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Beekeeper’s Top Takeaways from the 2019 Lodging Conference

This year, the Lodging Conference celebrated its 25th year of existence — a major accomplishment in terms of conference longevity.

The conference embraces a work hard/play hard motto, and it sets itself apart from other hospitality conferences as being a haven for some of the world’s most esteemed hotel executives. It’s intimate. It’s down to Earth. It’s a veritable think tank of the hospitality industry elite.

This year, Beekeeper hosted a thought leadership roundtable with 14 of the industry’s top hospitality executives to discuss the future of hotel tech and operations.

Here were some of our top takeaways from that day.

Internal Communications Must Trickle Down to Frontline Hospitality Employees to Improve the Guest Experience

In the hospitality industry, information has a long way to go before it reaches frontline staff such as housekeepers and front desk workers. Our executives agreed that the best way to enhance the guest experience is to come up with a practical way to disseminate information directly to these frontline employees.

We’re seeing more and more hotels implement BYOD policies and embrace real-time, mobile communication to make sure that vital information reaches their associates.

Hotels Are Looking for New Ways to Track Operational Efficiency

Some of our executives noted that right now, they’re using spreadsheets to track housekeeper efficiency — a very manual, and very tedious process.

Beekeeper operations management

As hotel operations technology becomes more advanced, we expect to see more hotels turning to AI-powered tech to automate efficiency tracking.

The ability to accurately measure the overall efficiency of your hospitality labor force is a must for hotels looking to reduce their operating costs.

Hotels Need to Get “Back to Basics”

Believe it or not, the hotel industry predates the dawn of the internet by a couple hundred years. Service and people skills were what the hospitality industry was all about before computers even existed, and some of the executives we spoke with believe that it’s time for good old fashioned customer service to make a come back.

Mary Beth Cutshall, EVP & CMO of Hospitality Ventures Management Group agrees with this “back to basics” approach. Hospitality is a human-first industry. The hotel industry needs to find new ways to get employees off the computer, out of the back office, and back in front of the guests where they can shine.

Hotels May Need to Rethink Their Business Model Entirely

In an age where tech companies have redefined the way a successful business operates, the ability to be nimble, agile, and move quickly on new opportunities is more important than ever — even in legacy industries like hospitality.

Mary Beth astutely pointed out that “Hotel brands need to reinvent themselves.” In an increasingly crowded travel sector where newcomers like Airbnb are disrupting business as usual, hotels are feeling the added pressure.

To stay ahead of the competition, hotels may need to start operating more like tech companies.

But what exactly can hotels do to shake things up, cut costs, and stay on top?

Here are a few ideas from our executives.

Introduce Attribute-Based Selling

If the term “Attribute-Based Selling” is new to you, the easiest way to explain it is to use the airline industry as an example.

Many airlines have embraced an “a la carte” pricing structure. Want to check a bag? There’s a fee. A bottle of water during your flight? That’s two bucks. Every little enhancement made to your experience comes with a small uptick in the price.

Many see it as the perfect compromise — it keeps baseline prices low while still providing an avenue for revenue through very targeted upselling. Customers can create the exact package of amenities that they need at an affordable price.

IDeaS chief evangelist Klaus Kohlmayr says:

“In the future, we will see the unbundling of the room product into attributes and experiences, and the increased integration of customer data to create more relevant, personalized offers, in real time.”

Renewed Commitment to the Employee Experience

Anonymous employee survey through a team app on a mobile device.

“Labor is the biggest issue we have and it’s at a code red situation.”
Karrie Branson

We’ve covered the labor shortage in the hospitality industry extensively on our blog here before. The distribution of the labor shortage is disproportionality skewed towards the hospitality sector.

To recap, here are some quick stats to outline the impact that high turnover has on a hotel business.

  • The industry grew 3.9% in 2018, pumping $8.8 trillion into local economies worldwide, with no signs of slowing down
  • Annualized employee turnover rate of 73.8% in the hotel industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • 50% of people don’t feel like their career in hospitality is something they can be proud of
  • 1.139M job openings in North America alone for travel and hospitality
  • Cost to replace a management-level hospitality employee is 150% of their salary and 40% for line-level employees

Every executive at our roundtable agreed that in order to combat the growing labor shortage crisis in hospitality, hotels must renew their focus on the employee experience.

Here are some ways that hotels can create a more “employee-centric” work environment.

  • Recognizing teams and celebrating each and every team member
  • Flexible shifts:
    Aik Hong Tan, CEO of Greenwood Hospitality suggested,

“Let’s get creative. Why not start housekeeping at 9 and make it into a four hour shift so employees can get off work in time to pick up their kids from school?”

  • Vocational training
  • Offering employees a clear path to move up within the company

Fun fact: Almost every single one of the major brand CEOs at our roundtable started out as frontline workers. They worked their way up the company ladder to become successful hospitality executives. The opportunity for career growth in hospitality is huge — but most frontline employees just don’t know about it.

The Future of Hospitality Is Here

The hospitality industry is facing some serious challenges. Up and coming new business models like Airbnb are creating stiff competition. The gig economy is luring away skilled workers. Rapid expansion has increased overall operating costs, and razor thin margins are a constant concern. To overcome these challenges, some of the industry’s top hotel executives are rewriting the business playbook for hospitality.

Our roundtable executives agree that if the industry is going to continue to grow successfully, hotels need to get back to their customer service roots, leverage technology to be more effective, improve communication with their frontline associates, and renew their commitment to the employee experience.

Ready to improve company culture at your hotel? Download our Hospitality Culture Report to see what top hotels are doing to retain employees and build a strong culture.