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Marriott Execs: Don’t Expect More Hotel Mega-Mergers Even in Covid Times

Major hotel companies are massive enough. Mergers and acquisitions departments need to think more about smaller, strategic deals rather than mega-takeovers that take tens of billions of dollars and years to integrate companies.

The airline industry’s last two decades of consolidation are no longer the blueprint analysts once saw as a foregone conclusion for hotel companies.

Hotel industry analysts expected massive rounds of industry consolidation due to the pandemic. Instead, hotel companies have focused more on conversions — deals centered around organic growth that involves the owner of an existing hotel to take on a new brand affiliation.

While mergers and acquisitions aren’t entirely off the table, Marriott leaders don’t expect a repeat performance of its $13 billion Starwood Hotels & Resorts takeover in the future.

“First of all, you need a big checkbook to get one done,” Timothy Grisius, the global mergers and acquisitions and real estate officer at Marriott International, said Monday at a reporter breakfast at the 2021 Americas Lodging Investment Summit in Los Angeles. “I think people are trying to keep their house in order today and make sure that they act in a financially disciplined way. There’s not a lot of need to grow even larger for a company like us. We do that organically and don’t necessarily need to buy additional brands.”

Hotel companies may analyze and pursue larger mergers and acquisitions, but there likely won’t be much traction, Grisius added.

The consolidation, or lack thereof, forecast comes amid a faster-than-expected recovery in the leisure sector. At the worst point of the pandemic, rumors revived about a potential Accor-IHG pairing as well as predictions smaller players like Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Choice Hotels, and Extended Stay America were low-hanging fruit for global giants like Marriott and Hilton.

While Extended Stay America traded during the pandemic, its $6 billion joint takeover came from investment groups Blackstone and Starwood Capital rather than a competing hotel company.

“I think the biggest thing right now is the difference between buyer expectations and sellers,” said Leeny Oberg, Marriott’s chief financial officer. “You’ve got the reality that, depending on what kind of player you’re talking about, the bigger ones would be looking for kind of one-offs that can fill in a hole rather than needing to go and do very large kind of transformational deals.”

The buyer-seller price expectation disparity, along with various rounds of federal pandemic relief, played a major part in why there hasn’t been a massive wave of hotel transactions so far.

But smaller, regional acquisitions could complement organic brand growth. Accor has generally followed this trend in beefing up its U.S. footprint, adding brands like 21c Museum Hotels and SBE in recent years.

Smaller brands might get dissuaded from the hefty costs required to invest in technology infrastructure. That could be an added incentive that eventually drives some smaller, regional brands to consider a sale, Marriott CEO Anthony Capuano said.

Marriott already follows the trend. AC Hotels was concentrated in Spain when Marriott first partnered with the brand in 2011. Acquiring South Africa-based Protea Hotels in 2014 gave the company a significant presence in sub-Saharan Africa.

“You may see some of these smaller transactions that follow a pattern where we have a small regional player that allowed us to get a footprint in a market where we struggled to grow,” Capuano said.

But the industry shouldn’t necessarily gear up for a major wave of these deals, either.

“I think you’ll see some of that, but Leeny’s point about the gap between the bid and the ask may mute the volume of transactions,” Capuano added.

Source: https://skift.com/2021/07/27/marriott-execs-dont-expect-more-hotel-mega-mergers-even-in-covid-times/

France fines Google €1.1 million for ‘misleading’ consumers with its hotel rankings

France has fined Google €1.1 million for allegedly “misleading” consumers with their rankings of hotels and other tourist accommodations.

A 2019 investigation by the French consumer watchdog and finance ministry found the tech giant was guilty of “misleading commercial practice”.

Google Ireland and Google France have agreed to pay the fine as part of a settlement, after approval from the Paris public prosecutor, the ministry said.

Both organisations have since altered their practices, it added in a statement.

France’s Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) had launched a probe into Google in September 2019 after complaints from hotels.

