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Gender Diversity At The Top Of The Ladder: Will Hope Become Reality?

Universities are educating more and more women

Education is a major factor enhancing development and quality of life. As highlighted by the United Nations, it has become a priority in international development goals. In recent decades, the share of young adults (25-34 year-olds) reaching tertiary education [1] across all OECD countries increased to 44%, which is significantly higher than the 27% for their 55-64 year-old counterparts (OECD, 2019). In Switzerland, 53% of young adults had a college degree in 2019, while this figure was as low as 26% in 2000. In an increasingly competitive world, education works as one of the main signaling systems for individuals (if you manage to get a high enough GPA from a respected university, you are signaling to future employers that you might have some valuable skills). Yet education remains flush with inequity, and the increase in educational attainment is more pronounced for certain categories of the population.

For example, did you know that in almost all OECD countries, more women attend college than men? If you’ve had the chance to visit a university campus recently, you might have noticed. A concrete example is EHL, one of the leading hospitality management schools in the world based in Switzerland, where 59% of bachelor students are women. This figure is in line with recent OECD data showing that 57% of young adults with a university degree are women, versus 51% for 55-64 year-olds (OECD 2019, Education at a Glance Database).

Many female college grads don’t make it to the top of the ladder

Overall, statistics show that universities are educating more and more women, with most majoring in business administration studies [2]. Logically, the proportion of women in top management positions – especially finance-related ones – should reflect this general trend … but this is where the figures don’t exactly add up.

In the European Union in 2019, women accounted for 28% of publicly-listed companies’ board members and only 18% of executives, versus 15% and 10% in 2012 (Eurostat, 2019). In other words, the trend is positive, but most female college grads don’t make it to the top of the ladder. Moreover, significant heterogeneity remains across countries, and large changes occurred predominantly in countries that voted quotas into law. Finally, women have easier access to management positions in certain industries. For example, 33% of senior top managers in the hospitality industry in 2015 were women, slightly below education (41%) and healthcare (41%), which contrasts with construction and real estate (18%) and mining and quarrying (12%) (Statista).

Men and women make decisions differently

Things are starting to change, albeit slowly, and gender diversity has become a central concern from a social, political, and governance point of view. Given the current overall positive trend showing that women are more present in boards and executive committees, it is important to understand the consequences of having more women in high-skilled financial positions. Indeed, gender diversity might bring diverse experiences, perspectives and incentives into the discussion and improve the decisions that are made.

The literature documents that gender-based differences include behavioural aspects in terms of planning, decision-making, risk tolerance, and overconfidence (Ittonen and Peni, 2012; Khlif and Achek, 2017). Indeed, men and women make decisions differently (Lee et al., 2019) and female top managers tend to be more diligent and conservative, less overconfident, and more risk averse.

Much-needed research is on the way

To understand the consequences of increasing gender diversity in high-skilled financial/accounting positions, researchers from EHL and Grenoble Alpes University are currently working on a project investigating Swiss publicly-listed companies. The goal is to analyse how audit quality is impacted by the interplay of women in the auditor-auditee relationship. Descriptive data show that, between 2010 and 2017, the percentage of audit committees (a committee composed of board members in charge of the oversight of the financial reporting process) with at least one woman increased from 13% to 39%.

Regarding audit reports, it appears that they were signed by at least one female auditor in 26% of the cases in 2010, and 35% of the cases in 2017. These increasing trends are important factors that might impact the negotiation and the relationship between the auditor and the client, the auditing process itself, and the subsequent accounting information quality. For instance, several studies document that women audit partners provide higher quality audits in Finland, Sweden and the UK (Ittonen et al., 2013; Cameran et al., 2017), and that female directors are more effective in dealing with complex audit tasks and judgments (Chung and Monroe 2001; O’Donnell and Johnson 2001; Neidermeyer et al., 2003; Lee et al., 2019).

The results of the study will be released soon. For the moment, however, the figures tell us that women are becoming increasingly present in high-skilled financial functions although there is still a long way to go to reach parity.

[1]Tertiary education is defined by the World Bank as “including both public and private universities, colleges, technical training institutes, and vocational schools.”
[2]Most tertiary-educated people have a degree in business administration or law (25%), while less than 5% have a degree in information technology, natural sciences, mathematics, or statistics (OECD, 2019).
[3] Castell Research Project
[4]Data covering 31 US publicly-listed firms.

Source: Poretti, C. (2021) | Hospitality Net: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/opinion/4103539.html

Covid-19: Hoteliers Review Their Human Resources Strategies

Major hotel chains are reducing their workforce.  The business is performing 50% below normal levels in the European market and Asia Pacific, excluding China [iii] ; Marriott’s CEO Arne Sorenson said that the hotel business was running almost 75% below normal levels. This is the reason behind Marriott’s decision to cut off two-thirds of its 4,000 corporate employees at the Bethesda, Maryland head office, which means approximately two-thirds of corporate staff abroad will also be furloughed.

All the way down to the hotel operation level, the international brands are facing the critical issue of redundancy during this current COVID-19 crisis, regardless of each owner’s specific cash flow situation.

GAS HR

What are your underlying drivers for retention or downsizing strategies?

This article will navigate through the upsides and the downsides of these two strategies: Retention or downsizing. We will provide you with examples and reflections that you may find useful to evaluate your best actions.

The underlying variables of the post-COVID-19 business plan are related to economic and governmental policies, and they are not consistent worldwide. Therefore, in this document, we are not going to provide our opinion nor recommendations. Nevertheless, our hotel asset management team can provide best practices and adapted approaches to each particular hotel.

STRATEGY ONE: TO AVOID COVID-19 LAYOFFS

PRO “ Instilling Loyalty Among Your Staff”

The corporate value of international hotel brands includes the relevant element of employee caring. For example, Marriott states that they put people first and their value is “Take care of our associates and they will take care of our customers.” Besides the written contract, the hotel chains have built psychological contracts with their employee that create unwritten expectations in the employment relationship.

