Staff shortages may be the hotel industry’s most discussed challenge in recent months, but the topic can also be viewed as part of a larger issue where businesses overall are having to do more with less. With other concerns such as rising inflation and interest rates joining the staffing woes of hoteliers, many industry businesses are finding that keeping up with ever-increasing guest expectations is a struggle seemingly beyond reach.
Fortunately, the global hospitality market continues to be an industry where challenges are met with a renewed drive for innovation that not only resolves an issue, but also creates new opportunities for even greater business growth. By adopting a combination of newer technologies and best practices designed for the current industry landscape, hoteliers and their employee teams can take a smarter, nimble and more cost-effective approach to daily operations that always preserves resources while living up to the standards of their guests.
Knowing When to Outsource
With so many departments and operational processes, there’s always more than enough work to go around when it comes to running a hotel. At the same time, some tasks and responsibilities are more important than others, while some represent an unsustainable drain on employee resources and hotel revenues. To overcome potential stumbling blocks that prevent seamless operations and consistent business growth, more hoteliers are turning to outsourcing as an effective solution.
To be successful, however, industry businesses need to first identify what make sense to outsource versus what should remain in-house. Key to performing this analysis correctly begins by responding to the following questions:
- Is a specific process or issue taking up too much time that should otherwise be spent focusing on core business goals?
- Does it represent a recurring problem that your business and employees are constantly running into?
- Is it something that’s required for daily operations but that isn’t necessarily a priority issue?
- Can an outsourcing company perform the same work more productively at a lower cost?
Once equipped with the above information, examples of outsourcing that hoteliers are increasingly relying on include handing off back-of-house tasks such as accounting or inventory management. Even when it comes to guest-facing services, responsibilities like housekeeping are increasingly being offloaded from the shoulders of a hotel’s own employees. One hotel business making the switch to outsourced housekeeping notably reported a 25 percent decrease in labor costs. This not only represents a significant amount of capital that can be reinvested into other service areas, but also provides hotel staff with the extra breathing room they need to focus on what really matters in providing an enjoyable and memorable guest experience.
Tapping into the Advantages of Self-service Tech
It typically goes without question that today’s guests want hotel services to be more convenient, ever faster and capable of being personalized. Yet while such expectations may cause alarm for businesses struggling with low staff numbers or tight budgets, an important trend to point out is that as many as 73 percent of travelers want their increasing demands to be handled using self-service technology. This widespread shift likely results from consumers being accustomed to the conveniences of performing daily tasks using personal smart devices, and who now expect the same level of ease and responsiveness from their hotel experiences. Yet while adopting self-service solutions does involve an initial expense, the long-term potential cost savings and opportunities to enhance guest satisfaction rates while increasing revenue more than make up for the investment.
Using digital key/check-in services as an example, hoteliers can simultaneously eliminate guest frustrations over waiting in line at the front desk when arriving while reducing the number of employees needed to run their reception area. While guests using personal devices as a secure room key can instantly begin to enjoy their stay experience, digital key services allow hotel businesses to make better, more cost-effective use of their labor resources by freeing-up staff to focus on other tasks. Yet another cost-saving benefit of digital key platforms is the significant reduction in having to create and replace physical keys. Although a sizeable guest segment will continue to expect availability of traditional keycards for the foreseeable future, the impressive adoption rates experienced by digital keys nonetheless represents substantial cost savings while enhancing a property’s sustainability efforts. At Hilton Hotels, for instance, 17 million digital keys were used by guests in 2022 alone. That’s 17 million keys that didn’t require the expense of a physical asset that ultimately ends up in a landfill, resulting in extra revenue that could instead be put to better use elsewhere while simultaneously enhancing eco-friendly reputations.
With guests increasingly expecting access to self-service technology throughout the course of their stay, either as a kiosk or mobile app, hoteliers have also gained a valuable opportunity to increase profits while curtailing expenses throughout the breadth of their operations. Again saving labor hours while providing guests with faster response times, self-service technology is becoming commonplace as a means to order from a hotel’s restaurant, bar or even from a property’s concierge. With research indicating that customers generally spend 20 percent more time reviewing purchase options when using a self-service kiosk, hotels can maximize the amount spent per guest while minimizing the resources required to entice additional purchasing decisions.