Businesses had argued that the display of around 7,500 hotels on Google’s search engine was unfair, compared to the official classification issued by Atout France, the country’s Tourism Development Agency.

The watchdog found that Google had replaced the Atout France ranking with their own criteria, but had used an identical system of 1 to 5 “stars”, which was “highly confusing” for customers.

“This practice was particularly damaging for consumers, who were misled about the level of service they could expect when booking accommodation,” the authority stated.

“It was also detrimental to hoteliers whose establishments were wrongly presented as being lower than in the official Atout France classification.”

Since September 2019, Google has “corrected their practices” and reverted to the official classification issued by Atout France.

“We have now settled with the DGCCRF and made the necessary changes to only reflect the official French star rating for hotels on Google Maps and Search,” a company spokesperson told Euronews.

Google stated that their previous classification of hotels used a variety of sources, including Atout France, as well as feedback from hoteliers and other party sources.

The settlement with the DGCCRF does not affect users’ ability to rate and review hotels on Google.

In December, Google was also fined €35 million by France’s online data privacy watchdog for allegedly breaching rules on cookies.

The National Commission for Informatics and Liberties (CNIL) said both Google and Amazon had automatically placed advertising trackers on users’ computers without asking for consent.

Source: https://www.euronews.com/2021/02/15/france-fines-google-1-1-million-for-misleading-consumers-with-its-hotel-rankings

Reintroducing Costly Hotel Brand Standards Threaten Owners Just Getting a Taste of Recovery

The U.S. hotel industry, buoyed by summer leisure travel, exceeded expectations in recent months and even surpassed pre-pandemic performance levels last week. But if another aspect of hotel operations quickly snaps back to normal, hotel owners could be in trouble.

Most hotel companies relaxed brand standards, which range from what kind of cereal to serve at a continental breakfast buffet all the way up to costly renovations of guest rooms and public spaces, during the pandemic as a way to help owners save money during a long stretch of minimal demand.

Should the U.S. hotel recovery momentum continue into the fall, enforcing brand standards are likely back on the table. That could spur a wave of long-awaited hotel property sales.

“It might be the looming capital expenditures and property improvement plans and lack of cash that might cause the capitulation,” said Alan Benjamin, founder and president of hotel furniture and equipment procurement firm Benjamin West.

The combination of more than a year of deferred maintenance and renovations combined with hotel companies looking to avoid bad reviews from travelers coming out of the pandemic will push capital expenditures to all-time highs between 2022 and 2024, West estimates.

The overwhelming demand stems from both hotels that put off these costs during the pandemic as well as from normal maintenance and renovation schedules from hotels that opened or were previously renovated in the last seven years. But some owners may not be able to afford to stick around long enough to go through a renovation cycle.

Hotel owners are typically expected to have cash reserves of 4 to 5 percent of gross revenue readily available for capital expenditures to keep up with brand standards. But owners got permission to tap into these reserves to stay afloat through the pandemic.

“For the first time ever, the lenders greenlit taking that money to hang on to control the asset,” Benjamin said.

Many analysts doubt these reserves have been restored over the last few months, especially in hotels outside leisure markets still struggling to recover. Revenue at U.S. urban hotels in May was still down 52 percent from the same month in 2019, the American Hotel & Lodging Association reported this week.

Eager investors have been salivating over pandemic-related opportunities and bargains to emerge from the hospitality sector, given its outsized impact from the health crisis. While some owners may not discount the pricing of their hotel, many could decide to sell instead of pump money into an asset after a year of tanked revenue and an uncertain recovery trajectory in the years ahead.

A Long-Simmering Debate

Owners and investors have decried brand standards for years over their perceived excessive costs and limited return on investment.

Starwood Capital spent $250 million on property improvement plans on a portfolio, and the investment firm’s CEO, Barry Sternlicht, claimed last year at the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Tourism’s Future Hospitality Summit the company didn’t gain any market share following the investment.

