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3 Examples of SMART Goals in the Hospitality Industry


Jordan Hollander in Marketing

Last updated March 04, 2023

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Some goals are so squishy and ill-defined that they are effectively meaningless -- and often raise more questions than answers. SMART Goals are the cure to these unfocused strategies.  We’ve all had bosses setup goals that are impossible to reach because they’re so vague: ‘do right by the guest.’ (How? What’s “right?”). Be the best hotel in Miami (How? For which guest segment? Compared to whom?). Drive more revenue. (How? How much?)

Ill-defined goals are also hard to measure, making them perfect shields for laziness, incompetence, and/or a general lack of accountability. Vague and general ideas can be powerful when applied to your company’s mission statement as guiding rules but when it comes to goal setting - they can kill your business.

One strategy to build actionable goals that successfully motivate staff to make measurable progress is with SMART goals. Here's what you need to know about using SMART goals in hospitality, from creating the goals to some SMART goals examples in the hospitality industry that illustrate how effective they can be. Once you experience the impact that planning SMART can have on your hotel’s productivity and success, you’ll wonder how you ever did without!

What are SMART Goals?

The concept of SMART goals was introduced in 1981 by George T. Doran, a consultant and former corporate planner, in a paper called “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives.” Doran’s thesis was that achieving success requires goals to be clear and attainable, with enough specificity and measurement to actually track progress.

A SMART goal is:

  • Specific. Goals must be as specific and focused; never vague or derivative. To get precise, follow a Six Sigma principle and answer the “6 Ws:”

    • Who needs to be involved in this goal?

    • What are you trying to accomplish? 

    • When does this goal need to be accomplished?

    • Where does this goal apply? Especially useful if this is related to a time-bound event or a particular department/promotion/campaign/season.

    • Which are the essential skills needed to achieve this goal as well as any obstacles to overcome?

    • Why is this goal important? 

  • Measurable. You've got to be able to accurately measure performance so you know unequivocally whether or not you’ve completed the goal.

  • Achievable. Goals should be challenging but never out of reach. If a goal isn’t realistically attainable, then it may be discouraging and bad for morale. You should have enough levers/tactics to take action and realistically achieve the goal

  • Relevant. Goals should never be a distraction from your property’s overarching objectives. If a particular goal is irrelevant to current priorities, it will not only fail to influence outcomes but it will struggle with ownership and adoption team-wide.

  • Time-bound. For the greatest chance of success, goals must be bound by a specific timeframe. Otherwise, goals can limp on forever, without a defined end -- and thus no way to evaluate performance.

SMART goals have a magical way of focusing your efforts by eliminating distractions and unproductive tangents. With a SMART goal, it's much easier to know what's working in service of your business and what's not.

How to Write SMART (Goals)

Now that you know all about SMART goals, let’s talk about execution. Taking the SMART approach to goal planning requires a new way of thinking about how to write goals.

The defining feature of writing SMART is in the preparation: it all starts with questions. The answers will shape your goals, so you want to ask yourself and your team members as many questions as it takes to get to specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely goals. These questions should be approached with a positive attitude; there are no right answers and the point is simply to get closer to actionable goals that unite teams and deliver results.

For each goal, start by writing down your initial goal. Then, methodically go through each part of the S.M.A.R.T acronym to further refine your goal. Finally, review your initial goal and adjust based on the results of each section to come up with your final SMART goal.

  • Specific: What specifically do you want to achieve? Who needs to be included to make this happen? Who is ultimately responsible for achieving the goal? What steps will you take to achieve it?

  • Measurable: How will you know when you have successfully accomplished the goal?

  • Achievable: Given current budget and staffing, can your team realistically achieve this goal? Which tactics will you use to achieve the goal? 

  • Relevant: Why now? How does this go help us achieve our broader business objectives?

  • Time-bound: What's the timeframe and is it realistic to accomplish this goal in that time?


A few other guidelines to write SMART:

  1. Align individual, departmental and property goals. If goals are at odds with each other, there will be conflict between competing priorities. Be sure that goals align across the entire operation to keep everyone moving together in the same direction towards the same overarching business objectives.

  2. Stay focused. Distractions are the enemy of SMART. The point is to focus your energy around achievable goals, so if you find focus drifting from your core objectives then your goals are still too broad. 

  3. Begin with the end in mind. Popularized by Stephen Covey in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, this mindset is a critical part of writing SMART. Before diving into the writing phase, look ahead at your outcomes and work backwards. Clarity around what you want to achieve will focus your attention on only what matters most. 

  4. Decision driver. Each goal should provide clarity and focus by helping staff decide whether or not to pursue a project. All they have to do is ask themselves whether or not a potential project, tool, initiative or campaign contributes to a relevant SMART goal. If it does, then it should be considered and if it doesn't then there's no reason to continue consideration.

