Little did we know when we created the HSMAI Europe People & Culture advisory board just two years ago that our world would experience so much change. Our conversations have always been focused on Attraction – Selection – Development and Retention of the best talents in the business.
The “WHAT” hasn’t change, we still need to attract the best, select for passion and attitude , develop and retain. However the “HOW” and the “WHY” have evolved dramatically with the health and economic crisis that follows.
The diversity of background within our board, ranging from Operation, HR, Learning and Academia in large and smaller organizations allowed us to re-think and challenge the traditional pre-COVID approaches and also to temper the post-COVID knee-jerk reactions we have seen in the business.
We covered each of the above aspects of People & Culture in hospitality and asked ourselves the following questions:
How do you attract people to an industry that has been hit the hardest by the economic downturn ? Are hotel schools making the appropriate adaptations to help their students secure the best jobs in what remains the industry that employees the largest number of people in the world? How do you keep your best talents from jumping ship?
Which are the skills and competencies that you need to run a successful business during a storm ? Which of those need to be developed or acquired?
How can we keep employee engagement up when we need to downsize? What is the role of mentoring?
More questions then there are answers, however we have kept supporting HSMAI members and the industry at large with tools to guide attraction, selection and on-the job leadership development. We supported the creation of the Excelling at Customer Centricity Virtual Class, supported the Mike Leven Mentoring Programme and together with the HSMAI Europe team and HSMAI Foundation, are bringing together CHRO from the industry in a virtual round table to expand the conversation
If you’d like to know more about the HSMAI Europe People & Culture Advisory Board, please get in touch with HSMAI Region Europe at email@example.com
He is a 22 year-old ambitious hotel & hospitality professional. Having worked in five hotels and a cluster management company, he got exposed to all departments and gained a profound understanding of a hotel’s daily and longer-term challenges. Additionally, he established valuable insights into ways of thinking applied by hotel managers, which is of the highest importance when engaging in cooperation with hotels. This understanding, combined with an MBA education, makes him someone who comprehends and can implement operational excellence, strategic performance, and people leadership. In the near future, he hopes to continue to grow the HSMAI network by looking for those who want to contribute to this wonderful industry. Because when you bring people together across companies and brands, you will make a difference for the future hotel & hospitality industry.
Emile will work as a volunteer for HSMAI Region Europe for a few hours per week, during this time he will also complete his MBA.
Here is his first blog post for HSMAI Region Europe:
Over the last decades, the hotel and travel industry has proven to be a robust and flexible industry. They survived terroristic attacks, a financial crisis and tremendous changes in customer behaviour due to digitisation of the society. However, the last few months have challenged hotel and restaurant owners as never before.
Simultaneously, admirable initiatives such as volunteering actions, events like Hospitality Tomorrow and other webinars emerged. All stakeholders of this industry are impacted: travellers are not able to continue business or go on holidays, hotel staff had to find a different way of supporting their precious hotel guests, and hotel managers were confronted with strategic challenges they never encountered before. Meanwhile, scientists keep on looking for an antidote so we can get back into a new normal. This article aims at providing hospitality professionals with an overview of what actions they should have completed during these challenging times and what to look out for in the near future.
you should have done
COVID-19 has once again confirmed the value of
the renowned Maslow pyramid. Despite the lack of previous experience of dealing
with a global pandemic of this size, employees, guests and management first
required to be acknowledged of their primary needs: safety, security and health.
This prerequisite did not only include a need for a guarantee of safe and healthy
work conditions but as well as protection on a psychological and monetary
level. Only appropriate proactive measures can provide such comfort through the
implementation of cleaning protocols, distance measures, and hygiene
regulations combined with a candid and proactive communication to all
previously mentioned stakeholders. This communication should breathe an
interest in the well-being of those stakeholders to be perceived as authentic.
What starts as a social service can potentially
turn into a financial benefit. Engagement with your community, also when you
are under financial stress, has never been more critical. Many initiatives
emerged: hotels offering their rooms to health care workers or homeless people,
restaurants providing meal packages for hospitals… you name it! If you haven’t
done so before, now is the time to start these practices to survive and build a
community of trust, safety and belonging.
Use the experience you’ve had before the corona
era and dare to move on! Dare to break with the paradigms, and to develop your
strategy based on data and market knowledge. You definitely should consider
showing flexibility in your rate policy.
you should keep doing
If you haven’t started doing any of the topics
mentioned above, now is the time to follow-up. If you have, maintain this open,
candid communication internally and externally. Remain true to your commitment.
It’s no secret customer expectations and customer demands have changed
drastically compared to 2019, and will continue to do so in the next couple of
months. These changes include a demand for providing guarantees for a risk-free
stay, an increase in the pace of the digital evolution, and a new standard for
luxury on the short-term. Stay ahead of these evolutions and develop new forms
of customer empathy to anticipate new customer behaviour and demands. A change
in your behaviour as an enterprise will lead to providing an answer to these new
For international travel, one of the most influential
factors are regulations concerning the restrictions upheld by the country of
origin and the destination. Therefore, keep track of international rules, as
they will highly influence your short- and mid-term segmentation. The COVID-19
global pandemic revealed the hotel industry’s
dependence on very few substantial revenue streams
and a shortage of
investment in new
profit models. Predications by
STR expose that a RevPAR (Revenue Per Available Room) similar to 2019, will
only be achieved within seven years from now. Hence, on a longer-term, hospitality
leaders will highly benefit from looking beyond traditional revenue creation (mainly
from room revenue) and from moving beyond the paradigm of limiting hotel
services to the four walls that define its infrastructure.
