Looking at the Big Picture

GA, March 2019

The hospitality industry was, it is and it will remain one of the largest and most prominent industries in the world. A world that in all probabilities will see the growth in global tourism and travel outpacing the growth in the global economy in general as it is anticipated that travel and tourism will grow by 8%-9% per year for many years to come. A world of more demanding consumers expecting attention and value and in an environment where consumers are increasingly exposed with information and with so many new products and offers.

The world as we know it is about to change and as we enter the “fourth industrial revolution (4.0)”, hospitality leaders have to equip themselves with the most sophisticated radar to guide and steer them toward a world of new trend, new expectations, new products, new technology, new competitors and be guided on how business has to be conducted with the objective of constant growth and not to be left behind. Must accept that with so much technology, brands, products and offers, consumers have acquired more power than ever. The choice is at the tip of their fingers.

The very basics of the industry such as high employee satisfaction, training, customer satisfaction, speed, efficiency, productivity, and most important customer’s acquisition and retention/repeat business are here to stay now and in the future. A clear objective and priority for any executives and leaders are to find new innovations that improve performance at lower costs and motivate all its people under the same common goals.

Putting people first is essential in this industry because people are the true differentiator; they are the ones who make great hotels. Automation is coming sure, and will undoubtedly enhance the industry, but robots and similar tech cannot replace the human element. And that’s why it is essential to take great care of all our people.

Remember that alone you will achieve nothing; you need your people. Make sure to surround yourself with people smarter than you and build a strong, dedicated and committed team. Treat them with respect and dignity, and they will reciprocate. Avoid manipulating your team (an others), and also try not to be manipulated yourself. Offer performance-based incentives and make sure these are always fairly distributed.

Accept that the road to success is paved with challenges requiring hard work, determination and passion. Always look for new and better ways to improve your product and your results. Strive for perfection and accept that there will always be someone who will attempt to copy your ideas and products, outshine your offerings, and poach your people.

In today’s fast-paced world, organizations of every kind are finding it extremely difficult to attract and retain clients. Offering a good product or a useful service is no longer enough. Today, consumers are looking for something that will enrich and add value to their lives.

In a world where every company is competing to grow to become the best-known and preferred hotel brand in the market, clarity about competitive advantage is vital to success. What are your company’s unique selling points? What is your brand positioning? What major segments do you cover? Who are your target customers? Your market mix? Your geographical source?

Positioning hotels in competitive environments requires skill, experience, and a clear vision supported by a solid strategy that highlights not only all the key elements of operating successful hotels, but also a clear path towards achieving market leadership within a defined period.

It’s often said that the only certainty in life is change. For the hospitality industry, change is a constant reality. What we learned a few years ago may no longer apply today. Hospitality organizations need people who can adapt quickly, not those who are resistant to change. Organization that can implement swift, positive change are also the ones that build greater confidence among their customers and employees.

Consolidation within the industry will continue and the big hotel companies will expand at the expense of the small-medium size hotel groups, which, in most cases, will find it difficult to compete in both revenue and operating costs (a case of the bigger fish eating the smaller fish). Niche brands may survive of a while, but they will find it difficult to compete in the long run.

There will always be passionate and dedicated entrepreneurial independent hoteliers who will come up with new ideas, new services and innovative products. The industry is in need of these creative people because they inspire the entire industry and help to raise standards across the board (although the large groups do copy innovations with the objective to outscore the competition).

It has been proven time and again that, with the right culture, the right attitude, and the right strategy, we can handle any situation or crisis that may arise in our personal and professional lives. The important thing is to accept that each crisis presents an opportunity and brings with it valuable lessons. In this competitive industry, we never stop learning.

Technology will continue to lead the way for change in the hotel industry. Fast technological advances are driving societies to develop at an unprecedented rate, impacting the human condition as never before. Advancements in artificial intelligence will enable hotels to track client behaviour, and proactively and accurately handle customer interactions.

The industry has to move beyond symbolic statements on ethics. Hotels alone cannot fix the world’s problems, but hotels can assume a proactive and collective approach to human rights and business ethnics, ensuring transparency in all monetary transactions, complying to the highest safety standards protect/assist the under-age and the less fortunate.

Work-life balance – does it exist? Work-life balance is a concept that means different things to different people, across different industries, and a lot has been written about this important subject. For some, it’s an elusive ideal, for others, it’s a myth. While some say it’s certainly achievable, but only if they work hard at it, which is certainly ironic.

The best way to achieve a work-life balance in our famously labour-intensive industry, in my humble opinion, is to get your priorities straight. Health, family; job, in this order. And definitely not the other way around. In business and in life, things don’t always go to plan. You have to learn to take the rough with the smooth, the good with the bad, and accept that things will not always be as they seem – especially in the hospitality industry.

Trust is like a two-way street; understanding and confidence must flow both ways, and there must be give and take from both sides. Trust must be earned before it is reciprocated, though, and there must always be clarity in expectations, and also in what the company stands for.

Pleasing different tastes; Remember that every customer who walks into a hotel restaurant brings with them their own distinctive tastes and preferences, so it’s practically impossible to please everyone. This is why F&B is the most complex division. Market changes and the economic environment dictate the business pulse and, to a certain extent, the investment required to provide the service a customer expects from a hotel restaurant, and ensure your outlet remains competitive.

So many professionals in our industry claim to be specialists in F&B, but when it comes to showing results, very few really know what it takes to create a successful food/restaurant concept, to position it in the market, to train and retain staff and to achieve popularity and profitability.

Dealing with owners; Regardless of whether a hotel is branded or not, dealing with hotel owners requires knowledge, respect, honesty, open communication and, in some cases, diplomacy. As all hotel brands are focusing on strategic expansion beyond traditional boundaries, understanding how to deal with developers and shareholders has become an essential part of the hotel business, and perhaps one of the most demanding and complicated aspects of it.

Today, hotel owners want results from management companies; glamour and reputation are not enough. Investors in this industry want more, too. They are no longer satisfied with capital appreciation: they also want healthy cash flows from their asset.

Hotel owners are a different species entirely, and I could write a whole book on how to deal with them. In short, each has his or her own likes, dislikes, expectations, and demands, as well as a unique vision for their respective properties. While some owners are supportive, others can be disruptive at the expense of the image and performance of the hotel.

Successful hotels are the ones which are built to operate for the long term. They add value to their customers, and they have sustainable strategies for achieving competitive advantage. We cannot get away from the fact, however, that hotels are sometimes built for different purposes. Take the many mixed-use projects now cropping up in key cities worldwide. It’s not uncommon to see high-end hotels factored into these developments to give the projects ‘prestige status’ and drive up the value of the real estate.

The other side of the coin; Like any business in the world, hospitality is far from a squeaky-clean operation. Almost every day brings with it strange and challenging situations (and strange and challenging guests) which our frontline employees must deal with patiently, and always with a smile. This is no easy task – and impossible to achieve without humour and a positive attitude.

The customer is not always right: In hotels, never believe that the customer is always right. Far from it. Some are simply a pain to deal with while in most cases it is a pleasure to deal with them.

Money, money, money; Hotels are machines to make money. Profit takes precedence before people – employees and guests. Sad? Yes. But remember that money controls the world. And it will always be like this.

Wishy-washy leadership; Hotels are complex organizations and there is no space for cowards in this business, but the industry is awash with feeble leaders. Why do hotel companies find it so difficult to distinguish good leaders from the weak ones?