it a policy to immediately fix problems in the rooms or common areas. Keep the parking lot clean, grassy areas mowed and the landscaping trim and tidy to make people want to stay there.

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