Positive, Be Hospitality
There are some green shoots in China and the
US. Organisations such as STR and Skift strongly believe in an increase in
demand as from the months June and July. Unfortunately, Europe is lagging
behind. However, despite the many steps to be taken, the hotel and
accommodation industry will always be about providing a hospitable welcome to
its guests. Until we defined this new normal together as an industry, we have
to keep looking to establish these new standards. Within this process, the
value of organisations such as HSMAI become clear. They bring industry
professionals together and propose answers to critical issues that dominate the
industry. The hotel industry will continue its battle against this pandemic and
challenging times ahead. That’s what we not only owe to ourselves, our
employees and our guests but as well to the many communities we maintain.
I’ve been obsessively listening to Lady
Gaga since I had the privilege of catching her pop and jazz shows in Las
Vegas. I’m particularly obsessed with her
song “The Edge of Glory”. It’s always
been an inspirational song for me. I
suggest that revenue management also take this as their anthem. Because, we are on the Edge of Glory. The
industry is hanging by a moment with us…
What concerns me is: What’s on the non-Glory side of the Edge? I’m pretty sure it’s mediocrity. And we are dangerously close to sliding into
it. And at the bottom of the slope? Obsolescence…
Revenue management stands at a precipice
(again). After 10ish years of growth and
(relative, for some of us) prosperity, things might not be as easy or profitable
moving forward. As much as revenue
management changed how the industry thinks about hotel room pricing, lately we
are tending towards complacency. We won
battles a few years ago. We are near
enough to the table to feel good. We
still have our jobs (most of us). It’s
easy to make money when times are good. Revenue
management should also shine when times are not as great. Unfortunately, we are just not ready.
Why would I say that? I’ve spent some time recently speaking with
industry leaders from inside and outside revenue management. Most of them are getting the feeling these
days that revenue management isn’t quite living up to its potential or
promise. There was a lot of momentum
five or ten years ago, as we pulled out of the Great Recession, but that
momentum has slowed or stalled in many cases.
As Aymeric Erulin put it in his recent article, “Revenue Management:
Have you been doing it wrong?”, instead of pushing for revenue
optimization, revenue management tends to fall back on the same “pre-made
sentences such as: ‘decreasing the price brings volume’ and ‘the performance
achieved last year is the reference’”.
Meanwhile, we talk a big game
about industry innovations like total hotel revenue management or integrated
marketing and revenue management. The innovations
that never quite arrive. If pushed,
maybe rising distribution costs get blamed.
And we’re not doing much about that either.
Now all the talk is about how AI and
machine learning are the future of hospitality.
Let’s point out that most of “all the talk” is the technology vendors and
third-party communities (trying to sell you something). This is the same community that brought us
OTAs, benchmarking, social, eCommerce, attribution modeling and everything else
we couldn’t build a strategy around fast enough to take and keep control over. I’m not saying they aren’t great partners, or
that they haven’t made a huge difference in industry. They are and they
have. I’m saying that the core strategy
should be driven by the hotels, not their partners. The partners would probably agree with me. Technology should support and extend existing hotel
strategy, yet we tend to wait around for a vendor to tell us what’s next and
then build around whatever the vendor offers.
We need to stop just waiting for the next big thing to happen to us, or
we will risk being replaced by the very algorithms that are supposed to “save”
Steven Dow and I hosted the
Great Debate: (Hu)Man versus Machine at the HSMAI EU ROC conference in
Amsterdam two years ago, and Calvin Anderson and I
repeated the event at the HSMAI Americas ROC in Houston. It was clear already at that time that AI and
ML has huge potential. But it also takes great data, extensive computing power,
and a lot of iterations to execute. Not
to mention a deep bench of data science expertise, which most hospitality
companies don’t have, and probably shouldn’t invest in. We’ve had that discussion. It’s not enough to continue to debate whether
“machines” will take over in revenue management. “Take over” to me is a strong phrase. AI and ML should only support a fraction of
the job of the revenue manager. If
revenue management keeps acting as tactically as we are today, leadership will
begin to wonder why they still need people.
Remember, as a revenue leader you are not responsible for building the algorithms. You are in charge of the strategy, and how
the algorithms will support it.
Here’s why I’m concerned. Revenue management has not yet successfully separated
the job of the revenue manager from the job of the revenue management
system. We all know that automation
should free up the revenue manager to focus on strategy, but we have not proven
that because revenue managers don’t always act like that. Our myopic focus on day to day pricing,
overriding rates, creating excel files and allowing GMs, Asset Managers and
Owners bully us on tactical pricing strategies has kept us in jobs (crappy ones),
but kept us from being strategic partners.
It’s also kept us from executing on initiative like total hotel revenue
management, or better integration with sales and marketing.