As such, the handling of employee-related issues would determine if the psychological contract is perceived as being kept or breached. The breach can severely damage the motivation and performance of the staff.

In this hyper-connected world, information about mishandling labour-related issues could be quickly propagated and damage the employer branding of the hotel chains. However, it could be an opportunity for hotel chains to show that they care for the well-being of their employees. For instance, Hilton has announced that it will team up with 30 leading companies to provide temporary jobs, in addition to the common practice of covering health benefits. Furthermore, Accor will allocate EUR 70 million in a fund to cover those employees without medical insurance or social security that present COVID-19 health issues and to support front-line healthcare professionals & non-profit organizations. The fund has been raised from the unpaid year 2019 dividends.

The determination to maintain a positive attitude towards staff-caring and experience throughout the crisis is crucial for the recovery phase. There is no doubt that the different hotel brands will restart the competition for the talents in the industry once the market starts to recover. Good employer branding can be a competitive edge. Besides employees do not forget when you support them during tough periods.

CON “Adding Substantial Pressure to Your Cash flow”

When occupancy is plummeting to single digits, cash flow management becomes the lifeline of nearly all the hotels. As labour costs, regardless of the hotel category, generally represent the largest component of operational expenses, multiple hotel chains including Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Accor and MGM have announced furloughing schemes as a component of their COVID-19 responses in order to slash costs.  Furthermore, these hotel chains have also declared a different degree of pay cuts for the remaining employees. For example, CEOs put a halt to cash dividends and reduced salaries to senior executive teams by 50% [iv].

The cost-saving exercise should be conducted in a way that allows the hotel to recover quickly once the demand comes back. A salary cut policy is required at every level to survive; in other words, we all need to tighten our belts until the ramp-up stage.

The significance is that, if the termination of the employment contract is not an option, some businesses may be only left with one choice: a total shut down. When planning different financial scenarios, it is essential to manage the working capital for the short term and medium term. Owners need to start pro-active discussions with their banks or other investors to increase their debt service, (we have published another article specifically on this topic).

On 28th March, the Wujiang Hotel Chain, an emerging hotel chain that was formed under the investment of C-trip last year, was the first hotel chain to collapse in this crisis. Xiaodong Ma, the CEO of this hotel chain, has announced they will terminate all employment contracts by 30th April [v] . There is no doubt that the ban on unilateral termination of employment contracts in China during the lockdown has greatly contributed to the downfall of this one-year-old hotel chain [vi].

STRATEGY 2: TO EXECUTE COVID-19 LAYOFFS

PRO “Team optimisation and transformation”

The drastic drop in business has forced many hotels into a minimum level of operation. At the same time, the crisis has made it easier for the operators to identify who are the core staff and who are the weaker team players. We all know that layoffs are necessary and that they open up an opportunity to review the organization to optimize productivity, reduce long term costs and often improve the overall operation/guest experience.

In addition, the Human Resources department should optimize the workforce according to several variables that will impact the labour cost structure:

  • Adjust the business plan with several tentative re-opening dates.
  • Adapt the workforce to different ramp-up occupancy levels.
  • Reorganize F&B team to the gradual opening of the various outlets (the same applies to other operating departments).
  • The well-being of employees: Motivate, train (e.g., new hygiene procedures) and reassure the team after this challenging period.

CON “Consideration of recruitment & re-training costs, and reputation”

As China’s economy is slowly shifting towards recovery mode, many labour-intensive companies, including hotels, have found themselves short of workforce. The reason for this labour shortage varies; but one of the reasons was that some employees were reluctant to return for fear of infection.

Since 2016, many industry analysts have been expressing concerns over a labour shortage at all levels, especially in the operational departments. This phenomenon is highly detrimental to the industry, as hotels’ operation requires a set of expertise in every department. The labour shortage can be statistically proven by the increasing labour cost percentage at hotels.

Also, other than payroll, there is a key factor that justifies the value of raising the labour costs: Training. When hotel management executes a training plan for different levels of staff, the costs included in this are training materials, supplies, certification programs and instructor fees. A thorough training will have a direct positive impact on productivity, customer satisfaction, revenue growth through upselling and enhance employee satisfaction that leads to lower turnover.

It is logical to interpret similar situations that would occur in other sectors in the recovery phase; keeping the current staff may be a sound strategy for minimizing the cost of rehiring. As hotels in China rely on the domestic labour force, it can be estimated that the increase in hiring cost after the crisis can be even steeper for countries which are mainly relying on foreign labour. 

Last but not least, owners and operators should consider that downsizing has a reputational risk, especially if the crisis is short. Before making any decision, it is important to consider the following: What are the hotels core values? How do owners and operators want to be recognized in the market? How will this impact in the recovery period? 

The list of pros and cons of each strategy seems to be limitless and we are only listing out the general considerations. As such, please do not hesitate to share with us your thoughts and considerations on your staff retention and downsizing strategies.

Source: EHL Insight | https://hospitalityinsights.ehl.edu/hoteliers-human-resources-strategies

Global hospitality leaders launch coalition to accelerate gender equality at highest industry levels

Some of the world’s leading hoteliers and hospitality academics have joined forces to launch a pioneering initiative that aims to accelerate the path to improved gender equality in higher level positions across the industry, in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 5.

LeadingHôtelières is founded by CEO and President of the prestigious HoteliersGuild community, Frank M Pfaller, and co-founded by Lindsey Ueberroth, CEO at Preferred Hotels & Resorts. Considerate Group Founding Partner, Xenia zu Hohenlohe, leads as Chairwoman for the inaugural year and is joined by co-chair Associate Professor of Management at the leading Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), Dr Sowon Kim.

