I encourage you to read Daniel Kahneman’s groundbreaking 2011 book “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” which was indeed the inspiration for the title of this article, because there are many trends currently affecting hospitality that jive with the author’s overall thesis.
After the immediate upgrades and changes in methodology were implemented to combat the spread of COVID-19, the prolonged spasticity of this pandemic has since led many hoteliers to “go to ground” by doubling down on ingrained principles about how to run a hotel, such as having an ever-scrupulous eye for cost savings and precise yielding to maximize occupancy.
Short-Term Virus, Long-Term Data
As we look ahead to a year that we all hope will see the final cessation of variants and a full-fledged return of international travel, the battle is far from over. In fact, it’s only just begun.
The pandemic has accelerated the technological conquest of the world and the natural formation of data-oriented, winner-take-all industries. Things are changing so fast that unless you adapt quickly and instill new habits that allow for rapid adjustments to processes as future events occur – that is, convert conscious experiments and new activities at all levels of operations into updated patterns of automaticity – you will be left behind in the ongoing Great Tech Reset.
As new generations become your target, you have to start planting the seeds to those who are highly intelligent bargain hunters, exceedingly tech-savvy, obnoxiously impatient as a consequence of being glued to their phones all day and largely apathetic to most non-luxury, non-experiential hotel brands.
What to Do in 2022
There are still many short-term trends for the year ahead that are relatively painless to incorporate into your operations and can build upon your already well-honed skills (fast thinking).
Let’s list them off with only passing descriptions so as to not interrupt the headline scanners among us:
- Minimize labor costs via automation. Lean teams are the new modus operandi for hotels to maintain some semblance of healthy margins in an erratic travel landscape. With fewer managers, supervisors and frontline staff, there’s a lot of repetitive work that is ripe for bots to commandeer.
- Stayover cleaning opt-in as the new normal. Again, housekeeping costs must be kept low, not only to drive NOI but also because we’re still in a very tight labor market. To our advantage, though, a guest expectation that’s here to stay from the pandemic is that mid-stay cleans are no longer necessarily wanted (except perhaps for the luxury segment).
- Continuing professional development. Employee churn or turnover is a death knell to progress because it costs too much to recruit and onboard new hires to the point where they are able to take on the complex work that will actually advance the organization’s strategic goals.
- Garnering great reviews. We list this as a ‘low hanging fruit’ because often the difference between a two-star and a five-star review is a combination of fixing that maintenance issue in Room 237 and having an exceptionally attentive team to compensate for any shortcomings with genuine compassion. As many great hoteliers have said at various points in their careers, something as simple as greeting a guest by name goes a long way.
Thinking Beyond Next Year
For the long-term trends that hoteliers must be cognizant of, we advise paying attention to the overarching cultural narratives – the zeitgeist if you will – and not fight each as they take hold of the terrain. Of course, like a rower moving against the flow of a river, you can buck these trends, but you’ll be sweating buckets by the end of it and likely incur a lower back injury. The path of least resistance is to find ways to embrace these changes with bonus points for early adoption.
- Technological and data consolidation. Hotel tech stacks are complex, with many prominent vendors now overlapping in features and capabilities. This will only progress even further until the point where all a hotel will need is a PMS with a holistic operations management system that sits on top of it as well as a customer data platform (CDP) to amalgamate everything CRM-related and all other disparate touchpoints in the value chain.
- Experiential hotels. What elevates your branding and property theme? What makes your hotel’s onsite experience irreplaceable? The tactics toward this are manifold such as having fantastic facilities, unique guestroom amenities or creating the best social atmosphere around.
- Climate change and sustainability. As weird weather and natural disasters increase around the world at a regular chip, companies in every industry will be called upon to do their part. Moreover, guests (particularly the more socially conscious ones in younger generations) are becoming increasingly sensitive to this issue and are voting with their wallets for businesses that show that they care.
- Blockchains and cryptocurrencies. There’s a lot of hype here and perhaps a huge economic bubble waiting to burst, but that doesn’t mean this technology won’t have enduring utilities over the long run. At the very least you must learn about how blockchains work as well as some of their most common applications such as smart contracts, nonfungible tokens or for the buzzy metaverse.
All the long-term trends for your organization can’t be solved in a day and thus require discipline and due process. To close, our advice is to, in a word, “leapfrog” the competition. The next few years will see ongoing, rapid changes and we hope that you are able to take advantage of them and usher in a new era of success for your company. All the best for 2022!
About the Author
Together, Larry and Adam Mogelonsky represent one of the world’s most published writing teams in hospitality, with over a decade’s worth of material online. As the partners of Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited, a Toronto-based consulting practice, Larry focuses on asset management, sales and operations while Adam specializes in hotel technology and marketing. Their experience encompasses properties around the world, both branded and independent, and ranging from luxury and boutique to select-service.