As we transition into the new, post-pandemic normal, it’s safe to say that hospitality will never be the same. But with disruption comes opportunity, and the path forward — while different than it was — this disruption will lead to new beginnings for the hospitality industry, and a future powered by technology and innovation.
In 2022, recovery will continue to be a slow and steady climb for hospitality, with big obstacles to overcome. Companies need to find talent, RevPAR won’t reach pre-pandemic levels until 2023, and business travel will continue to lag behind.
But as the industry navigates these hurdles, it’ll also build on the technology it acquired during the pandemic to streamline operations and create new growth strategies. Ultimately, this period of regeneration will lead to a more agile, resilient hospitality industry.
Let’s take a look at the top five trends that will shape the hospitality industry in 2022.
1. Creating a Digital Frontline Experience to Rebuild the Hospitality Workforce
An unexpected consequence of the pandemic has been a mass exodus of workers that’s left companies struggling to find staff as they reopened their doors. It’s been dubbed the Great Resignation.
This labor shortage has hit hospitality particularly hard:
- In August of 2021, 890,000 hospitality workers left their jobs, double the national average.
- Restaurants are short 3 million workers
- 58% of hospitality workers plan to leave their jobs
- Many hotels are operating with less than 70% of the housekeeping staff they need
Why is this happening?
- 52% of the workforce experienced burnout during the pandemic
- Workers have been reassessing their career choices and are forging new paths
- Workers have used this time to gain new skills and have taken new jobs that offer a better work-life balance. With the competition for talent, workers have the upper hand and more freedom to make big changes
In 2022, hospitality companies will be laser-focused on rebuilding their workforces. They’ll start with the basics—offering competitive pay and benefits. They’ll also leverage technology to attract and retain talent by improving the employee experience one digital step at a time.
While companies have invested in guest-facing solutions, employees have been an afterthought in digital strategies. According to a recent Cornell University article, “From a marketing perspective, guest technology is advanced; hotels are able to collect and use extensive customer preference data. Data on employees, however, is not as consistently available, and this affects communications.”
The hospitality industry will incorporate mobile communication solutions to digitize the employee experience for frontline workers. In fact, 60% of companies who rely on frontline teams want to centralize communication through a digital workplace.
Benefits of a mobile-first solution include:
- Frontline workers are empowered to deliver better customer service
- Higher employee engagement
- Opportunities to upskill with digital learning solutions
- Two-way communication allows frontline feedback for better decision making
- A more autonomous workforce with greater flexibility over their shift schedules, something that 19% of people want in their jobs
Philadelphia’s Fitler Club, an innovative hospitality space, managed to retain its workforce during the pandemic, even reducing turnover from 78% pre-pandemic to just 10% in 2021. How? The company created a digital culture by connecting its staff through Beekeeper’s mobile platform. The workforce stayed connected and engaged during the pandemic which enabled a seamless transition when employees returned to work.
In 2022, hospitality will use mobile-first tools to create the experience that employees are looking for — but don’t often find — in frontline jobs.
2. Creating a Personalized, Seamless Customer Journey
The summer of 2021 saw leisure travel roar back to pre-pandemic levels. But lack of business travel—which dropped by 90% in 2020 and was still down by 50% in 2021—is holding the recovery up. People are still working remotely and conferences are still happening virtually, keeping hotel occupancy rates hovering around 59%. RevPAR jumped during Thanksgiving week in 2021 to $68, 19.6% increase from 2019, but experts are not predicting a full recovery until 2023.
Consumers have grown accustomed to two things during the pandemic: technology and staying home. Even though they’re ready to get out again, companies will use technology to make the guest experience personalized and easy.
Hotels in particular will try to lure business travelers back by equipping hotel rooms with all the technology they need.
Hospitality companies dramatically accelerated their digital transformations to adapt during the pandemic. This helped them pivot to new business models but also created new ways to engage with customers and added new revenue streams. While customers ultimately want to spend money at establishments with great food and great service, they’re also seeking convenience and ease when engaging in leisure activities. Hospitality will continue to invest in customer-facing technology through their recovery and beyond to facilitate this growing demand for a fast, convenient customer journey.
In 2022, there will be more:
- Smart hotel rooms that guests can control from their mobile device and which also have greater appeal for business travelers who need work-ready rooms
- Mobile customer journeys for seamless, personalized experiences. 46% of diners prefer to order over their mobile device and 44% want to be able to track their orders. But mobile capabilities will extend to other hospitality venues like theaters and recreational activity locations, i.e. bowling alleys.