The team has enlisted support from the likes of Grand Hotel Tremezzo owner and CEO, Valentina de Santis, leading sustainability architect Yasmine Mahmoudieh, Director of Red Carnation Hotels, Vicki Tollman, Director of Spa at Four Seasons Hong Kong, Dr Tania Bardhan and Hospitality Consultancy WE(i) Think CEO, Celine Vadam, among others, who will all take on vital roles in addressing gender balances at a systemic level, from research, to design, to networking, with communication coordinated by Maria Pajares, MD of Mason Rose.

Additionally an impressive advisory board that will provide expert advice and support is gradually taking shape and includes amongst its advisors Sue Harmsworth, Founder of ESPA International, Professor Dr Henri Kuokkanen, Associate Professor at Institut Paul Bocuse and Dr Willy Legrand, Professor at IUBH University of Applied Sciences.

Ueberroth said: “I’m happy to see more women CEOs in hospitality, but we are still a far cry from where I hope we can be in terms of representation.

“The biggest challenges for women looking to achieve top leadership roles were the need to travel, relocate and dedicate long hours. In the past, once having children and raising a family came into the equation, many women were forced to make a choice, and those challenges were hard to overcome.

“Given the innovations in technology and a more open attitude towards flexible working hours and “home offices,” many of these hurdles seem alleviated.”

LeadingHôtelières aims to accelerate gender equality by providing guidance, mentorship and training through a powerful network of contacts in the industry.

The focus of 2021 is specifically geared towards flexible working structures. Heading the research arm of the initiative, Prof Dr Kim said: “We are currently working on a framework to test whether the outcome of our goal, to improve gender equality among directorial and operational roles in the hospitality industry through updated flexible working schemes, actually works for our hotelier partners. We aim to create new and relevant knowledge and share these findings in a meaningful, productive way.”

Hohenlohe added: “Gender equality is a key part of the UN’s Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and any business serious about future proofing itself will need to address this issue.

“We have an incredible collection of women with highly professional profiles paired with great brainpower in this group, all driven by the motivation to ensure the female hotelier of the future will be able to finally have the same opportunities for career development as their male peers.

I am delighted to be co-chairing this chapter with the wonderful Sowon Kim and we hope to be able to make a real difference with this work.”

On first devising the project, Pfaller commented: “When we looked at our HG membership roster we realised that we had far too few women in leadership positions. Reaching out initially to Lindsey, Xenia and Sowon, we were thrilled to realise their enthusiasm to join our cause to making a real change”.

Source: Gosling, S. (2021) | Hospitality Net

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/

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

The Latest Developments and Trends in Hospitality for 2020 & 2021

Fundamentally it has been a completely different year from any other – many referring to a “new normal” – bringing a plethora of contrasts to the industry when comparing hospitality to pre-COVID-times. This urges the need to review what trends have come and go, and put any concerns into perspective.

Of course, COVID-19 has scrambled things up causing ripples in the hospitality pond, just as we have seen with previous crises. Regardless of the negative effects that came into being, there are always new opportunities that arise as a result. In this article we will be covering everything from shifts in consumer behaviour and expectations to hotel concept trends, bringing you up to speed on the latest hotel developments and hospitality trends.

In this article:

  • Need for Higher Level Customer Service
    • Safety as the New Luxury & Cleanliness First
    • Personalization
    • Tech-savvy Hotels
    • Health & Wellness Stays
    • Luxury Nature Travel
    • Personal Connections & Experiences
    • Next Level Vacation Rentals
    • Unique Experiences
  • Consumer Trends
    • Local Travel
    • Changing Booking Trends
    • Transformation of Corporate & Group Travel
    • Growing Middle-class in Developing Countries
    • Millennials & Aging population
  • Concept Trends
    • Sustainability
    • Hybrid Hotels
    • Merging Nature into Hotels
    • Home Away from Home
    • Mixing History and Modern Architecture

Accelerated Need of Higher Customer Experience

From stuffy – uninspiring hotel concepts and operating procedures to ancient hotel systems, there was always a need of improvement rather than seeing consistent high quality of services and products being offered across the board.

Then COVID-19 came – and now that time is over…

People’s needs and wants have been fundamentally shifted, creating the need for the hotel industry to shape towards the traits of the “new normal”.

Which hotel trends should we be looking out for, and what are the best ways to navigate the myriad of developments in the market. Let’s break it down…

“Safety as the New Luxury”

“Going above and beyond” is the typical phrase used in hotels in order to provide excellent service. But how does this translate into practical terms when it comes to health and safety measures? How can we meet expectations and deliver unmatched customer experience during these challenging times during COVID19.

Xotels´ Tips: Implement well developed protocols making your guest feel safe and not preoccupied with thinking of their health. Steps that you can take directly include:

Be there every step of the way, outlining every step of the customer journey from when the booking is made until they arrive home safely again. For example:

  • Booking confirmation email (containing all the safety measures taken at the hotel). Include any relevant information from check-in information to cleaning protocols, and even activities that guests can safely do around your hotel.

Understand that any doubts on your safety standards could mean the difference between a cancellation or successful hotel stay, at any point after the booking has been confirmed.

Creating an elevated experience of security throughout the hotel. Go for a small scale approach in your pursuit to make guests feel secure. Build a personal connection to become part of the customer journey, introducing possibilities to make a positive impact on the customer journey without being too intrusive.

  • Be prepared to cater to new needs and wants of guests, whether it is organizing corona-proof events and activities, or more generally, making sure the guest experiences a perfectly safe and clean environment.

Make information clearly visible. Efforts shown by the hotel should be brought to light. The last thing you want is guests having to look for information when everything is right at hand. Do not let your efforts go to waste – make it available wherever you think guests might need it! Our tips include:

  • Prevent any doubts by providing as much information as possible before arrival
  • Utilize QR codes pointing to your protocols
  • Ask during the check-in if guest are interested in additional information per email (read more on guest email collection opportunities)

What fits your property type/service level. Make sure sufficient value is created in the eyes of the guest within your price range/hotel positioning. For instance, ask yourself – does a hotel qualify as “luxury” if one cannot ensure health and safety measures are equally matched to the same level of service and product expected from a property of higher caliber.

