Current Challenges Facing Hospitality Today
When looking at current challenges in the hospitality industry, there are several we need to keep an eye on but three we need to focus on. Either by collaboration or by competition we must be willing to change and adapt while still maintaining a focus on excellent customer service and staff retention. This is not as easy as it sounds, as it is a delicate balance, but VITAL if you are in the hospitality industry to stay.
First, the ecommerce revolution in the 90"s changed the way consumers think and act when making purchasing decisions.
This gave the public a voice and platform to express their likes or dislikes, and with little to no moderator to inspect if and what credence these voices might have. Your potential guests can be from anywhere and anyone has access to voice their opinions, criticisms or praise. Your target audience is changing rapidly and you need to be sure that you are pitching to all audiences, globally. You need to take constant inventory of your staff and their behavior, and make certain it aligns with your brand image. Your hotels image starts before they ever walk in the door. From the booking experience to the follow up after they have checked out, this is something that needs to be embedded in your corporate culture. As they say, one bad apple can rot the bunch, and this is especially true when it comes to customer service. The social media component has become essential to maintaining a positive public image for the hospitality industry, and not just for hotels. Third party providers, vendors, gds channels, travel agents or any online revenue management company in hospitality also must maintain some sort of presence moreover, have a positive image within all forums.
Secondly, the dramatic overtaking of Online Bookings by Online Travel Intermediaries (OTA).
They charge a lot in commissions and can often be a bit of a bully, but are they a necessary evil? I think the power they have demonstrated they can wield is definitely very intimidating, but with the right balance between rate integrity and designation of room inventory we can all benefit by working together. Hoteliers are becoming a stronger unit, and because our industry is experiencing growth globally again we can all concentrate on maintaining the fundamentals of honesty, integrity and customer service.
If we read the current trades, we will see one constant variable; the industry veterans seem to be the leading provider of choice for GDS, Channel Management, PMS, Reporting Tools, Yield Management, Booking Engines etc.… Why? Because, they are going back to the ones they TRUST! The issue here is the element of simple competition - those who embrace efficiencies and maintain high ethics and standards have the strategic advantage over those who don"t. Despite the economy, in Europe we are experiencing double digit growth in bookings. Distribution is moving more rapidly from indirect to direct, so the question is, who will profit from it? The top travel sites like Bookings.com and Expedia are primarily centered around discussion before purchase, this would reflect that their customers are value conscious and studies show much research goes into making a booking, but it is expensive for hotels to distribute inventory in this area. Direct is the cheapest, and should be as simple as possible for customers. Customers usually know who and what they are looking for when going direct to a hotels website, but often we overcomplicate the booking process, which causes us to lose customers. Your conversion rates or look to book ratio should ideally be over 75%, yet many companies still miss the mark on engine simplicity and reliability. Travel Agents use the GDS, so hoteliers can"t forget the importance of content and presence on these channels. Ideally all avenues should display your hotel exactly the same, and maintain your brands image. Research and maintenance on data integrity in every distribution medium is essential, yet so often overlooked in critical areas. Having all of these checks and balances ensures your staff is always aware of public opinion, booking trends, market data and using this knowledge to increase revenue and growth. There are so many tools we can utilize such as reputation management, intelligence reports, trending or yielding tools for example that every hotel brand should be using daily. Knowledge is power, and the more we know about our customer base and how they book, the more we can work together to ensure year after year growth for our industry. Going a step further and embedding a corporate culture that inspires by involving staff in decisions and input, talking to your customers and listening to other industry experts, it"s essential to success. If we look at companies like Apple, Google and Disney they have this formula down to a science in all aspects. From training staff to the exact way customers are to be greeted, to team building and constant research and new innovation, which in turn inspire staff and maintain customer loyalty. We must continue to grow and think outside of the box without losing our core principals.
In summation, if we want to change the leaders of the hospitality game, we must change the game but maintain our integrity and honesty, while offering a quality product that works. Are companies ready to be honest again?