- More self-service amenities with AI and mobile capabilities and even biometrics, like fingerprints, voice activation, and facial recognition, that can track customer data for customized service and generate repeat business. (Though companies will have to ensure customer privacy and security are not at risk with these next-level technologies.)
- Hotels equipped with work-ready tech. Think: Zoom rooms.
People have come to rely on technology for every aspect of their lives. In 2022, companies will focus on delivering a personalized, smart experience for customers that makes it easier than ever to get out and enjoy leisure activities once again.
3. The Automation of HR Tasks
HR teams have a big job in front of them—filling the massive gap in the hospitality workforce. In 2022, digital platforms will automate HR tasks so personnel can focus on talent acquisition and onboarding, retention strategies, and the employee experience.
With mobile-first platforms, tasks like payroll, schedules, and open enrollment will be digitalized. Workers can use chatbots over their devices to ask questions and will have direct access to essential information. Automation can also simplify and streamline a complex, time-consuming process—onboarding .
HR automation in hospitality will be a win-win for both administrators and workers.
30% of organizations are expected to adopt AI-based solutions for HR, a jump from 17% in 2020. According to a recent PwC survey, 74% of companies will increase spending on HR technology with a clear focus on talent acquisition tools.
Automated HR processes will focus on three main areas:
- Operations: Mobile-first solutions will connect HR to the frontline for real-time communication on issues that matter to workers.
- Talent acquisition: HR will automate talent screening, hiring, and onboarding to find the right candidates for the right roles.
- Employee engagement monitoring: Analytics will help HR deliver targeted strategies to improve the employee experience.
One company that is ahead of the trend is SH Hotels & Resorts. This hotel has successfully automated the hiring and onboarding process to personalize the employee journey and create a more targeted, efficient process for HR personnel.
4. The Rise of Connected Hospitality
If you think the Internet of Things (Iot) is just for manufacturing, think again. Welcome to connected hospitality!
In 2022, hospitality will become a more data-driven industry. From building systems to CRM platforms, companies will create a connected environment where different networks and software can connect for greater efficiency.
The hospitality industry as a whole will invest in smart technology to gather actionable insights into their business, their customers, and their employees to make better decisions.
Connected systems and people will allow companies to achieve a leaner operational status by reducing redundancy and waste. Other benefits of IoT in hospitality include:
- Guests will experience a seamless experience from booking to check-out.
- Companies can operate effectively despite the labor shortage.
- Platforms like Beekeeper will connect distributed teams to streamline communication and improve customer service by creating a communication channel between once-siloed departments.
- Optimize facility function and efficiency and enable predictive maintenance
- IoT can create a system of checks and balances to ensure regulatory compliance
- Help companies find alternative solutions when supply chains are disrupted
70% of hospitality companies are moving toward an IoT-enabled organization and beginning to realize the benefits of data.
5. Back to Business: Investing in Corporate Initiatives
After two years of crisis management, hospitality businesses are ramping up and rebuilding. In the process, they’ll leverage the lessons learned and the technology acquired during the pandemic to create new revenue streams, build a thriving workforce, and gain a competitive advantage with digitalization.
Companies will pick up where they left off, focusing their efforts on action items that they had to abandon in March 2020. They’ll work on:
- Sustainability initiatives
- Employee engagement strategies
- Diversity and inclusion initiatives
- Risk management frameworks
- Employee training and engagement strategies
This last section is a big one. Right now, hospitality workers are not only burnt out, they’re actively disengaged, under-trained and under-informed. These are industry setbacks that translate to poor customer service and will hinder any progress towards recovery. Hospitality needs to focus on engaging employees, training employees, and empowering them with access to the tools and information they need to perform at their highest level, a key ingredient to workplace happiness.
Hospitality companies are investing more into employee training to create institutional knowledge and opportunities for growth. They will leverage personalized and mobile technology to connect frontline workers to critical information to optimize performance and empower managers, who have a direct impact on employee engagement.
(Even before the pandemic began, Gallup found that restaurant managers were half as engaged as their counterparts in other industries.)
With a new perspective, greater agility, and full digital transformation, hospitality companies will rebuild their workforces, deliver personalized experiences to customers, and focus on revenue growth strategies. 2022 will be a year of getting back to business for hospitality. And that’s exactly what the industry needs.