“If you own a Courtyard and it is number one in its [competitive] set, they’ll ask you to spend $7 million when it rebrands, and none of that money has been worthwhile,” he added. “It’s like throwing money in the ocean.”

Sternlicht and Starwood Capital are more in the camp of buy mode, but analysts think other owners could be in a more vulnerable position.

“Brand standard upgrades and renovations can either crush a hotel or help reposition it into a more desirable market ‘sweet spot,’” said Chekitan Dev, the Singapore Tourism Distinguished Professor at Cornell University and an expert on hospitality branding. “Bringing back a full set of pre-pandemic standards is going to be a hard sell for brands and a hard slog for owners who are trying to recover lost profits.”

There was already a pre-pandemic tension around brand standards issued from hotel companies to the owners responsible for paying for them. The brands want to add enhanced amenities and design with the hope more customers will choose their property instead of a competitor’s. Owners are typically more focused on reducing costs to boost profit.

Both stances are likely to continue during the pandemic recovery. Brands are likely to do what they can to differentiate a property in a more competitive market with limited travel demand — like urban markets the rely more on business travel — while owners will want to find efficiencies to save money.

Dev sees four options for hotel owners: revert to pre-pandemic brand standards, convert to a different brand with different standards, debrand entirely and become an independent hotel, or sell.

“Ultimately, the decision will be driven by a multitude of factors including the renovation cost per key vis a vis the ability to raise rate, the owner’s bargaining position with the brand, the brand’s desirability, the availability of alternate brands, the owner’s marketing and operating expertise, the availability of third-party management companies, the location of the hotel, and buyers for the hotel,” he added.

Solutions Beyond a Sale

Not every hotel owner necessarily needs to panic about a quick revert to the way things used to be with brand standards.

Hotel executives indicated in recent months there are at least some conversations around how to reintroduce these measures without breaking the bank for owners only just beginning to see occupancy rates on the rise.

“We are currently assessing post-COVID renovation of brand standards with a view toward finding more ways to improve hotel profitability while preserving the quality and experiences guests expect of our brands when they stay with us,” Leeny Oberg, chief financial officer at Marriott, said on the company’s first quarter earnings call before later adding: “We’ve got to make sure that we’re taking into consideration the dramatically lower cash reserves that the hotel owners have and picking our spots and making sure that we’re picking the renovation work that is critical to the customer experience.”

While she didn’t provide specifics, Oberg noted she expected the company to have a finalized approach on brand standards sometime next year.

For owners that are expected to snap back into costly renovations, there are other options. The Curator Hotel & Resort Collection launched last year aimed at appealing to hotel owners wanting a bit more autonomy than they would have associating with a bigger brand, including around brand standards.

Global hotel companies would be wise to note they aren’t the only option for owners coming out of the pandemic.

“Many brands permitted hotels to gut brand standard to help the hotels stay alive. The consequence of this is hotels that have learned to operate with a lot less and differently than they did before the pandemic,” Dev said. “To preserve the brand-hotel relationship, and to bring back the standards that define the brands’ reason for being, brands must draw on learnings from the pandemic and be creative to help hotels meet their standards.”

Source: https://skift.com/2021/07/09/reintroducing-costly-hotel-brand-standards-threaten-owners-just-getting-a-taste-of-recovery/

Accor Joins Forces With Hoxton Hotels Owner to Form Lifestyle Brand Giant

Accor continued its focus on lifestyle brands Tuesday with plans to join forces with Ennismore, the owner of Hoxton Hotels.

The two hotel brands’ resulting lifestyle entity, which will be called Ennismore, will be headquartered in London and jointly led by Gaurav Bhushan — CEO of Accor’s lifestyle division — and Ennismore CEO Sharan Pasricha. The 73 hotels making up the combined company include brands like Hoxton, Gleneagles, SLS, Delano, and Mondrian. The entity will be two-thirds owned by Accor and a third by Pasricha.

