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 — will lead to new beginnings for the hospitality industry, and a future powered by technology and innovation.
The hospitality industry took a $500 billion hit during the first year of the pandemic. In 2022, the industry is struggling to meet a surge in travel demand with severely limited staffing and resources. 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.
The road to a full recovery is going to take time. But even during an era of inflation, people are getting out again and spending money on travel and leisure activities. So in order to survive, hospitality businesses need to quickly strategize to accommodate the influx of guests in this new normal. These are the top trends that will help companies make a comeback and shape the future of the industry.
The Top Five Latest Hospitality Trends
1. Creating a Digital Frontline Experience to Rebuild the Hospitality Workforce
An unexpected consequence of the pandemic has been a mass exodus of workers who have left their jobs and hotel management is 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 businesses will be laser-focused on rebuilding their workforces. This effort will dominate hospitality trends for the foreseeable future. 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. Reskilling in hospitality will also become a key strategy for hotel management.
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.”
Hotel management will incorporate mobile communication solutions to digitize the employee experience for frontline workers. In fact, 60% of companies that 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 their jobs.
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
Another trend? Revamping the travel industry to welcome back the rush of guests on personal getaways, and lure business travelers back. That means creating a new kind of hotel stay for travelers.
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 businesses 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 its 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 devices 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.
- Self-service amenities with AI and biometrics, like fingerprints, voice activation, and facial recognition, 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.)
People have come to rely on technology for every aspect of their lives and the travel industry should be ready to accommodate them. 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. Automation Tops HR Trends in Hospitality Industry
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 on 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 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. The company has 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 an entire organization for greater efficiency. Companies will invest in smart technology to gather actionable insights into their business, their customers, and their employees to make decisions that deliver better outcomes.
Connected systems and people will allow hotel management 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
- 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 businesses 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, companies will start getting back to business as usual. 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.
Hospitality organizations will need to focus on making big improvements to both the guest and employee experience. Reputation, exceptional service, and being an attractive, competitive employer in a job seeker’s market will be key corporate initiatives in the coming years.
They’ll work on:
- Optimizing the guest journey and delivering great service
- Diversity and inclusion initiatives
- Risk management frameworks
- Employee training and engagement strategies
- Employee recruitment and retention initiatives
This last section is a big one when it comes to important hospitality trends. 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 toward 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.
Companies will begin to make greater investments into employee training to build institutional knowledge and create opportunities for growth. Leveraging mobile technology to connect frontline workers to critical information will go a long way to 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.)
Hospitality is facing an unprecedented labor shortage and guest satisfaction challenge. The industry must navigate this new normal in order to stabilize and grow. With a new perspective, greater agility, and full digital transformation, hospitality companies will rebuild their workforces, deliver exceptional service to customers, and invest in new technologies along the way.
The future for hospitality is bright if companies can act fast and make needed improvements to both the employee and the guest experience.