Attention to detail makes the above efforts even better. Your efforts will be fruitful when you go beyond only covering the basics, and go the extra mile for guests.

Cleanliness First

Clearly, people are prioritizing their health during this pandemic, and will likely continue to do so for quite some time. Recent articles such as from the New York Times claiming the most important word in the hospitality industry right now is “clean.”, and a survey by Oliver Wyman that found that improved health and cleaning is a primary factor impacting the decision to stay at a specific hotel.

The meaning and association with the word clean has been turned around. To make sure what was once taken for granted (a “clean” room), it is needed to step up your game in order to live up to the customer´s completely new different definition of cleanliness (a “virus-free” room).

Xotels´ Tip: Technology

  • Killer lamps a.k.a. disinfectant lights using UV-light to sanitize surfaces (portable light modules, robots etc.)

Communication – how to get the (right) information across

  • Chat services, whether automatic (chatbots) or not (instant messaging with staff such as Whatsapp) allow for more swift and accurate ways to communicate information to guest
  • Hotel app, all protocols and initiatives should be listed. Referring to the app´s readily available information primes guests to make use of the app before reaching for an alternative such as calling to the reception.

Marketing message, make sure to include the initiatives in your marketing message.

  • Clearly display them on your website in various ways:
    • Concise short-list of your steps to tackle any concerns guest might have
    • Similarly, a pop-up message can be used to bring the information to guests attention
    • Do not overlook other departments. Promoting F&B specific measures such as food safety or convenient delivery options you might have should take away any doubts
  • Let your guest experience talk for itself. Be sure to include it in your marketing efforts across your hotel website, email campaigns, social media, and on OTAs. Highlight positive reviews and customer success stories about your outstanding health and safety measures.

Nothing is worse than putting in the efforts and money without the guest having the knowledge of what was actually done. Following the above examples and making sure the message is clearly visible throughout the guest journey will maximize potential results.

Personalization

Creating unique experiences has always been a major part of hospitality. However, for guests to qualify their stay as exceptional takes more than just covering the basics. Focusing specifically on their needs and wants and tailoring the provided services accordingly is where the difference can be made.

On a more fundamental level, it is evermore important not to lose the human touch to your services during these times. For both reasons, we believe personalization should always be front of mind.

Xotels´ Tip: In-room features examples

  • Selection of pillows and blankets, lighting color/intensity, choice of food and beverages available, curation of guest activities)
  • Personal turndown gift/note

Personalization of communication. Ask upon check in questions like “what kind of activities they have planned” and “what they would really like to do before they head back home”. This information allows you to receive detailed feedback of their interest and provide detailed suggestions to make their stay truly special. This can be included on many places including:

  • Hotel app: activities and packages bookable through the app streamlines the experience and allows for automatically created content suggestions based on previous choices
  • Complementary tablet/smartphone during the stay: make an individually curated selection of activities which can be pre-downloaded onto the device and given to the guests
  • Personal chat and telephone operators, keeping track of what has been asked and ordered is essential here. This input should always inserted into the system if relevant for future personalization

Leverage your PMS and CRM systems, personalization can become complicated very quickly especially for larger properties. Managing data in this case could become impossible without the support of a good PMS and CRM system. The loss of valuable information could be devastating for any hotel.

  • Sustainability, bring sustainable choices to your guests. Give them options such as the frequency of towel and linen changes. Showing not only that you care about the environment but also at the same time adding an extra level of personalization and value to your service.
  • Get your staff on board, they are at the center of your success to elevate personalization in your hotel. Overcoming the issue of undedicated staff should not be overlooked, as it is the most-cited hurdle when it comes to harnessing the potential of personalization (74%, BCG).

Thinking of holding off on the personalization of your services during current times? First, consider how easy it is to lose customers. Most (80% of consumers, Qubit) are open to switching their choice if they find services better catering to their needs. The same applies to marketing, with 25% of consumers (Netimperative) would be more loyal to a travel brand that shows an understanding of their needs through marketing, avoiding what they feel are irrelevant offers such specific periods/seasons they would never travel in, or types of vacations they would never book.

In short, switch into a higher gear when it comes to personalization and start asking yourself what can be done to take your services to the next level, otherwise it might be too late!

Tech-savvy / Smart hotels

Zoku – Smartly designed, offering a contactless experience with express self service check-in/out through self service and automated billing via email

The world is becoming more involved in technology, and will have to follow suit to provide to the needs of the already tech-savvy guests. In current times, technology in the hotel industry aids both the customer experience and, importantly, the need of a safe and clean setting. A great example is stepping into a fully contactless hotel, which seems like a simple feature to offer, but goes a long way in making the guest feel secure and comfortable.

Xotels´ Tip: Try finding what tech suits your brand best if you want to go big. More specifically, in case of luxury properties, you want to make sure human touch points are kept allowing the elevated guest experience expected in such properties to take place. On the opposite end are hotels and hostels characterized by simplicity and streamlined operational processes. Here, tech is THE facilitator for exactly what is nowadays expected by this target group. Chiefly, things such as mobile check in/out, an integrated hotel app, all in a contactless environment, are the essentials to elevate your customer experience, which is likely to become the standard in the industry sooner rather than later.

Health, Exercise & Wellness Stays

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People find sports as a way to unwind and improve quality of life, with recommendations pointing to exercise at least 30 to 40 minutes a day. Also, many feel the need to relax and are willing to spend, with estimates going from a $639 billion market, to $919.4 billion by the end of 2020 (Global Wellness Institute).

Offering unique ways for people to stay active and healthy, such as yoga in the swimming pool in the image above, can really make you stand out from the crowd. Especially offering extended services such as exercise and nutrition plans can make you go the extra mile in personalization creating a personal bond and making the guest feel extra special.

