Why the Hospitality Industry Will Never (Yet Always) Be the Same: 3 questions that need to be asked

February 11, 2015


Hospitality, perhaps more than any other industry, is a balancing act. On one side you have rapidly-changing times. On the other you have timeless standards of service. Each side presents its own set of challenges, yet everything must work together to create a reputable and profitable asset.


Staff and amenities have always been the heart of the industry, and online reviews have made these fundamentals more relevant than ever. But in most cases, high standards of service are not enough. Whether you’re running a hotel, motel, serviced apartment or resort, being profitable involves an unprecedented amount of work extending beyond the walls of the property itself.


Here are a few questions that can help determine whether an operation is up to the challenge.


1. Which century are we in?


Millennials (generally people born in the 1980s or later) are the fastest growing segment of the hospitality market, and their expectations cannot be taken lightly. Simple, seamless technology throughout the search and booking process is almost as basic as clean sheets and hot water. Meaningful engagement in social media is an extension of friendly and caring staff. Cultivating personal connections to the brand, and linking hospitality to the professional and personal lives of clients, are necessary measures that ultimately shape a property’s reputation.


What about the rise of peer-to-peer networks? AirBnB and Uber are two examples of the hospitality industry being stood on its head. Far from seeing them as passing trends, owners and operators must embrace the values represented by new business models—for example, by using Dynamic Rate Marketing (DRM) techniques to place intelligent, real-time pricing into different markets depending on present goals.


Sustainability is another example. Eco-friendly initiatives in areas like energy and water are ways for brands to align with the core values of consumers—and with the cost of basic resources on the rise, ‘going green’ represents a two-fold opportunity to improve the bottom line.


2. Is my workforce motivated and passionate?


Recent research indicates that most people working in the hospitality industry—as many as two thirds—understand the importance of being passionate at work. This does not mean, however, that two thirds actually are passionate.


Keeping team members motivated and passionate is one of the keys to long-term success, as it ultimately shapes the customer experience. These considerations should never come as an afterthought—and they apply to outgoing team members as well. When positions are made redundant, the quality of outplacement can have a far-reaching impact.


Coaching and mentoring can even be beneficial for executives and owners themselves. It can help leverage their strengths, identify their weaknesses, and bring about positive changes in leadership style.


3. Is my network legendary?


Some of you may have seen a film called The Grand Budapest Hotel, which featured prominently in the 2015 Academy Awards. In one scene, the main character (a concierge) finds himself in a bind. He draws on a secret network of concierges across the globe, and as a result of their extensive connections, he finds his way out of trouble.


This may be a fanciful plot point, but it does highlight the importance of networking in the hospitality industry. To build and operate a successful property, it’s necessary to find the right people. Operators, managers, lessees. Keeping an extensive network of industry connections—or gaining access to someone who does—can make things happen quickly, smoothly, and cost-effectively. This is one area where online networking has not been able replace the value of personal connections in the industry.


The list goes on…


There are many other questions that people in the hospitality industry can and should ask. Are the books impeccable? Has the property undergone a comprehensive financial review that includes budgets, expenses and P&L statements? Has the property been informed by professional concept advice and branding? What about our operational and design knowledge? Do we really have all the perspective we need?


Working with developers, owners, operators, investors and staff over the past thirty years has convinced me that success in hospitality calls for a truly dynamic approach. You have to see the big picture without ever losing sight of the details, and you have to constantly ask questions that push you to improve and then be prepared to act on the answers. Only then will you be able to maintain that reputable and profitable position—the balance between those things that change, and those things that don’t.


What do you see as the industries biggest changes, and the things we need to hold on to the most?



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