An interview with Sandra Dis, Interior Designer and Marketing Manager of Hotel Umi
Here at GuestJoy we work with world-class excellence daily. We decided to feature some of our hotels in blog articles so you can learn more about local hospitality and GuestJoy’s finest all around the world.
Iceland is one of GuestJoy’s biggest market. The first customer we have interviewed is Sandra from Hotel UMI. This wonderful hotel is located on the southern coast of Iceland surrounded by beautiful nature with views to the Eyjafjallajökull volcano. Designed, built and maintained by Sandra’s family, the hotel received a World Luxury Hotel Award in 2019.
Hi Sandra! Would you like to introduce yourself and the Hotel Umi?
My family owned a patch of land in Southern Iceland where my father used to spend summers as a child. The idea of opening a hotel came to us because we were thinking we would like to share the beauty of this area with the world. The hotel is owned by my parents, they are my bosses and my family manages everything around UMI. It’s a small hotel, we have 28 rooms. We wanted to keep it small, so guests can get to know each other or the staff, learn their stories and make new friends. Before this, we had little to no experience in hospitality, I am actually an interior designer.
What an amazing story! So did you get a chance to add your personal touch?
Indeed! I designed the insides, I wanted to make it very comfortable to all guests. My idea was to create common spaces where people can relax. Our area is full of natural wonders so people come here to hike and explore, after a busy day outside we would like to provide an opportunity for them to unwind.
That is why we have an excellent bar and restaurant. As we are not in a town, there aren’t many places to go out to so we put a great emphasize on having a excellent restaurant and bar.
Another thing we are very proud of is that all our windows look to wonderful nature. On one side is Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano that erupted in 2010 and stopped European traffic for a while and on the other side is beautiful grassfields leading down to the ocean.
And what is your personal experience in hospitality, what do you love about it?
It is one of the most versatile jobs. I get to do so many different things and meet all kinds of new people. Not just our guests but our staff also, who comes from all around Europe.
I guess the Icelandic market is interesting in a sense that people come here to see nature, to have an adventurous holiday and there are often these large groups of American or Asian travellers coming to see our country. However we are not a big hotel so we mostly get couples or families. Also the Icelandic market is not big since we are such a small population that live her in Iceland so between 5-10% of our guest are Icelandic.
What are the daily challenges you face at your hotel?
It has nothing to do with guests, or online reputation, we have amazing scores online. Our biggest challenge is staffing, since we are not located in a city it is hard to find valuable pastime besides nature. I think this is a big problem in the hotel industry here in Iceland. Most of the staff in the hotel industry here in Iceland are foreigners and they often come to Iceland to work for a few months to save up money or to experience and adventure. People work with us for a couple of months or half a year, so it is challenging because we constantly need to train new staff. However we are very grateful that we have some staff that have been with us for a long time now and other ones that are coming back to us after their travels.
The other issue we usually deal with is local weather. We often experience closed roads due to snowstorm which can be difficult to communicate to our guests. However we are thinking of using GuestJoy’s announcement feature to send out up-to-date weather info to our guests.
Let’s talk a bit about your experiences with GuestJoy
As far as the implementation goes GuestJoy is an easy program. I got a training in the very beginning and have managed to do everything independently since. Our Assistant Manager didn’t even get a training and she still manages to use it easily every day.
We have been using GJ for almost a year, we are happy and have a great experience with the product. We sell more services and offers than before, guests are booking tables, restaurant offers and it is great to know the bookings in advance because our kitchen and hotel staff can schedule their tasks accordingly.
The upselling feature is the one we are keen on, we sell a lot of lunchboxes and dinners in advance. Another thing I appreciate is the dashboard where you can see the revenues and orders and the special requests feature. That is really smart because if the guests have any special wishes we can set it up for them pre-arrival.
We really like the survey feature too, it allows us to ask exactly what were the guests unhappy with if they have something to complain about.