The acceleration of the ‘bleisure’ movement, as well as an enhanced digital guest experience, were among the key hotel trends identified by a handful of executives as currently having a significant impact on day-to-day operations.
Weighing in on these and other topical issues earlier this month at BITAC Operations, the executives took part in a panel discussion entitled, “What’s Trending: Content And Services In The Hospitality Industry Today.” The session was moderated by Jonas Tanenbaum, founder, Axcess Consulting.
The emerging business/leisure or ‘bleisure’ trend has clearly shifted travel patterns and, in many cases, raised the bar for hotels from a technology standpoint, according to the panelists.
As an example, Joseph Del Guidice, SVP, Operations, PM Hotel Group—a Chevy-Chase, MD-based management company—noted that in response the company is now utilizing a digital app that enables guests to order food throughout their properties.
“We started to see the Thursday night arrival and we realized that ‘bleisure’ was something that was here to stay. So we kind of knew that our guests were choosing areas in the hotel to work out of that normally they wouldn’t,” he said.
Parminder Batra, CEO, TraknProtect—a Chicago, IL-based company featuring an IoT platform that provides solutions for employee safety and cleaning protocol adherence, as well as inventory, vendor and room tray tracking—further drove home the point.
“The stats show that the shoulder days have changed to now being more Thursday and Monday. ‘Bleisure’ guests are walking in with the expectation of ‘not only do I need wifi, I want to be able to sit by the pool and work. Or I want to be able to be in the gardens and work, not just be in my room. So where it used to be the desk was really important, it’s still important, but so are the other areas and making sure there’s wifi coverage and an adequate place to sit and to be able to connect and to work,” she said.
Meanwhile, the ongoing labor shortage remains a key issue for hotel operators in the post-COVID environment. Kim Huff, SVP, solutions consulting, BirchStreet Systems—a Newport Beach, CA-based company which provides eprocurement solutions for hospitality and food and beverage—emphasized to attendees the importance of technology that helps alleviate such issues.
“I think one of the things you’ll probably all relate to is that there’s not as many people now to do all of that work. So it’s really important now that whatever technology we implement or use frees your team’s time up and automates as much as possible so that they can, in turn, spend time focusing on that guest experience,” he said.
Del Guidice also acknowledged the potential for technology to help with labor shortages, but emphasized the importance of authentic hospitality.
“My goal is not to have technology replace the guest experience or personal one-on-one, it’s how does it enhance it? We’re in a tough labor situation and we have fewer and fewer employees so how do these systems benefit the lessening of the employee pool to help them be able to provide better guest service? At the end of day the guest is paying for a service. You’re not driving ADR [average daily rate] because a robot’s there, you’re driving ADR because they [the guest] had an experience. So how do these systems help us better take care of our guests?” he asked.
Charles Oswald, President/CEO, Banyan Tree Management—Atlanta-based investment, holding and management company—was more focused on making sure that any potential technology solutions were both easy to use and simplified things from an operating standpoint.
“When we’re engaged in a conversation about technology it really should be about simplification, making our jobs easier to do. Decision making should become easier too. I do think that sometimes technology can actually overcomplicate our lives and we have to be careful not to fall into that trap,” he said.
Oswald continued, “we’re endeavoring to make sure we partner with technology solutions that are highly integrated where we can look at business intelligence solutions and get a high-level understanding of what’s going on in our business.”
Batra also agreed that “technology being simple, easy to use and easy to deploy” is critical.
“What we find when talking to asset managers, they say ‘my GM has to log into 6 apps first thing when they come in in the morning.’ That’s a lot of time that they spend logging in. Their [request] is ‘how can you help?’ We’ve had a company philosophy since we built the asset tracking solution and we carried it through our safety solution, it’s got to be three clicks and you’re done. The user experience is so critical, it has to be one click, two click, and I know exactly what I need,” she said.
Tanenbaum referenced a recent study that indicated that some 30 percent of hoteliers have adopted and implemented new tech solutions this year. He then asked the panelists to elaborate on how companies evaluate whether or not to implement new technology.
“Most organizations will set KPIs [key performance indicators] and they’ll use those when measuring the ROI when they implement a system like BirchStreet or any others. Part of that is how can the solution benefit us? How can we improve our KPIs? We find a lot of clients now have disparate systems so when they implement BirchStreet or any other system, they have to make sure they work together and play well together,” said Huff.
Oswald pointed out he seeks out the buy in from executives throughout the company first and foremost.
“I don’t want to press down the solution to my team, but I want the department heads to be able to press up to me and say ‘this is something that will actually help me run my business better.’ I want them to be not just complaint with a solution that we implement, but actually committed because they felt like they were part of that selection process and they feel like it added efficiencies and simplicity to their life,” he said.
Oswald added, “Of course, we’re studying the ROI on everything. If I’m spending $1,000 a month for this [solution] can you prove to me that I will save multiples of that amount? How are we going to measure that success?”