For hospitality-based businesses, the industry has seemingly been hit by one crisis or challenge after another in recent years vying for the increasingly stretched attentions of hoteliers. From attempting to navigate the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic to addressing rising guest expectations over what counts as a satisfying stay experience, hoteliers have more than enough issues requiring a need to revise business strategies and operational procedures.
That being said, some industry challenges and trends merit greater priority in being addressed first in order to protect reputations, remain in legal compliance and maintain a profitable business. These can be broken down into three main challenges, each with their own unique set of questions. Fortunately and thanks to ongoing advances in technology, each now also features industry-proven solutions that can provide today’s hoteliers with a much needed hand in overcoming obstacles standing in the way of success and sustainable business growth.
Challenge One- Addressing the Increasing Focus on Hotel Staff Safety
Hospitality professionals struggling with high turnover rates and a lack of staff now recognize the crucial importance of ensuring employee wellbeing in order to earn their loyalty and maintain an efficient workforce. Yet throughout much of the industry, hotel staff continue to feel that their safety is at risk when required to work alone within areas such as guestrooms or public restrooms. According to one survey conducted with Chicago-based housekeepers, as many as 58 percent indicated that they experienced some form of sexual harassment while carrying out daily tasks.
Hoteliers not only have a responsibility to providing a safe work environment, they also have a significant interest in doing so in order to combat a leading cause resulting in employees leaving for other industries that promise a safer line of work. One top of individual business needs, more and more regions are recognizing the physical safety risks that hotel staff are exposed to, and are passing staff safety regulations as a result. These include states such as Illinois and New Jersey, as well as individual cities including Miami Beach, Seattle and more recently, Los Angeles.
While each region or city has its own requirements that hoteliers must follow, virtually all share the same requirement that providing employees with a panic device which simply emits a noise is not enough to achieve compliance. Instead, hotels must provide each staff member with a device that when activated, can instantly transmit an alert to appropriate property personnel along with precise details on where an endangered employee is located. Demonstrating the value of such solutions in alleviating employee safety concerns, 96 percent of housekeepers stated that they would feel much safer if equipped with a personal panic device that could provide swift assistance in the event of a suddenly arising threat. While there are other issues that hoteliers must address to reverse the concerning trend of increased staff resignations, ensuring workplace safety should be the leading priority. A safe hotel environment is not only a right for the industry’s workers, it is what allows them to focus their attentions on doing what they do best- providing exceptional service and experiences for a property’s guests.
Challenge Two- Tackling the Industry’s Reputation With Human Trafficking
While industry professionals may not be at fault, the fact that hotel environments serve as ideal locations where human trafficking can be facilitated does create a troubling situation where hospitality-based businesses gain a reputation for crime. Thanks to easy access to private rooms and little to no supervision, more than 1,434 human trafficking cases have been reported as taking place at hotels or motels since 2007.
Hoteliers not only have a moral obligation to stamping out the presence of human trafficking within the industry, they also have a substantial interest as the practice can often increase the likelihood of other crimes such as drug use or theft taking place. This ultimately leads to hotel businesses gaining a reputation as unsafe environments that guests will seek to avoid if they feel that their wellbeing is at risk.
To overcome this worrying trend, hoteliers need to utilize a combination of effective training and technology in order for employees to recognize the warning signs and be able to respond in an appropriate manner. Industry organizations such as the AHLEI now offer training materials that hoteliers can use to educate their employees on suspicious activity that may point to an instance of human trafficking taking place at their property. Using newer staff messaging technologies, hoteliers can even now push human trafficking checklists to employees as reminders on what behaviors they need to keep a look out for. Yet once the signs are recognized, questions can remain over how employees should proceed without endangering their own safety or the safety of others. Here as well, two-way messaging platforms are providing hoteliers with an effective solution. Without tipping off potential suspects, an employee can instantly send a notification to the appropriate personnel in order facilitate further investigation. This approach also minimizes the likelihood of making incorrect assumptions that can leave innocent guests understandably feeling displeased.
With many instances of human trafficking at hotels being associated with forced prostitution, a property’s security access capabilities also play a critical role in ensuring effective prevention. Such traffickers thrive on the fact that visitors can come and go from hotels as they please while remaining anonymous. Using an advanced access management system, this security lapse can be addressed without causing inconveniences to legitimate guests. For example, hoteliers can limit floor access to only guests who have been assigned a guestroom on the relevant floor. Guests can simply use the same issued guestroom key to operate a property’s elevators, maintaining a hassle-free experience while preventing unauthorized visitors from gaining access to hotel areas.
Challenge Three- Balancing the Advantages of Data With Privacy
With the rise of hotel service digitalization, industry businesses now benefit from a massive increase in the availability of data to enhance guest experiences and property revenues. Such analytics are proving immensely valuable to meeting growing guest expectations for experience personalization while shedding light on how hoteliers can run a more efficient and adaptive operation.
Yet the use of guest data does bring concerns over how information is used and whether hotels may be opening themselves up to increased liability as a result of potentially violating privacy laws. In this situation, the key to benefitting from guest data while sidestepping risks is to enact a policy of full transparency. Before any data is collected and used, hoteliers should always provide each guest with the ultimate decision-making ability over how much, and indeed if any personal information can be shared.
While industry professionals may assume that many guests will decline to have their data stored and used, guests themselves indicate that the issue is not as clear-cut. In fact, 58 percent of guests over the age of 55 state that they are willing to provide hotels with access to personal information if it results in receiving details on available services and promotions that align with their specific interests. Therefore, what hoteliers should adopt moving forward are data collection procedures that first request permission from guests and that clearly state how such information is to be used to their benefit. Once they perceive the enhanced value and experiences that can await them, many guests will no doubt consider providing access to personal details at the price of reduced privacy as a worthwhile and mutually beneficial trade-off.
When in Doubt, Rely on the Knowledge and Experience of Industry Experts
In today’s hotel industry, ensuring a safe environment for all has never been as important as businesses continue to encounter new requirements and expectations over what counts as effective security. As the industry increases its use of guest data to guide business strategies, ensuring guest peace-of-mind also means providing assurances that any information accessed is always handled with care and used only for permitted purposes. However, for each of these issues, hoteliers can now rely on the support of the industry’s technology providers for solutions that can bypass potential obstacles, ensuring success in a way that respects the individual needs and demands of guests and staff alike.