Running a hotel, resort, or even a boutique bed and breakfast offers no shortage of problems, surprises, and unexpected events. Challenges hotel and resort managers face today on a regular basis are numerous and significant. On top of the day-to-day hotel operations, there’s marketing, balancing the revenue and expenses, managing staff and more.
It’s hard to stay on top of all of these, especially in a time of changing demands and expectations. Not to mention the pandemic we’ve just gone through and the impending recession. Hospitality businesses today are facing some unprecedented changes in technology, availability of labor, inventory, and customer behaviours. This requires from hospitality companies much effort, creativity and innovation moving forward.
”"Three main challenges that the hospitality sector faces on a daily basis in a post-pandemic world are:
labor is really tightMatthew OpferkuchCEO and Founder of The Laundry Rooms
costs have gone up significantly
and our guests’ expectations are extremely high. Much higher than they were pre-pandemic."
Let’s review these core challenges and explore best ways for the hotel industry, general managers and teams to overcome them.
Many hospitality companies were short-staffed this summer. Many of them are challenged to employ and retain good hospitality workers with necessary skills. The remote work trend, low wages and demanding working conditions, repel quality human resources from the sector and creates HR challenges.
Inflation and rising costs
With the industry recovery bookings are coming back, but the costs are rising. Businesses are seeing significant increases in energy costs, food and drink price inflation and wages increase.
Inflation is 8.5% in the US and 9% in Europe. From gas and groceries to computers and clothing, everything is suddenly more expensive. This is squeezing margins and puts pressure on operators as well as property owners whose properties are managed by professional property managers.
Growing guest expectations
Millennials are rapidly taking over the travel industry, and with that, some adjustments are needed for operators to stay competitive. For one, we’re living in a time of instant gratification and convenience. This is an era where apps and mobile devices can offer us products such as rides and food delivery with the push of a button, paperless entry, and a whole lot of convenience, personalization and efficiency. Also, due to recent COVID-19 related events, there’s a need to take things as contactless as possible.
Travelers had to go contactless during the pandemic and then realized that there are more benefits in it beyond COVID-19 safety. Remote check-in process and the ability to skip the front desk plays a significant role for a hotel’s position in guests’ evaluations.
“Inspired” by digital retail, customer expectations from the hospitality industry became more demanding. Today’s guests want a personalized customer experience. Hotels have access to a lot of data about their guests, their booking and purchasing habits, to personalize their stay. Depending on if they have a favourite chain, or are a part of particular loyalty programs, there are habits and preferences that can be tapped into, to help enhance guests’ stays.
Personal details, demographics, reason for travel, preferences in amenities, meals, beverages, available activities, etc. This will help hospitality operators to elevate guest experience and increase revenue per guest with personalized and well-timed upsells. It will also help marketing to guests after they leave the property.
Therefore, hotels, resorts and short-term-rentals need to offer more value and streamlined experience for higher customer satisfaction. Everyone expects the outdated “amenities” of complementary toiletries, TVs, hairdryers, safes, irons, and laundry service. This is a given, and realistically, the majority of guests aren’t even using these as much anymore. Hotels need to take it up to an unprecedented level.
This means added benefits such as free high speed WiFi, entertainment systems, swift check-in and checkout services, and mobile-first service. In fact, according to a study conducted at Cornell University, guests actually want amenities that reflect the feeling of home such as an in-room coffee maker, apartment-style accommodations and kitchen facilities.
Experiences curation and add-ons
Personalization also goes another way; guests want their experience to be unique. Guests who are staying at your property want an experience that feels authentic to their destination. Yes, it’s efficient to design and outfit every Hilton property globally the same way, or have every Riu or Club Med look the same. From a branding perspective, it totally makes sense. But if you can’t tell what city or country you’re in from inside your hotel, it’s a missed opportunity to add personality and character to a guest’s adventure. A hotel room should reflect the spirit of the city or neighbourhood. More and more operators are tapping into local experiences, home-grown cuisine and taking their design cues from the local artisans and architecture. This is what increases guest satisfaction and brings positive reviews.
