The world has gone through some strange things, yes, unprecedented times In a short but monumental few years.
The hospitality and travel industry (in other parts of the world) has heard ongoing discussions about the “new normal.”But for hoteliers, the only proof is normal Almost everything about guest service is new.
Today’s guests demand risk-free incidents, self-service and contactless support. This means hoteliers need innovative ways to manage volume, communicate in a timely manner, and deliver an exceptional guest experience, all while facing labor shortages.
If hoteliers and the hospitality industry plan to welcome the volume of group travel, technology will be critical not only to their survival but also to their earning potential.
The evolution of the industry presents significant challenges for hoteliers.
The past two years have changed the way we think about travel and have proven just how special exploration can be.
As summer travel recedes, preparations for the 2022 holiday travel season begin. According to the data, there has been a significant increase in group travel booking rates this year. Most observers attribute the surge in business to pent-up demand from consumers who have been staying home or recovering.
Alliances between hotels and innovative software are helping to expand reach, secure reservations and unlock revenue opportunities without requiring additional human resources. Hoteliers with deep visibility into guest profiles, especially those belonging to a group, are better able to manage bookings and add new revenue streams without the usual staff size.
As group travel continues to grow, group sizes are struggling to catch up.
The practice of social distancing for such an extended period has made certain pandemic-related behaviors linger in the group travel business. For example, the number of events and gatherings has increased, while actual group sizes have yet to reach pre-pandemic levels.
In 2022, 63% of active RFPs are for groups of 50 or less (up 5% from 2019), creating additional difficulties for hoteliers who don’t have time to plan group stays.
The biggest challenge, however, was accommodating more smaller groups and events in less time, while reducing staff.
The hotel industry is currently facing a labor crisis.
According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), 87% of hotels report being forced to lay off or furlough workers due to COVID-19.
As of June 2022, only 36% were unable to return any furloughed or laid-off workers to full-time employment. At the same time, 97% of respondents said they are experiencing staffing shortages today.
To meet the needs of travelers, hotels offer a range of employee incentives such as:
- 90% increased wages
- 71% of respondents offer more flexibility in hours
- 43% have expanded benefits
Unfortunately, hoteliers’ attempts to deal with labor shortages over the past year have been unsuccessful and have resulted in unsustainable labor costs without easing the labor crisis.
So how can hoteliers meet the sky-high expectations of their guests with fewer employees?
If hoteliers plan to welcome the number of group trips, technology will be critical not only to their survival, but also to their revenue potential.
Embracing technology like never before offers a solution to labor shortages.
Using technology is one of the few realistic ways to reduce the negative impact of current labor shortages and unsustainable labor costs. Not only can software solutions significantly reduce staffing requirements, they can also meet the needs of today’s tech-savvy guests and enhance their experience in planning group travel.
According to the 2022 Hotelier Technology Sentiment Report, the adoption of contactless technology has increased by 66% during the pandemic. Over the past two years, hotels have continued to spend 31% more on technology.
While the number of group trips is expected to continue to increase, further data shows that significant changes will persist. This includes the average lead-in time for RFPs that have been shortened by 30 days. Hoteliers are addressing the issue of shorter time frames by putting more functionality in the hands of guests.
Take, for example, digital technologies for room management that allow fewer people to manage more. It provides a solution for accommodating groups in less time by managing real-time updates of room blocks, booking changes and upsell opportunities. With data always available, attrition issues become more actionable.
Having an operational tool that digitizes processes has become a normal expectation for guests, but it also offers convenience benefits to hoteliers, employees, planners and guests alike.
Given today’s challenges, integrating technology into hotel operations is necessary to minimize human error, maximize efficiency, and improve the guest experience.
Not only can software solutions reduce staffing needs, they can also meet the needs of today’s tech-savvy guests and enhance their experience in planning group travel.
Industry technology is a business opportunity to enhance the guest experience.
Five-star service now means something different to each customer, but being able to personalize each service for each group and each guest makes the experience personal.
With timely communication and group activity tracking, hoteliers can keep up with group bookings. These real-time insights help understand your customers and prepare for a personalized experience. Technology has given hoteliers the opportunity to handle every booking with plans that tailor customer service more than ever before.
An integrated system lets you know more about each booking so you can do more for each guest. Communication and preparation will be key to winning business for group travel in the future, with real-time data playing a central role in successfully improving relationships and building a positive customer experience for all return visits. Learn more at Groups360.com.
Groups360 was created with a single goal – to empower meeting planners by bringing innovation, transparency and simplicity to a decades-old group booking problem. The company’s integrated technology solution, GroupSync™, enables suppliers to allocate inventory, interact with planners and optimize group revenue. GroupSync also enables planners to search and buy hotels worldwide and book rooms and spaces directly, online or through a streamlined RFP process. GroupSync is the first distribution channel to offer online bookings for group hotel rooms and meeting spaces.
Groups360 has offices in Nashville, London and Singapore. Learn more at groups360.com.
Vice President of Marketing
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