NEW YORK — While hotel executives’ optimism from the first day of the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference carried over into the second, they also recognized the major challenges that increased travel demand creates for their short-staffed industry.
Hoteliers see a much clearer path forward through the recovery than they did even months ago, but increased domestic leisure demand, soon to be compounded by incoming international travelers, along with the gradual return of group and corporate business, means more guests than their hotel teams can handle.
Several panels addressed the concern over whether upcoming brand standard requirements and property-improvement plans will add more stress on owners, many of whom spent and have not replenished their FF&E (furniture, fixtures and equipment) reserves. Even as brands indicate they intend to be flexible with updates, the time will come when that renovation are necessary.
Quote of the Day “The pass we got last year, having limited housekeeping and limited food and beverage, is over. If you’re not back to normal, you’re going to have very bad customer experiences.” —Sloan Dean, CEO and president of Remington Hotels, on customer expectations that hotel services and amenities have returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Editors’ Takeaways Hoteliers on Tuesday talked about a worrying trend: The delta between rising guest expectations and the reality of what hoteliers can and sometimes cannot provide in terms of amenities and services. In the early days of the pandemic through this summer’s leisure travel boom, hoteliers had luck holding average daily rate — and raising it, in some cases — while serving customers who by and large understood that services and amenities may be curtailed due to external pandemic-driven forces. Now that the U.S. travel playing field is leveling out and more high-value and business transient guests are back in hotels, there’s a growing concern that these travelers won’t be content to pay high rates with oftentimes still-closed restaurants and other limited services.
“That change in expectations has been very dramatic,” said Carlos Flores, president and CEO of Sonesta International Hotels Corp. “They’re radically different from what they were six months ago and now guests expect the full complement of services.”
International travelers returning to the U.S., with often higher expectations and longer lengths of stay, may exacerbate this growing problem. —Stephanie Ricca, editorial director
Not surprisingly, labor continues to be a major topic of discussion among attendees and panelists. The conversation has shifted, however, as we’re hearing less about how the government is paying people to stay home and more about addressing needs they’re hearing from employees and potential employees.
Several hotel CEOs today talked about how they’re trying to figure out ways, besides higher wages, to attract and retain employees. They talked about building flexibility into schedules, which could mean working something other than an eight-hour shift or splitting an employee’s time between multiple hotels. There are a couple management companies experimenting with gig pay for employees, changing up the normal paycheck schedule by giving employees access to their earnings sooner.
Now is the time for hoteliers to play around with their labor models, figuring out which combination of pay and benefits will work best for their workforces. It’s becoming increasingly clear that those who try to stick with the old way of doing things will find more employees leaving for other companies offering something different. —Bryan Wroten, senior reporter