  5. Set regular check-ins. Don’t just write your goals down and return to them at the end of each quarter. To track progress, set regular check-ins with relevant stakeholders and adjust your approach on the fly as needed. Then you can celebrate wins and keep everything on track.

You also may want to consider creating team and individual goals. That way, individual team members understand the larger goals and their role in achieving them. This increases ownership and engagement by motivating staff towards a common purpose -- and keeps everyone moving in the same direction.

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SMART Goals: Examples in the Hotel Industry

Whether you're a hotel management company or on property general manager, setting SMART Goals can completely bring focus to your team and transform your hospitality business. Before we look at a few SMART goals examples in hospitality, let’s define what’s not SMART. Avoid goals that are:

  • Too general: “Surprise and delight guests” doesn’t give staff clarity.

  • Immeasurable: “Streamline operations” doesn’t provide a means of measurement.

  • Not actionable: “Improve the guest experience” doesn’t provide  

  • Irrelevant: “Be better stewards in the community” is not necessarily directly relevant to your core business.

  • Not time bound: “Be the best hotel in our market” doesn’t set a timeframe for measuring progress towards the goal.

The pitfalls of murky, ill-defined goals are many: they confuse employees; they can cause tension because team members working against each other; lack of accountability; too broad that people don’t know where to start and become paralyzed, which ultimately leads to doing nothing; dilute your brand proposition in the eyes of employees; makes management look “out of touch” and thus reduces trust. In these ways, poor planning can actually be more detrimental to a hotel’s operations than no planning at all!

SMART GOAL EXAMPLE #1: Increase % of direct bookings by 10% in Q2

Instead of “be less reliant on OTAs,” a SMART goal would specify a measurable outcome that achieves the overarching goal of becoming less reliant on OTAs.

  • Specific: In addition to the specific goal, you want to further refine the goal by defining the specific tactics required to achieve the goal, as well as who will need to be involved to implement those tactics. Answer questions like:

    • What needs to be accomplished? 

    • Who is responsible for it? 

    • What steps will you take to achieve it?

  • Measurable: There's a clear target of a 10% increase in direct bookings.

  • Achievable: The goal is attainable because there are many ways to influence success: 

  • Relevant: This goal could align with an overall objective to reduce commission costs and improve profitability. It could also be relevant in the broader context of rising commissions from third parties.

  • Time-bound: It's limited to a single quarter so performance can be measured by comparing direct booking  percentage at the start of the quarter to the end of the quarter.

SMART GOAL EXAMPLE #2: Grow average non-rooms revenue per guest by $37 by end of Q4

Rather than an ill-defined objective of “increase guests’ on-property spending,” this goal specifies an exact amount of guest spending increase.

  • Specific: In addition to the specific goal, you want to further refine by answering key questions like:

    • What needs to be accomplished?

    • Who is responsible for it?

    • What steps will you take to achieve it?

  • Measurable: There's a target of increasing guest revenue of $37 per guest.

  • Achievable: The goal is attainable, with clear tactics to drive success:

    • Add guest messaging software or upsell tool

    • Sell more room packages and bundled offers

    • Improve the F&B offerings on property

    • Retrain staff at on-property outlets to upsell verbally.

    • Incentivize front desk staff to sell more packages at check-in

  • Relevant: The goal may align with broader objectives to increase overall revenues, to better leverage on site amenities, and/or to improve profitability per guest.

  • Time-bound: The goal is set to be achieved by the end of Q4, giving everyone a target time frame to achieve the goal.


SMART GOAL EXAMPLE #3: Increase website conversion rate by 25% in Q2

  • Specific: You want to further refine the goal by defining the specific tactics required to achieve the goal, as well as who will need to be involved to implement those tactics. Be clear about:

    • What needs to be accomplished

    • Who is responsible for the goal

    • What steps will you take to achieve the goal

  • Measurable: Success measured by increase in website conversion rate

  • Achievable: The goal can be achieved by trying different tactics:

  • Relevant: The goal aligns with broader property objectives to increase direct bookings, provide a better guest experience, and/or upsell more packages and room upgrades on the website.

  • Time-bound: Progress will be measured over a single quarter.


Here are a few more examples of SMART goals for hotels to get your creative juices flowing:

As you fine-tune your goals, maintain a positive attitude, motivate staff with specific goals oriented toward 1-2 property-wide objectives, and share progress so everyone can have visibility into performance and ownership of results. With SMART goals, your team can move more quickly and be much more successful at achieving desired outcomes.

Don't know where to get started with SMART Goals? Perhaps you should partner with a hospitality consultant who can bring an outside perspective to your business.