“This exciting autonomous entity with Accor — one with culture and brand purpose at its heart — allows us to come together to build on our combined portfolio of unique lifestyle brands, accelerate our growth and explore new markets,” Bhushan said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Gaurav and [Accor CEO] Sébastien [Bazin] on this exciting next chapter as we become an unrivaled player in the hospitality industry.” 

The new Ennismore entity will comprise 12 brands and a development pipeline of 110 hotels with an additional 70 under discussion. More than 150 restaurants and bars are also part of the merger.

Joining forces with Sharan and Ennismore’s talented teams will be a major step in Accor’s development strategy,” Bhushan said in a statement. “With this combination, we are putting together an unrivaled portfolio of unique brands that appeals to owners, partners and guests, supported by the greatest set of talents in the industry, state of the art distribution and tools and a common ambition to continue to grow and innovate. I very much look forward to our journey together.”

What’s more, Paris-based Accor intends to take on full ownership of the SBE brand in a $300 million investment in order to make the Ennismore deal possible. Accor took on half ownership of SBE — owner of brands like SLS, Delano, and Mondrian — in a 2018 deal valued at $319 million. Tuesday’s announcement comes after Accor announced in September plans to launch an independent division for its lifestyle brands.

Bazin has repeatedly touted lifestyle brands as a key source of growth for Accor in coming years, but navigating the space required more autonomy.

“There are a lot of outside partners knocking on Accor’s doors trying to partner with their own similar brands,” Accor CEO Sebastien Bazin said of the new lifestyle division in September at Skift Global Forum. “But they would only do so if they’re welcomed into dedicated business unit rather than under the large Accor umbrella.”

Source: https://skift.com/2020/11/24/accor-joins-forces-with-hoxton-hotels-owner-to-form-lifestyle-brand-giant/

The Ethics of Travel Advisors Are Being Challenged, and It’s Not Right

A column in Friday’s USA Today has rankled the travel industry in general and sullied the name of travel advisors in particular.

And it’s not right.

The column is entitled, “Is it ethical to recommend travel while the world is in the grips of a second COVID-19 wave?” and was written by Christopher Elliott. In the piece, which you can read here in its entirety, Elliott not only questions the idea of selling travel now that a new surge of the virus is engulfing the country but also challenges the integrity of travel agents who do so as well as airlines and cruise lines and hotels for offering deep discounts to customers.

Elliott quotes a few experts, particularly those in ethics law.

“With both infections and hospitalizations increasing in many countries, including the U.S., it’s worth remembering the most fundamental ethical principle of all: do no harm,” says Bruce Weinstein, an author and ethics expert. “With that in mind, it is ethically unintelligent to travel now – especially for leisure.”

“I do not think it is ethical for companies to be recommending travel,” says Emily Waddell, who publishes a blog called The Honest Consumer. “The travel companies are just looking out for their own best interest in regards to sales. They’re not taking into consideration the seriousness of the pandemic and how more people traveling could increase the spread of the virus.”

Added Robert Foehl, professor of business law and ethics at Ohio University: “We have an ethical duty to prevent harm to others.”

Okay, as a pragmatist I can see some of their points.

Now let me make mine.

This logic is flawed.

If we were to follow this logic to the letter, then the author and the experts should also use their soapbox to talk about everything that is, allegedly, unethical – both during the pandemic and without this cloud hanging over our global heads.

Such as … where is the outrage for retailers who sell cigarettes, knowing the dangers of smoking and knowing the dangers of second-hand smoke to non-smokers? What about the tens of thousands of liquor stores across the nation selling alcohol, when we know the dangers of becoming addicted to booze? What about the rosy commercials for cleaning products that promise to turn everything sparkling, but fail to warn you that some of the chemicals used to make the product are harmful to your health? Where’s the outrage there?

