• Peri Avari

Adopting an Agile Mindset in the Hospitality Industry Post Pandemic

The hospitality industry is no stranger to change and the upheaval caused by global and local events. Resilient by nature, travel and tourism relies mainly on human interaction and customer experiences called ‘moments of truth’, best described as lasting impressions in service which become a company’s core competitive differentiator.

However, in the past few decades, hospitality has been slow to catch up, and the new pandemic-related changes in the industry are long overdue. The numbers from 2020 come as no surprise. The travel & tourism sector suffered a loss of almost 4.5 trillion US dollars in 2020, with the contribution to GDP dropping by a staggering 49.1% compared to 2019; relative to a 3.7% GDP decline of the global economy in the same year. (Source)

The Need for Agile Thinking in Hospitality

The hospitality industry includes more than just hotels and food service, including airlines, vacation rentals and commissaries, among others. All hospitality businesses would be well advised to take a fresh look at their operations:

  • Think like a start-up and have an adapt-and-adopt approach. An agile mindset in hospitality and creative use of traditional resources are necessary for the industry to move forward. A good example would be repurposing kitchen space during non-operational hours to maximise resources and increase the bottom line.

  • Innovate in every aspect of the service workflow from hybrid spas and app-based parking, to contactless public bathrooms. Forming cross-functional committees to brainstorm such changes is a good way to go in larger hospitality organizations.

  • Rethink and strengthen the brand message - communicating the changes internally with the workforce and externally with customers.

  • Targeting room nights has made us forget about room days. With lower, more cautious long-distance travel, local visitors are looking for day-use rooms and experiences.

  • Digital natives and millennials form a core customer base, and they are looking for a firm mix of technologically-enhanced services and the human touch.

Key Changes in Post-Pandemic Hospitality

It is often said that those who don’t change with the times, will be forced to do it or left behind. And the new face and fresh changes in post-pandemic hospitality is a sign of the above.

Digitization in Hospitality

From small to large players, adopting relevant technology and digitization in hospitality is not a choice but a requirement. While room bookings have been digitized for a while, every other aspect is only now catching up, such as digitally enhanced spas, streamlined room check-in processes and keyless entry, remote concierge, contactless conferences and events, and food service apps. Other areas where tech advances can help is to ensure an organization offers customers support in multiple languages and currencies.

Rethinking Marketing and Sales Funnels

Customer-centric loyalty programs and online reservation systems are marketing practices that have been in place with most operators in hospitality. A refinement in social media funnels, tie-ups with tourism boards at a local level, and collaborative partnerships that are aligned to the brand message, are some of the aspects that need to be built on.

Changes to the Business Traveller Profile

The business traveller, corporate events and industry-specific conferences are the bread-n-butter for travel and tourism. The upending of the corporate world by the pandemic has created a new normal which is here to stay in some measure. The hospitality industry will need to be nimble in servicing the changing business traveler and corporate clients.

Smaller Hospitality Players Catching Up

While big budget players in hospitality have been quick to embrace change to maintain competitive advantage, smaller operations have largely avoided the upfront capital cost of adopting many technological advances. Now, however, new tech services have emerged in the market to service their needs for low to no investment costs.

Strengthening the Supply Chain

An upending of the supply chain has been one of the most natural effects of the global pandemic in every industry. This gives the hospitality industry a chance to correct their courses by creating closer vendor relations, better planning and lead time, and diversification to avoid supply gaps. One of the strongest supply chain outcomes of COVID is the use of local vendors which creates jobs, community partnerships and reduces carbon footprint.

The Human Aspect of Hospitality

Prior to the pandemic, 1 in 4 net new jobs were created by the travel and tourism industry from 2014-2019. In 2020, 62 million jobs were lost, representing a drop of 18.5% from 2019. (Source) What’s most concerning about this statistic is that hospitality is an industry where service and your workforce make the most defining brand statement. The long furloughs, pay-cuts, and lay-offs have led to many in the travel and tourism labor force choosing to move away into a different career path.

Moving forward, an agile workforce in hospitality is key. Cross functional teams, which are quick to learn and adapt, are the new norm for larger enterprises. Smaller outfits are more dependent on talent sharing and the gig economy, a trend that was catching on just prior to the pandemic. Furthermore, outdated staff systems and technology need sprucing up, especially for effective communication, shift planning and employee training.

The new face of the hospitality industry is one that’s all about transparency and building a customer’s trust. Afterall, the word hospitality puts the guest at the center of any experience.

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