The past year has been fraught with hardship for those operating in the hotel sector. The end of one lockdown was closely followed by the start of another, while endless restrictions have significantly hindered the guest experience.
The pandemic will leave behind a burdensome bill for the industry to settle. Last year cost the five largest hotel chains over $25bn in losses, while the UK hospitality sector has lost an estimated £200m per day.
However, the industry must not get hung up on recouping lost revenue. Indeed, quarterly figures, balance sheets and ROI aren’t all that matter when building resilience into a business. Our industry’s foundations consist of exemplary service, a caring, healthy community, and an outstanding guest experience – a profoundly people-centric core that must not be lost in hoteliers’ response to the pandemic. With this in mind, managers who emphasise their hotel’s human side will stand the best chance of surviving this crisis and succeeding beyond it.
The importance of human investment
Hotels cannot achieve their amazing offerings without the help of their staff. For hoteliers, staff and the exceptional service they provide can be the very reason guests return time and time again. Understanding the value of employees to your hotel will help set managers up for success when restructuring the business.
During and post-pandemic, nurturing the wellbeing of their employees should be the first consideration for any manager looking to secure their business’ long-term future. However, we must not forget that our greatest assets are only human, and we must do our utmost to support them as best we can both emotionally and financially. Demonstrating this care, at Inntelligence, our staff-oriented approach has earned us ‘Investors in People’ Platinum accreditation, an accolade we are extremely proud. Demonstrating this care, at Inntelligence, our staff-oriented focus has earned us ‘Investors in People’ Platinum accreditation, an accolade we are extremely proud. This caring approach is shared across our hotel portfolio. For example, Burgh Island Hotel is committed to a family orientated ethos and chose to prioritise its staff’s needs and opened its doors to employees during the multiple lockdowns, giving them a place to stay and thrive as a community rather than be alone at home.
Reflecting the importance of this endeavour, other leading hotel chains have also made great strides to invest in their people during this difficult time. For example, MGM Resorts has set up an Emergency Employee fund to keep staff paid while resorts are closed. Likewise, Hilton partnered with other leading firms, such as Amazon and CVS, to secure short-term, pandemic-resilient employment for hotel staff.
The hospitality sector as a whole must pull together in these times of financial adversity. Indeed, with almost 8.5% of all UK jobs and 10.5% of UK establishments being in the hospitality industry, our economy cannot afford to neglect this sector at present and through future crises. Unfortunately, governmental support for the industry has been relatively lacklustre, so this responsibility has been left with hotel managers.
Helpfully, the industry has undertaken various positive initiatives to support the sector, such as Inntelligence’s Hospitality Positivity Challenge. The scheme is part of a series of fundraising challenges running across Inntelligence’s portfolio of hotels with Burgh Island as the epicentre. The campaign aims to raise spirits as well as money, providing much needed positivity for members of the hospitality sector after a difficult 2020. We will be donating half of the funds raised to Hospitality Action, a charity which has offered vital assistance to those working in hospitality for more than 150 years. The other half is going toward a marketing fund working to create more positive messaging around hospitality.
Same challenges, new opportunities
John Maxwell said, ‘change is inevitable. Growth is optional’ – This sentiment is important for hotel managers as they respond to this pandemic. Indeed, crises are inherently negative events, but the change they incite offers an opportunity to grow. In this vein, managers may wish to spend the remainder of lockdown 3.0 re-evaluating and innovating their business for when guests return.
With travel anxiety having significantly altered guest priorities, implementing changes that mitigate fears will make an establishment a far more attractive option once restrictions ease. Socially distanced dining experiences and contactless service interfaces are fantastic examples of this. However, hoteliers shouldn’t underestimate the power of introducing a new guest activity or an exciting menu change in piquing guest interest.
Covid-19 has drastically shifted guest priorities, but expectations were changing long before the pandemic began. Over the past decade, increased demand for sustainability has well and truly trickled into the spending propensity of hospitality industry customers. In fact, research shows that guests are willing to pay more to stay in eco-friendly hotels. Hotels must consider these changing attitudes and adapt the experience to appeal to the ‘green guest’, whether by investing in eco-buildings, renewable energy, recycling schemes or sustainably sourced products and ingredients.
Burgh Island, one of the hotels in our portfolio, has committed to sustainable practices that minimise its impact on the natural landscape that surrounds it. The building has been refurbished to improve energy efficiency, solar panels were implemented on underused land, they use their own borehole for cleaning water and irrigation and all staff are trained in energy awareness. Moreover, a significant amount of produce is sourced from Burgh’s onsite garden and all other food supplies are local to help support community business and reduce emissions. These efforts do not go unnoticed – Burgh Island has been awarded Gold by the Green Tourism movement and the Gold Award by the Green Apple Organisation for conservation.
Any business in the hospitality sector is bound to have its good and bad times. The past year hasn’t been short of the latter. However, rather than simply surviving, hotel managers must now focus on bolstering resilience in their business, and a human-centric approach will be invaluable in guaranteeing success both financially and socioeconomically.
By Anj Germain, brand director at Inntelligence