Unfortunately for the people in this
equation, the marketing messaging around machine learning reinforces the
promise that the machine can price faster and better. It’s true.
In fact, the machine always could even before computing power enabled the
use of more complicated (and potentially unnecessary) AI and ML algorithms.
Of course, we need to understand what’s
coming – and fully embrace the potential of machine learning in revenue
management. But we need to do that in the context of our strategy and our
business opportunities. With impending
downturn, global political uncertainty and trade wars looming, there is a lot
for revenue management to do. The
machine learning silver bullet (whatever that is), is not “just around the
corner” waiting to save the day. It will never be as easy as that. We can’t wait around assuming it will come to
us eventually. It’s time to take
control. It’s time to up our game and it’s
time to be the strategic partners industry expects us to be.
Here’s what you need to do:
Elevate: Try to get yourself and your team out of the weeds for at least a
couple of hours a week. Maybe set up
meetings with counterparts to talk market strategy (not promotions schedules or
past performance). As you prepare for
revenue strategy meetings, include a strategic component, and try to anticipate
(and minimize) the discussions that will encourage the GM or asset manager to
pull you into the weeds.
Stay Educated: Attend
conferences, host book clubs and point of view discussions, read articles – try
to find as much industry generated content that you can about issues that will
impact your job, like AI/ML, economic conditions, pricing techniques,
technology development and leadership skills.
This way you can figure out how innovations fit into your strategy.
Focus on soft skills: Make sure you and
your team are taking time to develop leadership skills, telling a story with
data, communicating with influence and collaborating with other departments. This is how you become a strategic partner.
Plan: As you are elevating, don’t forget to plan for the future. Not just forecasts or budgets, but team
development, strategies and technology.
Even if you don’t have the budget or the internal capability, it can’t
hurt from time to time to make a wish list, or just brainstorm. Good ideas may come from this, and you’ll
also be prepared when the opportunity arises.
Keep lines of communication
open: Develop close relationships with your
counterparts in marketing, sales, distribution and operations. Plan regular knowledge sharing sessions about
upcoming initiatives or even day in the life discussions. You’ll probably be surprised how many people
make incorrect assumptions about opportunities, incentives and constraints in
their counterparts’ organizations
Revenue management needs to stop the myopic
and singular focus on day to day pricing and start thinking bigger and more
strategically! This is the only way to
ensure your organization can survive and thrive in what’s coming next. And it’s definitely the only way to make sure
revenue management continues to have a seat at the table!
I’ll be in London for HSMAI EU’s ROC event in January, where I will be speaking about new pricing techniques for hospitality, some of which leverage AI&ML, but all of which will require careful planning and strategic alignment to execute properly. Join me and HSMAI EU to sharpen your skills and your strategy!
This is the first of a series of blog posts, in which thought leaders in the hospitality industry will share their thoughts, ideas or a personal story that is strongly linked to the industry. Sometimes personal experiences can give you the best (new) insights into industry-related topics, and prove to be excellent examples of how you would like things to happen within your work environment as well. Together with these blog posts we will also start developing interviews with industry experts, in the shape of blog posts, vlogs and podcasts.
We start off with a personal experience of HSMAI Region Europe’s President & CEO Ingunn Hofseth
British Airways’ ground crew’s excellent Customer Service
You can probably all imagine how annoying it can be when you reach the airport gate and find out that your flight is overbooked. This is exactly what happened to me, en route to Budapest from London Heathrow Airport. But, it had a very happy ending thanks to British Airways’ excellent customer service.
I always try to travel economy class but as a holder of a Star Alliance’s Diamond card they always take very good care of me. I hadn’t travelled with BA for a while, but this time I had booked an economy class ticket to Budapest from Heathrow London, with no BA loyalty or mileage card. I got up at five o’clock in the morning, to reach my nine o’clock flight. Upon arrival at the gate I learned that my flight was overbooked and I was now rebooked on a flight set to leave London Heathrow at 2:30 PM. It was unfortunate, but I did not make a big deal of it and remained calm.
What happened next however impressed me deeply. I was taken to a back office where I received, in an exemplary way, a detailed explanation for the delay. “We are truly sorry but will try to compensate you the best way we know how to ” said the BA representative. They offered me:
– An upgrade including full access to the BA lounge with all facilities at my disposal.
– A substantial refund in the shape of a card for use in the airport’s shops, which could be converted into a prepaid VISA card that lasts for a few months.
What impressed me the most, though, was the genuine personal service. With service like that you’re almost happy you lost the flight and it only goes to show that British Airways really values the importance of good customer service. Whereas some of us become a little defensive in the face of criticism, at BA they see it as a competitive edge and a means of improvement and it says a lot about the company culture.
We could all learn a lesson from that, I think, in realising how important customer service is. With all of this in mind you may be happy to learn that HSMAI Region Europe have developed a new programme; the ECC Programme.
Our programme, Excelling at Customer Centricity, is an Executive Coach Certification with the aim for participants to become enablers of a culture of customer centric excellence.
The first certification workshop took place in London in September this year (2019). The programme got great feedback and St James Court was a perfect kick-off venue for the programme. See here