HB on the Scene: Moving forward post-pandemic top of mind at ALIS

LOS ANGELES—The hotel industry came together for the second major conference since the COVID-19 pandemic for the 20th anniversary edition of The Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS) here.

On the minds of most in attendance was what the post-COVID hospitality market will look like and how hoteliers will face the challenges that the pandemic has brought about and how they can return to profitability.

During theBoardroom Outlook: Returning to Profitability” session, moderator Ken Greene, interim president/CEO, AAHOA, asked the panelists what three things need to be done to do just that.

Rob Palleschi, CEO, G6 Hospitality, offered his take: “We can’t lose sight of the culture of what we’ve all established. And we need to continue to grow that culture. I think we need to continue to develop great revenue management tools, particularly as we grow the next generation of hoteliers. And then the third for me is that there really can’t be any daylight between my brand and my partners. My franchise partner has to be completely on the same page—no daylight—to ensure that we move forward and grow profitability.”

Warren Q. Fields, president/CEO, Pyramid Hotel Group, agreed that employee culture is important: “We have to treat all of our associates at every level with dignity and respect, be truthful to them and allow them to actualize what they want to do in their careers in the hospitality industry. I think if we do that, we have really great people who want to do the right thing at the property…The second thing is that we have tried to use data analytics to solve a lot of problems, particularly from a reporting perspective. I think we’ve probably taken 10-15 man-hours a week out of things that we used to do. That all happened during the pandemic. Thirdly, we have to just be smarter as an industry in terms of not racing to the bottom on trying to one, either drive rate or fees.”

For Ray Bhai, CEO, IBF Hospitality, returning to profitability is all about retention: “It is going to be retention of your labor, retention of your asset and retention of your customer. It costs a lot to get that customer into your hotel. That customer needs to stay into your hotel and that customer needs to enjoy the service and needs to be a repeat customer…How much does it cost to acquire that customer? How much does it cost to keep that customer at your hotel? Everything about this is retention. You retain your customers, you’re retaining your cost, you’re retaining your labor.”

Retaining that labor is a key to keeping costs down. “I have not used a staffing agency more in the last four months than ever before, and it is a cost,” he said. “We need to retain those employees so that way we can cut down on our costs. Right now, just on some of our back of the house, housekeeping and other operations, we’re actually $20-$22 an hour. And that’s with both the base pay and what we’re paying for the staffing agency. All that needs to basically go down so that we can be profitable.”

Stay tuned for more conference coverage in the 9/15 issue of Hotel Business.