Xotels´ Tip: Willing to invest in healthy activities or wellness facilities? Start building your strategy first, researching your competitors thoroughly to come up with ways to stand out. Keep in mind that this does not necessarily have to translate into large amounts of time and money to broaden your service offerings. Below are listed a few initiates fit for any hotel wanting to expand on their health and wellness services.+

  • Follow the latest hotel trends and spa tech. Consider if it fits your brand first, and if it truly adds value. Not every initiative is for every hotel.
  • Look into partnerships with well-established spa product providers to create additional value. Possible, even leveraging their marketing power to your benefit. Be picky though – make sure the brand fits the image you want to portray (e.g. luxury hotels should only partner with top-level brands known for their exceptional quality).
  • Be vocal on social media even if you implement simple initiatives. The activities make up for great content, so be sure to take advantage of it.
  • Externalise– fitness and other activities such as yoga, tai chi, and meditation can all be outsourced with minimal costs involved. The activities do not even have to take place within the walls of your property.

final tip to consider is how well any of the above offerings fit your brand, and where the line between cost and value-add ends. Although resources might be available, sometimes going for smaller implementations can pay off big time and your valuable time and resources can be better spent on other initiatives.

Reconnecting with Mother Nature in Luxury

Nihiwatu Hotel, everything can be said with their motto: Socially Distant, Wildly Connected

Beautifully located in nature emerges guests in the natural setting, allowing guests to be one with nature. Curating special experiences fully embracing local culture and unique features of the hotel’s surroundings forms the go-to approach. To qualify as “luxury”, services should focus on tailoring the experience to the guests individual needs and wants, and deliver an experience unlike something they have ever seen before.

Some inspiration from Nihi Sumba involves hikes into local villages, bird watching in the midst of the jungle, or a guided tour to hidden lakes combining a swim with a delightful personalized lunch.

Xotels´ Tip: Unfortunately, not any hotel can just copy paste these views onto their backdrop. However, activities can be offered in the same way to fully experience what the destination has to offer. Whether it is cultural experiences or natural attractions around your hotel, try showing the beauty of what is out there. It can widely broaden your offerings and attract guests that are in the market for something special.

Extra Tip: build a wide range of packages special to your area, and put the effort by tailoring the service to each guest for a personal twist. And do not forget to include what your destination has to offer on your hotel blog to entice people to book and capture traffic on popular keywords.

Experiences & Building Personal Connections

Casa Vaganto, BarcelonaTapas & Cava on the House! A Perfect Moment to Connect with Guests and Meet New People

Despite the implications COVID-19 has on social interactions and activities, people are still looking to experience new things. Those willing to go out there might still be craving the personal attention and special care that hospitality is known for. Taking back that personal connection and interaction in current times could be more important than ever before. Things like offering complimentary tapas and drinks just like provided at Casa Vaganto, Barcelona can be just that occasion where you can truly take advantage of a moment to connect with guests.

Xotels´ Tip:

  • Invest in small scale moments to create memorable guest experiences. The guest’s experience will overreach anything tangible that can be produced (Cornell).
  • Increase your chances to rectify negative experiences. Tackling any issues personally before check out will prevent negative sentiment in many cases, subsequently protecting your review score..
  • Do not set any boundaries to time. The setting should be unforced with ample time for any guest to make use of the service.

Bringing Vacation Rental to the Next Level: Design and Unique Local Experiences

Kabano Vacation Rentals, El Tarter, Andorra, caters to all needs and excels in delivering unique experiences

Design

If we are honest, the vacation rental business has proved to be a laggard in the hospitality industry when it comes to concept design, missing the consistency and product quality we find in hotels. But why? Especially considering the fact that the product makes up for a much larger part of the overall experience in comparison to hotels, where service is typically more central.

So why not stand out from the crowd in a largely aesthetically indifferent pool of rentals out there? A great example of concept development is Kabano Rentals, a brainchild of Vojo Ventures, shown in the above image. Distancing itself from the herd with its own character, custom design, premium finishings, and curated local experiences. Let’s go through some design inspiration taken from Kabano that can make you stand out:

  • Premium furnishing, designed and equipped to the highest standards
    • Unique furniture, handcrafted in Bali, Indonesia
    • Premium linen, giving that extra comfort and luxury feeling
    • Individually designed spaces, with a little design twist to each room
  • Functionality front of mind, considering functionality across every possible touchpoint throughout the property (e.g. specially allocated area in the private parking made to get changed in comfort after a day of skiing, outfitted with a washing basin, ski equipment and clothing storage/drying rack, and sitting area). In case of Kabano, which is right in front of the ski pistes, the services are catered towards the specific needs of customers booking in that area. Look for similar ways to implement features to make guests feel comfortable.
  • Seamless experiences, contactless check in/out and availability of information (concierge and tablet providing everything you need)

Local & Unique Experiences

The majority of travellers find local experiences important, with only 3%: finding it not important at all (85%). Shifting focus to highlighting local experiences at your property is therefore essential to attract guests to your property.

Xotels´ Tip: We suggest you dive deeper into the following actions:

  • Generate as many ideas as you can to promote to your audience
    • Local food: cooking classes, food packages (e.g. fonduing with local cheeses in the chalet), local drink tastings
  • Creating the VIP experience, taking all the effort out of travelling (everything is pre-arranged). Think of:
    • Suggest a full plan of activities ranging from ski rental and restaurants bookings, to transportation to all the locations.
    • Take the opportunity to curate it to the guest´s preferences – personalize it
    • Go the extra mile when it comes to special experiences. Do not fall into the same category as everyone else with generic offerings that will not impress anybody.
  • Promote your activities, posting it in on your social media and hotel blog page
  • Inform the guest as much beforehand, and get them excited about all the possibilities. It allows you to start earlier with planning and gives guests more time to decide on their choices.
    • Watch out: most guest book experiences on spot so be prepared (hospitality. Starting with introducing options as early as possible might help you to bring this number down.
  • Revenue opportunity: build on your online strategy. Only 20% of experiences are available bookable online!

