As the global hotel industry continues on a path of recovery, hoteliers are adapting each day to streamline operations while maintaining an adequate level of service and attracting and retaining the talent to deliver that guest satisfaction.
Here are some of the highlights from Hotel News Now coverage over the past six months about the pain points operators are going through and how they’re finding solutions.
In July 2021, hotels in the U.S. began running at nearly 2019 occupancy levels, said Remington Hotels CEO and President Sloan Dean. While the increased occupancy was a positive, most of the bookings came from leisure travel, meaning more guests per occupied room that led to more time needed to clean the rooms.
“In our leisure resorts, we’ve had to add more trash cans to the rooms because more people are eating in the rooms, they’re bringing more with them and leaving more in the rooms,” Dean said.
Arbor Lodging Management CEO Sheenal Patel said the entire industry is feeling pain from the lack of hourly employees to spread around duties.
Chesapeake Hospitality CEO Chris Green said his company is investing in ways to get staff members more vacation time.
“They’re exhausted. They’re emotionally drained,” he said.
Some hotel brands in the U.S. shifted to an opt-in model for daily housekeeping over the summer, which executives said can help balance guest preferences with the current labor market.
Hilton moved to the opt-in model at its non-luxury U.S. properties, noting guests had varying levels of comfort with someone entering their rooms after they checked in.
“All in all, we have less people to be able to work in our hotels. We have to figure out a way to still be able to provide the service our guests want and need,” said Arbor Lodging’s Patel. “My view is that … changing how we’re doing housekeeping requires less housekeepers, but if every hotel out there stayed as is, we would have struggled even more to fill all those positions.”
Despite limited services, guest satisfaction scores managed to hold at the same rate as 2020. However, guests were still vocal about what they value during an overnight stay.
The J.D. Power 2021 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index study released in July 2021 noted on a 1,000-point scale, overall hotel guest satisfaction was 830, which is flat compared to 2020 and 10 points higher than in 2019.
The survey said 36% of hotels removed buffet-style services in response to the pandemic’s focus on social distancing, which caused a decline in satisfaction.
“It’s through no fault of the hotel. They tried to do their best, but it was that variety that guests were missing, the quality guests were missing,” said Andrea Stokes, hospitality practice lead at J.D. Power. “What hotels were able to do with a small grab-and-go lunch bag of food, it just wasn’t what guests were used to.”
Because some hotel brands need to trim the number of items on their menus, they are now focusing on higher-quality items over quantity.
Starting Jan. 1, 2022, brands such as Hyatt Hotels Corp., Hilton and Marriott International will launch new offerings and programs for breakfast, showcasing higher-quality options, including vegan and vegetarian, that can be customized.
“By the reduction of it, we’ve produced a better rotational menu [allowing] us to have better controls in ordering, better controls of inventory and a slight reduction of costs,” said Travis Murray, vice president of operations at McNeill Hotel Company. “However, that cost is now being outweighed by the increase in quality of materials and labor.”
Sage Hospitality Group’s recently opened extended-stay hotel Catbird in Denver offers a “chef’s counter.”
“Our chef offers one item a day, which lets us have some control,” said Meaghan Goedde, chief operating officer and executive vice president of Sage Restaurant Concepts at hotel development and management company Sage Hospitality Group. “It’s one really great breakfast sandwich, with a veggie option and a meat option. It’s chef-driven, so it’s based on what he has and what’s available and it’s served us really well.”
Though experiential travel has been a buzz word of the past, it’s now top of mind for many hotel brand operators.
Speaking during a panel on experiential travel at the Gulf & Indian Ocean Hotel Investors’ Summit in Ras al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates, Louis Thompson, CEO of Nomadic Resorts, which designs landscape, interiors and architecture, warned against promoting a destination as one that could be perceived as simulating the culture.
“It can be made slightly Disney World-esque. Culture is dynamic, not set in a historical vacuum,” Thompson said. “We need to do our homework and understand why a culture is special.”
Tommy Lai, CEO at Singapore-based investment firm General Hotel Management, said a hotel stay sticks with a guest post-vacation only if the service is up to par and genuine.
In September, CoralTree Hospitality, in partnership with its parent company real estate owner Lowe, inked a deal to manage four of Magnolia Hotels’ properties. Both companies have a shared interest in creating memorable experiences for higher-end travelers, said CoralTree founder and President Tom Luersen.
“Magnolia’s hotels are not cookie-cutter buildings. They have historical reverence in the markets they’re in, and they brought them to life by creating these threads of service that are consistent from one market to the other,” he said.
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