Future-proofing your hotel

By Frederic Dominioni

The industry upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has many hospitality professionals thinking of strategies to safeguard their businesses against another world-changing event. Property managers and owners are looking for ways to instill resiliency in their operations, attract and retain loyal customers and set up guardrails to ensure future revenue. Simply put, hotel leaders are seeking ways to future-proof their business.

To truly future-proof your properties, you need to think beyond the latest trends and adopt strategies to keep your business agile for changes that may lie ahead, whether that’s five years in the future or 20. Investing in the foundations of your business, such as technology and staff, while keeping that flexible mindset adopted during the last two years is the best way to ensure your hotel’s future.

Invest in tech
When investing in technology, look past all the bells and whistles and identify the value it brings to your business. You should also look for technology partners with a strong track record of success and support. Technology should make things easier, faster and more convenient. Cloud-based property management systems are a perfect example.

Unlike legacy systems, cloud-based systems can be accessed through any internet-capable device, allowing staff to stay mobile while accessing the information they need. System updates and feature releases are also conducted online, making them much quicker to implement. Most cloud-based systems also come with API integrations, meaning it’s easy to incorporate additional programs and services into your hotel’s tech ecosystem. Cloud systems are hosted through remote data centers, removing the need for on-site server rooms and maintenance, significantly reducing operating costs.

Don’t overlook the benefits of automation. From rate management to marketing efforts, automation increases efficiency and frees up time for staff, allowing them to focus on their guests.

We depend on our smartphones for many aspects of our lives—and travel is no exception. A recent survey found that guests want mobile functionality for many components of their hotel stay, from texting with staff to digital reservations and self-check-in.

Invest in staff
Hospitality is a people-focused industry, but guests aren’t the only people you should be focusing on; employees are crucial to your hotel’s success. For many hoteliers, staff training and onboarding is the highest priority in 2022 (even higher than revenue or fill rates). In the current labor shortage, hospitality has been hit the hardest, accounting for 6.4% of the record number of resignations in September 2021.

COVID gave workers a reason to reassess their priorities, and now they are choosing to pursue opportunities that better align with their needs. To retain a solid workforce, hoteliers should examine those priorities and stay open to modifying positions and hiring practices to fit them. Many people have cited low wages as the main driver of resignations, but recent reports show that this is not necessarily true. While pay is a factor, larger issues such as a lack of career opportunities and poor work-life balance are also at play.

Consider opportunities your hotel provides for career advancement. No one wants to stay at the bottom rung of the ladder forever, and if your business does not offer a way for employees to pull themselves up, they’ll find someone who will. To appeal to new hires, embrace strategies like providing access to training courses, offering job shadowing and running mentor programs. If you invest in developing these skills within your workforce, you can reap the benefits later by promoting from within your organization.

Long hours and demanding customers also factor into many workers’ decisions to leave. While night shifts, weekends, and holiday work are expected in the industry, property owners can implement strategies to mitigate the negative effects. Consider moving to a flexible scheduling model, where employees pick their shifts rather than have them assigned. You can also reach out to your part-time staff to see if they would like more hours or consider offering shifts as opportunities to learn other skills.

Stay flexible
According to Harvard Business Review, by 2030, millennials will make up 75% of the workforce, and this generation wants flexibility. It is easy to fall into a set way of doing things, and the past few years have proved the dangers of staying stuck in outdated ways of thinking. With the trauma of the pandemic fresh in our minds, we have all rediscovered the importance of meaningful jobs, supportive colleagues and flexible employers.

To stay relevant and successful, you must keep an open mind to changes in the industry, whether that is technological advancements, customer behavior changes or new ways of doing business. This does not mean adopting every trend that passes by but keeping an eye out for deeper changes within the industry. By remaining open to new ideas and processes, you can position your hospitality business for future success and adaptability.

In some ways, the pandemic was helpful to the hospitality industry, as it forced us to adapt quickly and try new things, and we should carry the lessons we learned forward with us. Future-proofing is about building a strong foundation while remaining flexible and open-minded enough to adjust your business model to remain successful no matter what comes next.

Fred Dominioni is chief revenue officer at RMS North America.

This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.