Consumer Hospitality Trends

Local Travel

Increase of the query “near me” in Google Trends clearly showing the heightened traffic on local searches over the past years (October, Google Trends)

Despite a dip from March until June for obvious reasons, we have seen an increase in traffic for local searches being performed.

Shift in Destinations Popular destinations seem to have shifted as well. According to a recent Booking.com article, six of the top 10 had never been in the top 10 before (globally), such as the Baltic Sea and Rügen region in Germany.

Previously, lists of popular destinations shown on OTAs and hotel chain websites would typically consist of various trending cities spread across multiple countries. Today, however, showing local destinations, within driving distance, would make more sense.

Challenges for hotels that arise from this include lower visibility of your otherwise “popular” destination, resulting in less impressions and clicks.

Xotels´ Tip: In practical terms, this means that we should be on top of local search trends by focusing on regional opportunities. Think of:

  • What the “new” consumers might be searching for when discovering different destinations beyond major cities and large tourist destinations. Possibly, these guests are completely unfamiliar with the city/destination itself, and this is where you can stand out and gain direct traffic. Think of:
    • Blogging: target local activities and the unique characteristics of your surroundings
    • Social media: has always been a great tool to display your hotel to a wide audience. Similarly to blogging, make sure to inform your audience about the possibilities at both your hotel as well as the city/region as much as possible to draw them in. This also allows you to curate content from different sources to expand your content strategy.

In other words, if the traffic is there you must be strategizing to capture as much of it as you can! We cover this more in our article about revenue management in a crisis or economic downturn.

Changing Booking Trends

Since COVID-19 started to show its impact on the hospitality industry, we have seen significant changes in consumer behaviour. Uncertainty being the main driver of how guests are searching and deciding on their travel plans. With travel restrictions in place, people are looking for safer ways to travel leading them to book closer to home, avoiding the risk of moving through high traffic areas. Another implication of uncertainty is the delayed moment of booking, meaning a shorter booking window.

Xotels´ Tip: In the same way the situation keeps changing, we can anticipate that booking behaviour will follow along. Our recommendation is to keep an eye on your data and take actions accordingly. Be sure to follow any changes in your on the books data, utilizing metrics provided by OTAs and by talking with your direct competition for additional insights. We advise to take the following action:

  • Build marketing campaigns according to the characteristics of the target segment. Furthermore, metrics such as lead time and feeder market can give you insight into when campaigns could be launched to maximize effectiveness.
  • Promotions and packages, both will help you to tackle low demand and target price sensitive customers. Aim not only to offer cheap deals, but also create value at the same time when prices are bottoming out. Add value without increasing the overall price too much can simply be achieved by including add-ons at cost-price. Whether it is a free dinner, breakfast or a welcome package, anything can help to sell rooms as long as the price is right for the customer.

Transformation of Corporate & Group Travel

This one might pose the obvious, since people are shying away from leisure travel let alone taking a trip for work…

As some companies choose teleworking- and communication instead of putting their employees at risk by making them travel for business, it is a logical outcome that corporate travel is impacted negatively.

Xotels´ Tip: Put your sales hat on and focus to maximize business from local markets as well as driving ancillary revenue. Making up for the loss of revenue otherwise coming from your corporate segment will not be easy, but the multitude of opportunities must give you the chance to diversify your revenue streams. Our tips include using your current customer database for retargeting, building marketing campaigns hyper-focused on the benefits of travelling locally, and introducing new packages and services catering specifically to the needs of consumers in the “new normal”.

Growing Middle-class & Emerging Markets

A prime example of a country showing prospering middle class growth is, of course, China.
Taking into consideration the steep incline of China’s middle class over the past years (4% of China’s urban population, to over 30% in 2018), which is expected to hit 75% by 2022 (McKinsey & Company), means a large number of consumer buying power that can be funneled into your hotel business with the right strategy.

From another perspective, entire regions can be expected to show strong growth figures. Take for example the African population, which is expected to account for approximately 40% of the world’s population by the end of this century (UNPF, 2015; World Tourism Organization, 2010; York, 2014). We know, speaking about an entire continent typically asks for some extent of generalisation. However, we use this example on purpose, being that it’s worth paying close attention to your data to possibly pick up on any trend happening in your market, hopefully a little bit earlier than your competition!

Xotels´ Tip:

  • Own your data, and be on top of any trends that might seem to appear from specific regions or countries.
  • Gather data from your direct channels, OTAs and anywhere else you might be able to find additional data on where travellers are coming from (i.e. municipality and regional databases).

Aging Population & Millennials

Focusing on specific segments based on age group might help you gather insights on what services and products you might be able to offer to drive revenue.
Take for example the aging population trend. The population over 60 is expected to grow at the fastest pace ever, with a growth rate of 58% over the next four decades in the developed world, well surpassed by developing countries clocking in at numbers more triple the amount of what it used to be in 2009 by 2050 (Nella & Evangelos, 2016).

Xotels´ Tip: Looking at the above statistics must prompt the urge to start thinking about the best ways to cater to the needs of this segment. The same applies to Millenials and other age groups, whether the numbers show such significant growth or not, there are always opportunities to drive revenue!

Also, read our article on how to get Millennials to Book at your hotel, for a detailed approach to get this consumer demographic to your hotel.

Hotel Concept Trends

Sustainable Lifestyle & Accommodation

Urnatur, Sweden, Secluded in the Swedish Countryside and Built with the Utmost Respect for Nature

Sustainable accommodation seems to become more popular by the day, showing 73% of global travellers intend to stay at least once in an eco-friendly or “green” accommodation when looking to book their next trip. In addition, another 70% of travellers are more likely to book an accommodation knowing it was eco-friendly, whether they were looking for a sustainable stay or not (Booking.com, 2019). Also, giving back to the community and planet is shown to be of importance, as indicated by a survey conducted by Condé Nast Traveler, that showed 58% of travellers said they choose a hotel on whether it gives back to local people and the planet.

