Technology was a considerable focus at BITAC Operations Virtual Connect 2020 earlier this month, particularly during a keynote address from author, contributing editor and hotelier Larry Mogelonsky who stressed to hoteliers the value of establishing an operations management system which amalgamates various technologies within one platform.
During the presentation, “The Future Of Technology For The Post Pandemic Hotel,” Mogelonsky also touted the importance of near-field communication, contactless check-in and bringing together chatbots and live agents to help manage an exponential increase in guest inquiries.
Following the presentation, he took part in a live Q&A with Hotel Community Forum Editor-in-Chief Dennis Nessler to offer his outlook on a variety of key hotel issues. What follows are portions of that conversation.
What would you recommend for hoteliers that may not be flush with capital right now but want to upgrade their technology?
What I will tell you is that almost all of the companies will allow you to acquire their systems right now under COVID and perhaps not even pay anything, except a nominal installation cost until such time as business is recovering. All of these companies are hurting, everybody in the industry has a problem. What we’d like to do is look at suppliers and look at hoteliers and bring them together.
What do you see as the post-pandemic future of food & beverage within hotels?
There’s a challenge here, I’m going to a hotel and I want the restaurant experience to be better than home. How do I do that when I’m getting paper napkins, paper placemats, sachets of sugar, salt, pepper and ketchup, as well as waiters and waitresses that are dropping food in front of me with gloves and a mask and maybe even a level-four hazmat suit? It’s not very appetizing. We have to find a way to make that presentation better.
I would say to almost every hotelier out there ask your team for help. There are a lot of very good ideas within your group. Ask everyone from the dishwasher through to your executive chef how to make the food & beverage experience special. If you can do that and link it to your rooms I think that’s part of the road to success.
How important is it for hotels to show guests their cleanliness efforts as part of the new protocols?
I think there’s an education process here. We keep harping on cleanliness, but that’s not the way that the disease is transmitted for 99 percent of people. I think we’re going in the wrong direction. All hotels have to post something on their approach to cleanliness. You can’t go to a website without being inundated on cleanliness characteristics. I don’t want to hear about cleanliness when I go to a hotel, I want to hear about how you’re going to take care of me as a guest. Cleanliness is now considered a standard very much like air conditioning or wifi.
We as hoteliers have to restore the excitement of checking into a hotel. For whatever purpose you’re checking into a hotel there has to be that sense of discovery, that sense of excitement, that you’re not in your own bed. Hoteliers have to circle back and become hoteliers again, not accountants.
The lodging industry has used RevPAR (Revenue Per Available Room) as a key performance metric for many years, you’ve advocated for GOPPAR (Gross Operating Profit Per Available Room) as a more relevant metric, can you elaborate on why?
There’s a client I’m working with which has a RevPAR of $128 and they have 100 rooms pre-pandemic. Post pandemic they’re operating with only 56 rooms. They reported to the ownership ‘isn’t it great we’ve maintained RevPAR?’ The owner came to me and said ‘what do I do with this general manager’? I said ‘fire him, he’s missed the point.’
In another example I was working for a large property in Southern California, they were very proud of their siloed system, which allowed golf revenue to be maximized, as well as f&b revenue and spa revenue. They were doing a great job in each of these individual departments, but the property was dying. We have to go beyond the process of looking at all of these individual units. A lot of this is caused by the compensation programs which give managers of each of these units a bonus based on the performance of their individual bubble.
What do you see ahead for the lodging industry in 2021?
First, I think there are going to be mass mergers of brands. We heard rumblings of Accor and IHG; that’s nothing. I’m predicting much bigger mergers in that area, which is going to put a lot more people on the street unfortunately in the corporate offices.
We’re going to have a very rough Q1, an okay Q2, Q3 is going to show people that it’s summer and we can get out and by Q4 it’s going to be back to a sense of recovery. For the next 12 months I would say to hoteliers keep your powder dry, get your tech going, train your people, protect your best people and hang in with tactical short-term promotions that keep the blood flow going to your property as best you can.