The Hotel Industry's New Normal Is Having No Normal

Today’s challenge is managing the size and pace of change so as to remain successful.
hotel guest walking through lobby

Since the pandemic began in early 2020, we all have been seeking a return to normal. Now, in early 2022, we are still looking for the “New Normal.” Until health officials can determine a way to manage COVID and its variants nationwide, the New Normal is No Normal.  Change will continue, stability will be elusive, and the world will continue to change. The key to success is to stay focused on the core of your business and leverage the talents of others to help you with the rest.

Continual change is not the disaster that everyone has made it out to be.  In fact, when you look back over the course of history, continual change is nothing new.  Today’s challenge is the size and pace of change, so the key is determining how you will manage the speed of change.  There are four responses to change, but people only tend to consider the first three- fight it, ignore it, or embrace it.  But rarely do we consider the fourth- leverage it to a competitive advantage.

Early in the pandemic, we heard stories about distilleries that converted their alcohol to make hand sanitizer and clothing manufacturers that transitioned to making masks.  Curbside pick-up is now a common for all types of retailers.  What are the traits that will lead to successful hotel operation until markets stabilize?  Here are three important traits to help hotel managers succeed.

Focusing on a Memorable Guest Experience

While guests’ expectations of a hotel stay have changed, it is still critical to ensure that they have an outstanding experience while staying at your property.  Try new ideas that might provide different experiences that resonate more with existing consumer needs, such as outdoor activities by the pool or transforming the restaurant into more of gathering space.  Movies, music, or games provide experiences that will be remembered even in uncertain times. 

Matching your form of engagement with your guests is also important to optimizing their experience.  Did they make their reservation by calling your property?  That signals a strong desire for personal connection, while someone checking in through their phone is looking for minimal human engagement and more efficient transactions.

It’s also important to match the needs and interests of your guests.  Sustainability and wellness are two important lifestyle choices, so watch for signals from your guests, so you can design the stay to their preferences, with products that are designed to reduce your carbon footprint, purify air, or help guests get a better night’s sleep.

Taking Care of Your Employees

The Great Resignation is redefining the labor market and the expectations of workers.   Journalist Rani Molla observes that the tightened job market is being leveraged to unionize in some key cities and seek higher wages, better benefits, and improved working conditions.  Taking an active approach to care for your employees not only satisfies these needs without unionizing, but it sets a great example for how you want your workers to treat your guests. 

Poet Maya Angelou famously said, ““I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I once saw an employee being yelled at by his supervisor.  After that experience, how does anyone reasonably expect that employee to go out and face guests with a smile? But most employees who are treated with care and respect will reflect that in the way they treat your guests. Authentic and genuine care about staff comes from management at all levels.

Outsourcing Non-essential Tasks

With a shortage of labor and trying to provide a good work environment for those employees you do have, it’s critical to know what tasks must be completed by your internal team and which can be completed by other people, or by technology.  Here are a few examples:

  • Hotel retail is becoming increasingly important, but how much of the operation can be handled without employee involvement?  Guest self-checkout in your retail location is a way to keep your front desk team focused on check-ins and check-outs.  A scanning kiosk can allow guests to check out their purchases, adding it to their room bill or putting them on a credit card.  Also, having the right POS reporting system can make it easier to identify your top-selling products so you can simplify your reordering to maximize profitability.
  • Nothing is more bothersome than loud guests.  They take hotel staff away from their primary tasks and risk having affected guests asking for compensation for the disruption or posting a bad review.  A simple monitor in the room can respond to noise above a certain level by generating a text to the guest and asking them to quiet down.  Night auditors are not comfortable getting in the middle of a dispute between guests, and the potential harm to your reputation is reason to be proactive about handling loud guests.

While the market continues to shift in unknown directions, a focus on your core business, along with strategic partnerships with a strong support network, will ensure your employees and guests will enjoy being at your property, and your bottom line will grow.



Jill Dean Rigsbee is a 38-year hospitality and procurement veteran and is the CEO and Founder of iDEAL Hospitality Partners, who represents several innovative and sustainable suppliers in the hospitality industry.

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