Hotel Operations Are Complex: So Why Are You Still Using Pen & Paper?

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Hotel Operations Are Complex: So Why Are You Still Using Pen & Paper?

By Katherine Grass, CEO of Optii Solutions - 09/08/2020

The true impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is still unknown as hotels around the world continue to navigate operating in these unprecedented and unpredictable times. In some parts of the world hotels are faced with strict lockdowns and forced to close their doors again, whilst others are trying to adapt to the new normal and manage fluctuating occupancy levels.

The changing landscape of hotel operations

One of the biggest changes that has impacted every hospitality business is the introduction of new cleaning protocols, which needed to be implemented in record breaking speed and under a rigorous spotlight. As travel has started to slowly open up, hotels need to ensure they are transparent with the new protocols they have implemented to not only assure their employees of safety and hygiene but also their guests.

Each hotel has taken their own approach to the types of protocols they will put in place, with some hotels choosing a disinfectant spray which requires a room to be vacant for a minimum of 3 hours, whilst others are choosing for rooms to be taken off the allocation list for 24 hours after guests have left to allow team for the new cleaning procedures to be completed. It is too early to know which procedure works best and it is a challenge facing operations teams and managers as they have to navigate the best path for their specific business and guests.

Alongside these cleaning protocols the type of guests hotels have to accommodate has also shifted. Business travel and large groups look to be slower to return back to normal, providing a unique challenge for city business hotels and resorts who now have to find a way to operate under new requirements for a transient leisure traveller. Additionally, occupancy levels are constantly fluctuating making it harder for operations teams to prepare for peaks in guest numbers.

One of our customers Craig Coughlin, CEO of LUXXE saw how the unpredictable nature of occupancy levels has caught hotels off guard. “We saw an unexpected spike in occupancy in areas such as Canberra at the start of July during the school holidays, with numbers shooting from 20% to 80% for a 2-week period. Hotels have had to scramble to accommodate the extra guests and assemble teams to provide the type of service their guests expect whilst adhering to new protocols. After the holiday, the occupancy rate has gone back down to 17% for Canberra, and the hotels have again had to readjust operations team around this.”

What steps can managers take to help manage operational complexities?

As the world went into lockdown, we saw how everyone embraced technology to be able to work remotely. The nature of hospitality means that as soon as we can we need to be back in front of people and back to work, and technology can provide significant assistance.

We estimate that around 90% of hotel operations are managed with pen and paper, which will not be efficient to deal with the processes required in the new normal. Communication amongst teams will be essential and technology provides the best alternative to traditional in person processes. Using an app, for example, means that teams can easily share pictures of rooms or tasks that need attention across all of the different departments. An online platform also enables teams to move their training to online so that all staff are up to date with the new protocols. 

One of the biggest benefits of embracing technology which will help operations teams navigate the unpredictable path ahead is having access to a full picture of your operations across all departments. With the fluctuating occupancy levels and guest expectations, hotel managers need to understand cleaning times to be able to map out schedules and assign tasks and teams. By having this full picture managers can then assess what tasks are taking the most time and where they can cut back to reduce costs. Without this information it will be extremely difficult for managers to make the necessary decision to help mitigate additional costs whilst providing the best guest experience.

The hospitality industry is resilient, and we have seen the capability of operations teams as they work around the clock to introduce new protocols and adapt to the new normal. There is no doubt that the future will be full of new challenges as operations teams need to navigate new procedures against a backdrop of unpredictable demand and potential future lockdowns. However, there is now the right technology to help teams manage through these complexities, and by investing in the right solutions for your hotel you can ensure that you are equipping your teams with the tools they need to build back better. 

With more than 20 years in the IT and travel industry, Katherine is a Venture Partner for Thayer Ventures, a travel-tech focused venture capital firm with deep ties to the hotel industry and lead investor for Optii Solutions. Katherine has also held senior executive roles within travel technology company, Amadeus IT Group, where she worked as a leader in corporate strategy for six years before she went on to found Amadeus Ventures and work as global head of innovation for the organization.