Xotels´ Tip:

  • The road towards becoming more sustainable does not always have to be complicated. Of course, no matter how beautifully implemented with every aspect of sustainability in mind the above example is, there are other ways for hotels to positively impact the environment. Creating a concept built on a sustainable foundation does pose significant benefits if well-planned and marketed in the right way. Before taking action, make sure to consider the following first:
  • Market research, this should tell you whether there are options to diversify yourself, or if there is the need to follow the market which is already moving into sustainable solutions
  • Cost vs value calculation, depending on your budget and willingness to implement solutions, you should start discarding ideas based on your resources when it comes to time and money.
  • Small vs Big, evaluate simple steps can be taken towards a more sustainable property. Start by partnering locally with food producers and organizations focusing on improving sustainability in your area. Together you might be able to effectively provide value to the community. Anything from serving fresh local produce to using sustainably made decoration in rooms and public areas can make a big difference. Make these items available for sale to support the local economy as well.
  • Involve your staff in creating sustainable solutions that are easy to implement and are supported by your team from the get go.

In summary, do not go overboard in your efforts without a proper feasibility study and commitment from your team! However, choosing not to follow the sustainable path could translate into missed opportunities and loss of revenue.

Hybrid Concepts

The Green Elephant Hostel, Maastricht, The perfect execution of a ¨Glostel¨

Combining the words “Glamourous” and “Hostel” defines what has been brought to life at The Green Elephant, Maastricht (TGE). The concept brings luxury facilities, such as a full spa, to more affordable hotel types such as hostels. TGE has managed to tastefully merge more upscale amenities with the economical benefits of shared sleeping facilities, elevating the whole hostel experience to a new level.

Xotels´ Tip:

  • Mixing two concepts widens the audience, still attracting guests whose limited budget prevents them from visiting “luxury” properties with upscale amenities, as well as guests with higher budgets where a bunk bed suffices as long as extensive facilities are on offer.
  • Do it the right way, which is neither too trendy nor overly swanky, establishing a comfortable atmosphere for every guest. Otherwise, it will just not make sense!

Merging Nature and Urban Life

BUNK Utrecht, Creating a Sense of Nature Throughout the Hotel

Apart from sustainable solutions, hotels can implement other ways to bring a sense of “nature” to the hotel. Using plants can give a fresh and vibrant vibe, offering the possibility to be creative with the use of plants by blending them harmoniously with the rest of the decor.
Providing a splash of green in the hotel can prove to be beneficial to the overall guest experience, as green spaces are shown to have health-promoting and stress relieving purposes in residential environments (Beyer et al., 2014). Similarly, introducing sounds of nature can provide corresponding results, promoting relaxation and wellbeing amongst guests (Cassandra et. al., 2017)

Xotels´ Tip: Great results can be achieved with only little investment and smart placement of greenery. Various solutions can be found depending on the climate and your budget. The key here, again, is to make it fit your concept in order to guarantee a successful implementation. Anything could work from self-sustaining ecosystems to virtually maintenance free choice of plants (e.g. cacti and succulents), as long as it fits your style and concept.

(Long)-Stay away from Home & Remote Working

Zoku Amsterdam, Offering Unique In-room Facilities Increasing the Comfort of Being away from Home for Work

Offering simple and effective design centered around a balance between work and life is what Zoku does exceptionally well. Creativity is what sets them apart. Take for example the seamlessly integrated section hiding the sleeping area from the living room, and for a little bit of extra fun – gymnastics rings (as shown in the room image above) installed for those craving a little workout during their stay.

Xotels´ Tip: Before conducting any research into implementations, make sure you understand the fundamentals of this segment. Specifically, what are their needs and wants, and maybe even more importantly, how can you most effectively cater to those desires.

  • No skipping, meaning taking no shortcuts when it comes to making your entire hotel ready to accommodate the needs of this segment. Anywhere from public areas (lobby, breakfast area, cafe), and meeting areas (function spaces, breakrooms) to the rooms should be covered when it comes to offering comfort and accessibility to create a comfortable working environment.
  • Keep it fun, bringing a touch of playfulness to the implementation, just like Zoku does with the gymnastic rings. Also, community managers can fulfil an important role in establishing a balanced environment that fits every guest well.

Mixing Historic and Modern Architecture

Hotel Mariënhage, Eindhoven, Combining breathtaking modern architecture with the beauty of an old monastery

Mixing heritage sites with new and exciting architecture, such as the example above, allows for ways to repurpose old buildings and create new and inspiring concepts. Planning and execution of these kinds of projects usually can rack up a fair bit in additional costs, but will make you stand out more from the crowd and give people an extra reason to visit your property.

Xotels´ Tip: Embracing the concept in a well thought through marketing strategy is vital to the success for this kind of venue. Associate other amenities such as your meeting rooms and restaurant in your marketing message to complete the package and overall experience

How to keep your direct guests and steer the traveler booking motivations away from the OTAs?

A recent study conducted by Expedia Group claimed travelers are 57 percent more likely to book a hotel via an OTA than before the pandemic, as a result of emerging traveler booking motivations such as:

  • To get the best nightly rate (69 percent)
  • To get the best room (40 percent)
  • To compare properties in one location (35 percent)

Other motivations include earning reward points (32 percent), one-stop shopping (28 percent) direct promotions (26 percent), and buying a bundled offer, such a flight and hotel, in one transaction (25 percent).

Needless to say, this is a very self-serving study with less than stellar methodology (audience polled of only n=500 US consumers).