Granted, I get it. The USA Today piece is directly connecting the ethics question to the pandemic. But again, you could make the same argument with any of the other examples I brought up. Drinking is up — why don’t we castigate liquor store owners who push specials during the crisis? Depression is up — why don’t we criticize schools, for instance, for not doing more to bring their kids into the schools to foster more socialization?

My point is simple – it’s called freedom of choice. Neither travel advisors nor tobacco manufacturers nor liquor salesmen nor the makers of window cleaners are going door-to-door and forcing you to buy their products. They might entice you with sales and specials, sure, but how does that make travel agents any more unethical than any other salesperson?

No, this is a personal decision to travel that rests solely with the client. Just like buying a pack of Marlboros or a fifth of Grey Goose.

There’s no question the entire travel industry is in a fight for its collective lives because of the coronavirus, but the circumstances are extraordinary. Ten percent of jobs in this country are somehow travel related. It’s not just the industry itself but the health of the U.S. economy at stake.

And to suggest, as the column does, that travel advisors could omit, downplay or outright lie about the guidelines and the situation regarding travel at this moment, is not only disingenuous but unethical in and of itself. Times are tough, yes, but travel agents have built an unparalleled reputation they are hardly going to risk for an eight to 12 percent commission. For that kind of reward vs. risk, they better be booking one hell of an around-the-world trip.

(Which, uh, aren’t allowed at the moment anyway.)

Look, the bottom line is this. We’ve already seen how bad the pandemic has been. It has shut down the cruise lines completely and, at one point earlier this year, had planes leaving the gate with just one or two passengers. But to stop selling travel – or, in effect, to shut down the entire industry as the column seems to be suggesting – is not the answer.

And to say that selling travel right now is unethical is a slap in the face to everyone from a hotel CEO to the person who cleans the airport bathroom – all of whom contribute to an industry that makes this country go.

Source: https://www.travelpulse.com/opinions/column/the-ethics-of-travel-advisors-are-being-challenged-and-its-not-right.html

More Than 20,000 Volunteer to Sail on RCCL Test Cruise

Whoa.

We all know cruising has a devoted, passionate fan base, but this is wild.

More than 20,000 people asked to be passengers on Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines’ test cruises before it resumes full service again, after the cruise line put out the call for volunteers.

Uh, that’s 20,000+ in the first 24 hours, according to a fun post by Matt Hochberg on the Royal Caribbean blog.

Royal Caribbean knew earlier this week that it had something along the lines of lightning in a bottle based on some of the response that was coming in for the initial call for help. The cruise line received more than 3,000 emails from people asking how they could volunteer. When RCCL responded by opening a Facebook group page and sign-up form, it saw that more than 22,000 people joined.

As Hochberg noted, part of the process for any cruise line to receive approval to restart cruises from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is to conduct a series of test sailings that have volunteer passengers onboard.

In a statement, Royal Caribbean said, “This group will serve the community of adventurers who are excited and ready to be the first back at sea. Get ready to dust off your suitcase and get back to adventure!”

RCCL has not announced any plans when the test sailings will start nor how it would pick volunteers to join the cruises. The only stipulation is that guests must be at least 18 years old.

“We are still reviewing the CDC framework and do not have details on our simulated sailings,” the company said.

“While we review the requirements proposed by the CDC and consider when we can host our simulated trial sailings, we are gathering information from those who have shown interest on our Facebook group and will be in touch with them when we have more details. Our priority is to ensure that we can exercise our comprehensive set of measures in a safe and healthy manner while making sure we provide a memorable vacation experience.”

Source: https://www.travelpulse.com/news/cruise/more-than-20000-volunteer-to-sail-on-rccl-test-cruise.html

Marriott hosted first-ever Hybrid Meetings Event: Connect with Confidence

On November 9, Marriott International hosted a hybrid virtual and in-person event, “Connect with Confidence,” as the first part of a global series. The event was attended by 30 in-person customers and 238 virtual attendees, and took place at The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner in Virginia.  It showcased Marriott’s reimagined processes and meetings spaces, while reinforcing the brand’s commitment to help meeting planners execute conferences and events during this new normal.

