How a cross-disciplinary group of brand, HMC, and ownership executives feel about three major challenges facing the hospitality industry.
By Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHBA, President and CEO, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
Throughout the pandemic we’ve regularly surveyed our expert communities of sales, marketing, and revenue optimization leaders about their thoughts on the outlook for hospitality and travel. We’ve always done this separately, through our Executive Roundtable programs for each individual group.
But recently, we were able to take advantage of Commercial Strategy Week, our series of in-person events in Dallas, to survey hospitality leaders across brands, hotel management companies, and owner groups — at the same time, as part of the same group conversation. Specifically, we asked about 50 brand and HMC revenue executives and ownership group commercial executives to share their opinions about recovery, consumer behavior, and talent recruitment and retention. The results were enlightening.
RECOVERY: 2022 or 2023
Nearly 70 percent of these hospitality leaders think room demand won’t return to pre-pandemic levels until 2022 or 2023. This seems reasonable, and not actually bad news when you consider that a healthy recovery will be one that rebuilds our industry slowly and steadily. “The recovery really has remained constant even as things have gotten rough out there, which gives us a tremendous amount of confidence,” according to Tourism Economics’ Adam Sacks, who as part of Commercial Strategy Week spoke at both ROC Americas and this combined Executive Roundtable program. “In one word, the recovery is inevitable.”
DEMAND: Location and Safety
When it comes to the factors influencing consumer travel decisions, we see a mix of old and new. The old: Location/destination is still the primary driver, according to our hospitality leaders. The new: Safety is nearly as important, which I interpret to mean a focus not on security but on health protocols. This will be the reality of travel during and after COVID — people still want to, but their decision matrix will continue to evolve.
TALENT: Money and More
And finally, the talent crisis. What are the major pain points when it comes to attracting, hiring, and retaining employees? According to our group, compensation and benefits is the clear priority, followed by a cluster of variables that includes the availability of qualified candidates, lack of a pipeline to hospitality, and company culture. After 18 months of furloughs, layoffs, and closures, none of this is surprising — and, on the positive side, it gives us a place to target our efforts. The HSMAI Foundation is dedicated to fostering talent and leadership retention, and will continue developing resources and programs to help hospitality companies do just that.
Commercial Strategy Week was just the beginning of HSMAI’s return to in-person events. If you join us in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Oct. 26 for our Sales Leader Forum, you can help us continue the conversation around these and other priority issues facing the hospitality industry. And mark your calendar now for next year’s Commercial Strategy Week — June 27–30, 2022, in Orlando, Florida.