Unfortunately, there is some truth to Expedia’s claims and the hospitality industry is partly to blame for at least some of the emerging traveler booking motivations cited above. Here are some of the advantages the OTAs undoubtedly have in the post-crisis period and the tactics hoteliers can deploy to neutralize these advantages, hold on to their direct guests, and ultimately outsmart the OTAs:

1. Calamities make the OTAs stronger

Traditionally, the OTAs have emerged stronger after all of the previous crisis and calamities: 9/11, SARS, MERS, the recession, ZIKA, H1N1. The main reason is that travel suppliers – especially hoteliers – panic too easy, shut down their marketing efforts due to budget cuts, and run for help to the OTAs. In post-calamity periods, hoteliers are more willing to work with the OTAs, to discount and provide the OTA with sales promotions (24- or 48-hour sale, etc.) without promoting these same sales via the direct channel due to lack of marketing budget. All of this allows the OTAs to convince the traveling public that they can find the lowest rates on the OTA sites/apps – rates they cannot find elsewhere.

  • What can hoteliers do? Hoteliers should continue to maintain rate parity and invest in omni-channel marketing campaigns. All discounts or promotions you provide to the OTAs should also be promoted in the direct channel: Hotel website, content marketing, SEM, online media, social media, CRM and loyalty marketing. Travel consumers are shopping around (45 digital interactions before making a hotel booking – Google Research 2019) and omni-channel marketing gives the hotel an equal to the OTAs chance to engage the travelers throughout the Digital Customer Journey and its five phases (Dreaming, Planning, Booking, Experiencing and Sharing Phases), eventually acquire and retain them.

2. COVID-19 accelerated the shift from offline to online

eMarketer reports that US e-Commerce sales will reach $794.50 billion this year, up 32.4% year-over-year. E-Commerce sales in Europe have exploded as well. The pandemic drastically accelerated the shift from offline to online commerce, a shift that will also impact how travel is being researched, planned and booked in the future. Because of the shelter-at-home mandates around the world, the vast majority of the population – even late adopters – were forced to use online services to communicate, work and study remotely, search for news or information, purchase goods and services, order food, chat with friends and family, watch streaming services and entertain themselves.

This “online planning and purchasing education” has created millions of converts and believers in online services, which will inevitably affect how they research, plan and book travel in the future. This new wave of online converts will benefit online travel players like the OTAs immensely at the expense of brick-and-mortar travel agencies and traditional tour operators and wholesalers.

  • How about hoteliers? This “forced” conversion from offline to online can also greatly benefit smart hoteliers who continue to invest in digital marketing, cloud technology and applications and “reach out” to these newbie online travelers vs shutting down their marketing and technology budgets. Recently I wrote an article outlining a hotelier’s action plan for maintaining online presence that does not require significant investments Can Hoteliers Afford to Ignore Google in the Post-Crisis Era?

3. The OTAs now have a formidable reward membership base

Unlike the previous calamities, this time the OTAs have a significant new advantage: very robust Reward Programs comparable in popularity to the loyalty programs of the major hotel chains. Booking’s Genius Program has more than 100 million active members; Expedia Group and its three reward programs (Expedia, Hotels.com and Orbitz) have approximately the same membership count. The OTAs have been investing heavily in their reward programs over the past 3-4 years with the hope to increase repeat business, which is 10-15 times cheaper than acquiring new customers and decrease dependency on the expensive performance marketing (read Google and metasearch players like Trivago and TripAdvisor). Before the current pandemic, the OTAs have been spending in excess of $11 billion a year on performance marketing.

Many of the current OTA initiatives – for example Expedia Partner Recovery Program – require hoteliers to provide special discounted rates to the OTA’s reward members if they want to benefit from the OTA’s recovery program initiatives. All of this creates a vicious cycle where hoteliers are forced or enticed to provide lower rates and discounts to OTA reward members, which in turn increases the membership and further convinces the traveling public that the OTAs have the lowest rates and are the place to book their next trip.

  • What can hoteliers do? Focusing on your past guests and repeat business should become a top priority vs chasing new customers. Past guests and loyalty members are already familiar with the property, its location and product, the only thing now is to convince them that the property is safe to stay at. Past guests and repeat business will rule the next 24 months!

Hotel chains with loyalty programs should not participate in OTA reward member discounts and should provide any discounts and promotions to their own loyalty members instead. Due to weak travel demand, loyalty member initiatives, such as loyalty marketing, CRM initiatives, upsells and cross sells, should be top of mind for any branded hotelier as opposed to chasing new customers.

Independent hoteliers should focus on bringing back their past guests and creating a guest recognition program to reward any repeat guest. A simple program based on giving free nights based on X number of roomnights stayed can go a long way today. Hotels.com has 50 million members in its simple, but very effective reward program, which gives one free night with every 10 nights stayed at any hotel. Independents should also strongly consider implementing a cloud CRM technology and create a CRM program to increase repeat business, engage last and current guests and turn them into future guests.

The big question is what else can hoteliers do in this environment of weak travel demand and severe budget cuts? I believe selling on value vs selling on price alone can compensate to a great extent the budget limitations and online dominance by the OTAs. Hoteliers must remember and relearn how to sell on value vs price alone! The OTAs are the masters of selling on price, hoteliers have no chance outwitting or outspending them in their marketing efforts. But selling on value? This is where hoteliers can truly outwit the OTAs and provide real value to their customers. Do you have cooking classes, weekend specials, coronavirus de-stressing packages, spa packages, family packages, activity packages, special occasion packages, wine tastings, F&B packages and promotions, work-from-hotel packages, etc. that you can use to target your local, short-haul and drive-in feeder markets?

Especially now, it is not difficult to be creative and figure out what your customers want and need – they, like all of us, have been locked at home for most of the past 7 months. We have all been there and you can easily come up with enticing packages and special offers based on what your guests would love to do and experience at your property and its surroundings in the current environment.

Remember, the OTAs have one huge disadvantage: in spite of all of their technology and marketing might, they do not know your hotel product and your destination like you do.

Source: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/opinion/4101163.html