Moderated by Doreen Burse, Vice President, Marriott Global Sales, U.S. and Canada, sessions further demonstrated the brand’s “Commitment to Clean” meeting and event protocols, and featured industry-leading tools, innovative insights and creative solutions from Marriott International leadership with speakers including:

  • Stephanie Linnartz, Group President, Consumer Operations, Technology & Emerging Businesses 
  • David Marriott, President, U.S. Full Service, Managed by Marriott 
  • Julius Robinson, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, U.S. & Canada 
  • Erika Alexander, Chief Global Officer, Global Operations 
  • Tammy Routh, Senior Vice President, Global Sales
  • Dana Pellicano, Vice President, Food & Beverage

“Our Connect with Confidence event demonstrated that it is possible to host meetings in a responsible, sophisticated, cost-effective, and enjoyable way. We are thrilled to have had this opportunity to showcase Marriott’s creative solutions for hybrid meetings,” said Tammy Routh, Senior Vice President, Global Sales for Marriott International. “We continue to be committed to collaborating with our valued customers as we navigate this new frontier for meetings and events to ensure they have the necessary tools to confidently connect.”

During the event, guests were able to experience Marriott’s new approach to meetings and try new developments such as: 

  • Digital registration and pre-selection of “Sanctuary Seats” with a meeting room set up preview
  • Individually packaged amenities for each in-person attendee, including a face shield, mask, hand sanitizer, and color-coated bracelets to showcase each attendee’s level of comfort i.e. red for “please keep your distance;” yellow for “respect my space;” and green for “elbow bumps welcome”
  • Curated virtual-only content to enhance the hybrid experience, including infographics outlining pre-event, event day, and post-event protocols 
  • Real-time interactive discussion and polling questions, multiple camera views for virtual attendees, virtual games with rewards, and a Q&A sessions for both virtual and in-person attendees
  • Creative lunch solutions, including a food delivery credit for virtual attendees, and option for in-person attendees to dine solo, or with one, two or three others at their table 

Based on live polling, nearly 25% of attendees plan to host a hybrid event within the next 1-3 months. Overall sentiment emphasized the importance of flexibility, offering attendees choices based on comfort levels, and delivering cost-effective and technology-driven solutions.

Source: https://www.traveldailynews.com/post/marriott-hosted-first-ever-hybrid-meetings-event-connect-with-confidence

Meliá Hotels International Launches An Incentive Travel Programme For The COVID-19 Era: Individual And 100% Flexible

This Christmas, companies can include hotel stays among their Christmas gifts to customers or partners

The COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions have caused numerous changes in the travel industry, forcing the MICE segment to completely reinvent itself and look for new ways to reactivate business travel. According to forecasts made by GEBTA and BRAINTRUST, travel for professional reasons at the end of 2020 will still be 50% below the previous year.

One of the segments that has been most affected is that of incentive trips, a traditional motivational tool that companies use to reward their best customers, employees or partners. For Meliá Hotels International, incentive trips represented 10% of all MICE revenues in 2019, and it has also been an important segment for travel agencies over recent years.

Given the current situation, the leading hotel company in Spain has taken a step forward in making incentive travel viable in the COVID-19 era, distancing itself from the more traditional concept of organised group travel and creating a new format in which flexibility and personalisation of the journey by the end user are key. The new individual incentive programme is linked to the MeliáRewards loyalty programme and offers companies the chance to give a stay to their customers, employees or partners as a gift, with each recipient able to choose the time, destination, type of hotel and duration of their trip. This is possible through the purchase of MeliáRewards points to share out among the people the company chooses which can be used whenever they wish.

