Industry Update
Opinion Article11 June 2021

Extinction or Evolution? Three Hospitality Roles in Flux

By Mike Chuma, VP Marketing, Enablement & Engagement at IDeaS

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Hospitality work is one of the most enduring professions in human history, but it is not immune to the passage of time. Advancements in technology have made it easier for hotels to simplify operations, sharpen pricing strategies, and better know their customers. Still, as new innovations take root in the industry, the purpose of time-honored roles continues to evolve. Every area of the hotel, from mainstays like the front desk to relative newcomers in revenue management, continues to feel the impact of these shifts.

The pandemic showed us that many hotels are seizing this opportunity to reshape their staffing structure to better emphasize what is most important moving forward. With operations scaled back, hoteliers were able to act on guests’ increased desire for contactless check-in, greater digital communication, and a culling of unnecessary amenities or services.

Hoteliers who adopted an open mind during this process now have an opportunity to accelerate the positive aspects within their organization while cutting extraneous costs or services. After all, the revenue manager role emerged abruptly at the end of the last century and has permanently—and positively—impacted hospitality for the foreseeable future. So, what else could be just around the corner as we enter a new era for the hospitality workforce?

Guest Health Oversight

First of all, it’s time to reckon with the fact that even as COVID vaccines and loosening restrictions help restart global travel, the pandemic’s impact will be felt for years to come. Proof of vaccination, for instance, may be a lasting requirement, particularly for international travel. And other health and safety guidelines of the pandemic will likely remain in place as a precautionary me.

More and more hospitality and travel organizations are working with or appointing high-level roles with health in mind. Delta Airlines is one such company, having appointed a chief health officer, but in the near future we may see more organizations follow in their footsteps. Hilton, for example, partnered with the Mayo Clinic to better navigate the challenges facing their hotels during COVID.

The primary reason for these decisions is to find new ways to mitigate the risks of travel. Some luxury hotel companies are leveraging internal health expertise to offer packages that bake antigen testing and even long-term quarantines directly into their rates. Of course, anything is possible at the luxury level, therefore the challenge comes from the need to mix health, wellness, and the satisfaction of a good hotel experience at all chain scales.

This will be an uphill battle as guests continue to grapple with a sense of uneasiness as a result of the pandemic, but it is possible to meet—and even exceed—these needs thanks to a robust health strategy focusing on the industry’s commitment to cleanliness and sanitation.

Front Desk Rebrand

Since the onset of the pandemic, many classic core functions of the hotel front desk have been folded into the broader scope of automation. While today’s hotels still require a front-desk associate to facilitate the traditional functions of the role, automation’s ability to manage room reservations and guests’ desire for self-check-in and check-out is creating a need to re-evaluate the purpose and function of front desk staffing in the near future.

As abrupt as this trend may seem, the purpose of the front desk has indirectly been shifting over time. Already, many hotels are installing personal check-in stations for guest use, reducing queue times and the need for physical contact. This trend has been impacting hospitality for several years, evident from the increased adoption of mobile check-in and text communication from guests. Now, front desk associates serve more of a concierge role, providing guests with assistance, answering questions about the property or local area, and acting as the face of the hotel.

Automation and increased guest control over the booking process is helping keep front desk agents from being buried in the hotel’s property management system, giving them more time to form closer relationships with guests. Front desk associates are at their best in high-touch guest interactivity situations, the moments where they differentiate their property. This has always been the X-factor separating a hotel from its competitors, and now operators are even better positioned to take advantage of these differences.

It remains to be seen just how the front desk role will evolve, but the current trend of reduced staffing is unlikely to revert to previous levels—similarly to the reduction of labor following the 2008 financial crisis. With fewer staff on property and a greater emphasis on automation, this may be the front desk’s moment to assert itself as the key differentiator between traditional hospitality and disruptors such as the home-sharing market.

Revenue Management Rising

The arc of the revenue manager in hospitality has a curious momentum. The role slowly gained traction in the minds of industry leaders until the beginning of the last business cycle, where it became the defining role for growing profitability across the industry. Since then, revenue managers have continued to evolve and keep pace with technology as data science is refined.

In many ways, the role of revenue manager exists to provide decisions, and thanks to the growing capability of technology to provide actionable data over the past five years, revenue managers have been able to provide stronger, more informed decisions than ever before. The curiosity driving revenue managers will lead them to become insight hunters outside the scope of room rates and event pricing.

Vitally, revenue managers live in a world of detail, providing information for a group of people in desperate need of a summary. This role will require leaders to use data to tell a story, digging beneath surface-level determinations to find real insight through the interpretation of data. Thanks to the growing influence revenue managers have on hotel operations through this process, the path has been opened for real revenue leaders to aspire to greater roles.

Digital natives who believe in tech and the capacity of machine learning are stepping into these positions and positively impacting every corner of their organization, partly because they already accept that there are systems that make recommendations in their life and they are willing to work with them.

Ultimately, the role of revenue manager will be transformed by the necessity of it taking on a greater voice within the commercial hotel organization. As communication improves between data and the human side of hospitality, so too will the position of the revenue manager morph into something entirely new.

Revenue managers hold too much data insight and business intelligence to be focused on guest room pricing and inventory management alone. Working closely with distribution, sales and marketing, revenue leaders will play an essential role in providing key decisions impacting an organization’s commercial success.

This progression speaks to the true nature of hospitality, where analytical and emotional intelligence are both rewarded in equal measure and individuals in possession of both are invaluable. More and more people are being attracted to hospitality through the lens of revenue management, and hotels will be in need of more sophisticated leadership to keep pace with the technology that is evolving all around us.

The status quo in hospitality is always primed for disruption, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your job in the hotel business is at risk of extinction. Those who can embrace the change, remain adaptable, and navigate the transition hold the potential to unlock greater opportunities in a new industry landscape.

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Mike Chuma

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    About IDeaS

    IDeaS, a SAS company, is the world's leading provider of revenue management software and services. With over 30 years of expertise, IDeaS delivers revenue science to more than 15,000 clients in 143 countries. Combining industry knowledge with innovative, data-analytics technology, IDeaS creates sophisticated yet simple ways to empower revenue leaders with precise, automated decisions they can trust. Results delivered. Revenue transformed. Discover greater profitability at ideas.com

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