Modern guests measure service quality of an accommodation business by the ability to provide a personalized experience, contactless and quick access to the room, qualified staff and more. How can a hotel or resort meet these expectations with the labor shortage and rising costs in the current economic downturn? More and more hotels are turning to technology looking for solutions.
Keep up with the latest technology
These days, hotel and resort guests are more tech savvy. While intuitively, one would assume that a hotel/resort stay would mean a period of rest, relaxation and disconnection — it is a vacation after all — the truth is actually the opposite. They want the same, if not more, tech and connection options than at home. As indicated above under “must-have” amenities, there are a plethora of technology upgrades that are the bare minimum that a guest is looking for.
While that does come with a lot of incremental cost for resort or hotel owners, there is also a way to leverage technology to find efficiencies and help the bottom line. For example, the automation of regular day-to-day activities and processes, can offer both the hotel and guest a streamlined experience. For example, on the guest side, remote check-in and checkout, smart locks controlled by a mobile phone, and the ability to control the room’s entertainment options via a smartphone.
On the host side, the above technology options can cut down on staffing needs, while the implementation of a Property Management System (PMS) can help manage bookings, automate cleanings, consolidate guest profiles and communications, as well as manage other minutiae of hotel management such as staffing. There are plenty of different PMS services available, each offering similar features, thus managers should do the due diligence in figuring out which one would suit their venue best, and implementing it.
In addition to PMS there are tools, helping hotels and vacation rentals overcome operational challenges, eliminate negative reviews, improve pricing, monetize add-on hotel services, etc.
Reputation management and visibility
Today, if you’re not on the internet and have good things said about you, then you might as well not exist. Guests always take a look at a hotel’s brand reputation and reviews before deciding to book a room. Hence, hotels need to be mindful of what guests are sharing online. While this isn’t a new phenomenon, as reviews and reputations have traditionally never been a make-or-break moment for chains, it’s become more evident now that social media has become what it is. With third party feedback sites and a generation of guests that aren’t shy with their opinion, transparency is not the exception, but the rule. Hotels can no longer hide weaknesses and limitations from guests. The travellers of today make informed decisions not only from marketing/advertising campaigns, but also through the testimonials from other travellers.
To appropriately manage this, hotels need to monitor their reviews and offer reviews themselves, as well as stay on top of what guests are saying on other platforms. Investing in a PMS with a review management system, such as what Enso Connect provides, will help hotels monitor, manage and respond to online reviews in a timely manner. If there is a valid issue with a guest’s stay, hotels can immediately offer assistance, address the problem and seek to rectify it. This proactive behaviour can do wonders for a hotel’s reputation and desirability to travellers.
The concept of travel has been fundamentally changed by the introduction of social media, which impacts the customer journey in every stage. During the planning phase, social media posts offer inspiration, more so than any guide book or blog post can. In fact, over 83% of millennials admitted that they’d be more inclined to book a hotel if someone they followed had shared a positive experience and post about it. Then, they’d most likely book the hotel directly via that social media post. Conversely, over 49% said that if they couldn’t find a link through social media, or if a booking site took too long, they’d abandon the reservation attempt completely.
This only goes to show that managing your hotel/resort on social media transcends simply posting on your channels and maintaining a vocal and positive presence. It’s also about making your place social media friendly as well. This means making it easy for your guests to showcase your hotel with Instagram-worthy photo opportunities, high-speed WiFi throughout, and leveraging guest accounts, testimonials and reposts on your own channels.
Finding the tools for your property to succeed
The best way for a hotel and resort to move forward with ease, is to lean into technology and find a partner that helps automate their tasks, facilitate timely communications and check-ins with guests, and offers travellers all the best technology comforts from home. Guest’s needs are evolving and hospitality businesses can evolve with them to offer an unparalleled service, and tailoring their vacation needs to their personal preferences.