“Offering individual incentive trips is the best option at a time in which travelling in groups may be subject to certain restrictions. That’s why we are seeing a clear trend for companies to include hotel stays among their Christmas gifts to employees or partners, given that it’s a very flexible incentive for the times we are living in” confirms José Miguel Moreno, Global B2B Sales & Marketing Senior Director at Meliá Hotels International.

This is one of the many activities the hotel company is currently carrying out to stimulate the MICE segment, adapting to the current market conditions under the Stay Safe with Meliá programme created by the company to reinforce health and safety in its services and facilities, and certified by Bureau Veritas.

About Melia Hotels International

Founded in 1956 in Palma de Mallorca (Spain), Meliá Hotels International is one of the largest hotel companies worldwide, as well as the absolute leader within the Spanish market, with more than 380 hotels (current portfolio and pipeline) throughout more than 40 countries and four continents, operated under the brands: Gran Meliá Hotels & Resorts, Paradisus by Meliá, ME by Meliá, Meliá Hotels & Resorts, INNSIDE by Meliá, Sol by Meliá and TRYP by Wyndham. The strategic focus on international growth has allowed Meliá Hotels International to be the first Spanish hotel company with presence in key markets such as China, the Arabian Gulf or the US, as well as maintaining its leadership in traditional markets such as Europe, Latin America or the Caribbean. Its high degree of globalization, a diversified business model, the consistent growth plan supported by strategic alliances with major investors and its commitment to responsible tourism are the major strengths of Meliá Hotels International, being the Spanish Hotel leader in Corporate Reputation (Merco Ranking) and one of the most attractive to work worldwide. Meliá Hotels International is included in the IBEX 35 Spanish stock market index. Follow Meliá Hotels International on Twitter @MeliaHotelsInt and Facebook meliahotelsinternational.

Source: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/news/4101451.html

Losing the Chateau Marmont – The Life of a Hotel Doctor

The Chateau Marmont is a funky art-deco apartment converted to a hotel in the 1930s with nine nearby cottages acquired during the 1940s. John Belushi died in a cottage in 1982, but that was a few years before I became its doctor.

I made 157 visits. My last, in 2002, was not at the request of the hotel but of a national concierge care agency. Although it charged spectacular fees, this rarely caused a problem because the guest has agreed to pay by the time I arrived.

Unfortunately, the particular dispatcher answering its 800 number did not like to deliver bad news. As a result, he took down the caller’s information and cheerfully announced that a doctor would arrive but neglected to mention the fee.

The visit went well, but the guest’s jaw dropped when I handed her my invoice for $500. This was 2002 when the dollar was worth something. Hearing that I only earned a fraction of that did not relieve her distress. Not possessing cash or a credit card, she phoned the front desk to ask the hotel to put it on her bill. She also expressed displeasure at the size of “the hotel doctor’s” fee.

As the desk clerk counted out my money (probably more than his weekly pay), I explained that I was making this visit for an agency which was responsible for the fee. He nodded politely, but the Chateau Marmont has not called since.

Source: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/opinion/4101518.html

Hospitality’s necessary job pivot creates surprising hiring opportunities for travel-tech

It’s hardly a secret that the hospitality industry was one of the sectors hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis.

With countless businesses on hold and millions of staff laid off, the challenges have been huge. But despite the situation seeming dire, there are opportunities waiting to be tapped.

Facts and figures: the impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality workforce

Statista reports that due to the COVID-19-related slowdown in global travel and the forced shutdowns in many countries, over 100 million jobs have been lost so far. With the second wave of COVID-19 in full swing in Europe and several other regions, this number is set to rise further.

McKinsey’s research has found that as a result of COVID-19 proportionately more women have left the workforce than men. One of the main reasons is that many women felt compelled to take on more work around the home, especially tasks related to caring for children once schools and childcare facilities were temporarily closed.

