The Biggest Challenges Facing Hotel Staffers Today
The hospitality industry is booming. Growth is being driven by increased global travel, strong demand for business travel and a shift from spending on “things” to spending on “experiences.” As the market evolves, there are new demands from guests for a unique hotel stay that meets their needs, provides more personalized service and even speaks to their social conscience. Hotel staffers have even more responsibilities to meet the needs and interests of today’s guests.
Some of the challenges facing hotels today fall into these common categories:
Technology: Today’s guests are very tech-savvy and are comfortable using mobile devices to book their stay, order room service, make reservations, etc. They expect a seamless connection to all their platforms, high-quality tech equipment, and a highly trained staff at conferences and business meetings. More IT training and tech staff will be required to meet these increasing demands.
Chatbots: One way to provide fast, self-service is to offer chatbots where customers can interact with an app that can answer questions or requests and engage in a natural language conversation. These interactions can provide consistent, effective service at a low cost and can even escalate to a live agent when necessary. This should free up the staff to handle more complex situations when they arise, but the staff will need to be trained and empowered to solve more problems and make decisions on the spot.
Appealing to Millennials: Travelers in the 18-34 age group are expected to represent 50% of all travelers to the US by 2025, according to the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research. Hotel staff and managers have to devise strategies to meet the demands of this demographic group. They are early tech adopters, often spontaneous in their decisions and prefer high-end dining as well as easy check-ins and affordable pricing. They value experiences and are quick to post pictures and comments about their trips.
Increased International Travelers: The U.S. has become the number one destination for long-distance flights. Hotels need to focus on providing a comfortable experience for foreign travelers that is sensitive to cultural differences and expectations. Providing information in multiple languages is essential, as well as having multi-lingual staff trained to interact with guests from all over the world.
Finding Talent/Staff: As a hiring manager, finding and retaining educated, talented staff is becoming more difficult. As the labor market tightens, the pool of available applicants is shrinking. There also needs to be more of an emphasis on employee morale and incentives as well as a way to fast-track younger employees to keep them engaged and committed.
Competing with Airbnb: Marketing staff is facing stiff competition from companies like Airbnb, VRBO, Home Away and others who have staked a large claim on the lodging market. In order to stay competitive, traditional hotels must offer rooms at a reasonable price with personalized amenities that make guests feel at home.
Changing Tastes: Food and beverage managers have to offer more vegetarian and vegan dishes for today’s diners. Any restaurant that doesn’t is missing out on millions of potential customers… and these dishes need to be creative and upscale options, not just mac and cheese or pasta choices.
Personalization: Guests have become accustomed to personal, one-click shopping experiences paired with loyalty rewards. It’s especially challenging to make those rewards meaningful when most people only travel one or two times a year. It’s hard to get enough personal information about them to provide unique and compelling reasons for them to return. Sales staff will need to embrace this trend and come up with rewards that differ depending on whether the guest is traveling for business or pleasure.
Reputation Management: According to TripAdvisor, 93% of people rely on hotel reviews when deciding where to stay, and 53% will not book a hotel without a review. It’s become a necessity for companies to have a professional Hotel Reputation Manager on staff to keep track of the social media conversations and ratings as well as to respond quickly to questions and concerns. Customer loyalty is based on customer satisfaction, and even if a negative review is specific to one location of your brand, it resonates across all locations in the minds of travelers.
Health & Wellness Travel: There is an increased emphasis on health and wellness that requires hotels to provide well-equipped fitness centers and pools, as well as healthy food options. Guests are looking for yoga spaces, in-room exercise equipment, vitamin-infused water and knowledgeable instructors to conduct activities as well as personal trainers.
Multi-generational travelers: Extended families that are traveling together as a group is a growing trend. Instead of treating them as individual leisure travelers, sales staff could treat them as a social group and provide activities around your location, crafting a full-service program along with a package of rooms.
As the market changes, the hotel staff has to evolve to meet the needs of business and leisure travelers. Staying on top of cultural trends and offering unique and exciting options for all segments of your customer base are the keys to success.