Creating a Streamlined Hotel Ecosystem Using Location-based Technology
Although the industry’s initial focus regarding location-based solutions understandably centered on providing hotel staff with swift assistance in the event of a risk to their safety, the same technology can also be leveraged to gain a competitive edge in boosting employee productivity and overall hotel operations efficiency in line with modern guest standards. For example, location-based asset management can save countless employee hours otherwise lost to needlessly searching for items. By just attaching a small reader tag, staff members can instead instantly identify the real-time location of assets: from amenity rentals and maintenance equipment to stock inventory and more. This ultimately translates into far more streamlined operations where guest requests aren’t delayed by misplaced items and where a hotel’s resources aren’t wasted in the search for assets that should be readily available. Better still, location-based asset management eliminates the expense of having to replace lost or stolen items. According to industry statistics, the adopting of such platforms can notably result in 20 percent cost savings for just the first nine months alone.
More robust asset tracking solutions can even monitor the real-time condition of motorized equipment such as elevators, escalators and refrigerators. By providing automatic maintenance check reminders and alerts over potential performance issues, these platforms instantly sidestep time-consuming manual processes that don’t make efficient use of hotel resources and that are easily prone to human error. In addition to saving staff time and directing their attentions to amenities that actually require servicing, location-based condition monitoring can save hoteliers from overlooking performance issues before they evolve into costly repairs.
Leveraging AI to Streamline Services and Improve Results
Artificial intelligence continues to attract the hotel industry’s attention for a wide range of highly valuable reasons. Advanced machine learning capabilities are often what is behind successful business efforts to seamlessly personalize guest experiences. They are also credited for identifying more efficient methods of running operations that reduce costs while simultaneously enhancing service quality.
Gaining increased interest more recently are AI-based guest communication tools such as chatbots. Able to intelligently respond to guest requests or queries instantaneously, chatbots and other similar solutions can ensure that guest needs are always swiftly and fully taken care of without draining a property’s staff resources. Taking AI’s communication benefits a step further and increasingly being leveraged by hotel businesses is Chat GPT, a cutting-edge AI chat solution that can mimic human conversational interaction for a variety of use-case scenarios. Able to automatically retrieve information from text books, articles, websites and more, ChatGPT can be used to quickly create promo campaigns and other types of messaging able to resonate with target audiences. With hotel businesses having to respond to market opportunities faster while maintaining attention to detail on specific guest needs, innovative tools such as Chat GPT are undoubtedly set to become commonplace and should remain on the radar of any industry professional seeking to maintain a competitive edge.
Keeping an Eye Towards the Growing Potential of Robotics
While many hotel professionals may view the topic of robots as still belonging to the realm of science fiction, the technology continues to make impressive progress and is steadily gaining traction throughout the industry. It’s even projected that robots will make up 25 percent of the hospitality industry’s workforce by 2030. Key to the growing interest in robotics is the technology’s ability to reduce costs, enhance the efficiency of operations and improve guest experiences for a diverse range of departments and service areas.
One example of robots being put to effective use is Aloft’s launch its robot butler service known as Botlr. Able to deliver a wide array of items to guestrooms including towels and toiletries, Aloft credits its robot butler service with reducing guest wait times considerably. Another key benefit for Aloft is that the presence of robots allows its properties to keep labor expenses down, while providing human employees with more time to focus on ensuring high quality for other tasks and responsibilities.
With robots representing substantial long-term cost savings and a drastic streamlining of business operations, the technology will undoubtedly find additional use cases that are ideal in addressing the hectic pace of modern hotel environments. Some properties, for example, are experimenting with robot concierges, while others are leveraging security bots to boost hotel safety. For hoteliers seeking out solutions to doing more with less while maintaining high standards, robotics is clearly a promising technology that’s already delivering results and that industry professionals should continue to keep a close eye on.