While McKinsey looks at the labour market across various industries, the hospitality sector is no exception. Countless talented employees have been let go, furloughed or have left the hospitality industry workforce for another sector.

The result is the loss of many highly experienced people with desirable and transferable skill sets, many of whom may not return. This is a huge risk for the hospitality industry since the mass migration of skilled employees to other domains could mean a long-term brain- and talent-drain for the industry. Unsurprisingly this will add to the challenges hospitality will face during its recovery period.

A unique opportunity for travel tech organisations

But it doesn’t all have to be doom and gloom. With so many hoteliers being let go, those looking to hire have a huge talent pool at their disposal. This creates two major opportunities for travel tech providers.

Chance to increase diversity in the workforce

By now, we’ve established that hoteliers from various backgrounds are looking for new job openings, possibly even outside of hotels.

Another recent change has been the shift to predominantly remote work and more flexible hours. This makes it easier to hire people who will work from home permanently or for a majority of the time. Now it will be less complicated for organisations to employ staff who live further away (maybe even in another country) or want to stay at home to care for family members. Especially the latter point can be an advantage for women since they still shoulder the majority of these responsibilities in many households.Finally, larger numbers of applicants for job openings will increase the likelihood of getting qualified candidates from underrepresented groups. This, in turn, is a fantastic opportunity for travel tech companies to up their diversity levels and become more inclusive workplaces.

Why is that such a big deal? Having a more diverse team has many benefits for businesses. It can boost productivity rates by up to 25%, increase employee retention, lead to more innovation and a better understanding of the customer which in turn can lift revenues by up to 19%. Of course, the positive brand image this can create among clients, partners, staff and potential applicants is also valuable.

Access to an enormous talent pool with highly desirable skills

Today, many hoteliers are re-evaluating their careers. After years in the thick of operations, they are keen on a new challenge or are finding it necessary to pivot. For them, travel tech is a great sector to transition into and many have done so extremely successfully.

Gillian Tans, the chairwoman of Booking.com is the perfect example. After a career in hotels, she joined the OTA in its early days, a risky move, some thought. Since then, she has guided the business through growth phases and spearheaded key shifts within the organisation.

Ms Tans shows that hoteliers make for great leaders in the travel tech space. They understand the industry because they’ve worked in it. They get the target customer and their problems or challenges, because they have been this customer and have experienced the same challenges and issues.

“About ten years ago I moved to STR, a hotel data analytics company after having worked in operations for a few years. I have always been good with numbers, which is why I naturally gravitated towards revenue management. Give me an Excel spreadsheet and I am happy. Moving to STR was an ideal move for me, because I got to work with numbers everyday. I was able to take my experience from operations and apply it everyday,” says Naureen Ahmed, Director of Marketing International at STR, about her transition.

Hoteliers also know how to treat a client and ensure they have the best possible experience – whether that’s during a hotel stay or with a tech product doesn’t make a difference to them.

Finally, hoteliers and people from the tourism industry are used to working with people from various backgrounds. They know how to overcome language barriers and they can encourage diverse teams to pool their many strengths for the best possible outcome.

Now that so many hospitality professionals are seeking new opportunities, travel tech companies have the rare chance to pick the best of these highly talented people and leverage their industry knowledge, customer focus and leadership to grow their own businesses.

Berengere Brohan, Founder of My O.C. sums up the above in her own experience: “Transitioning from hotel operations and strategy to tech and keeping on switching between the two has been so eye-opening! Not only do you get to have a 360-degree view of the environment, various markets, vendors, and more but it also keeps you on top of the game and what’s new in the industry. And that’s what’s most needed to get better at your job!”

Bringing together candidates and opportunities

Despite the many candidates out there looking for new placements, it can still be challenging for organisations to find the perfect fit. This is why WHTT (Women in Hospitality and Travel Technology) created a unique and first-of-its-kind initiative to help businesses find, hire and train their best candidate.

Source: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/news/4101320.html