In 2022, the disruption for the hospitality industry keeps coming from all angles. However, the resources to understand where the issues are coming from and how to guide your property through them are not always forthcoming.
That’s the conclusion of results from our industry survey of independent hoteliers, which has found the top three challenges faced by commercial teams in 2022 are:
What’s more, these issues compound into each other. Small teams must wade through more data than they can handle, and run analysis at a more frequent cadence. This then piles pressure onto those commercial teams, making it even harder to retain staff and build coherent pricing and promotion strategies.
Achieving escape velocity from this predicament is therefore going to be critical. But, it will require an innovative mindset to beat the conditions, and get ahead of the curve. Commercial teams need accessible information and a focused suite of tools to transform that data in an increasingly automated way, into actionable strategy.
Topping the list of challenges in our 2022 Independent Hotelier Survey is the impact of COVID-19 and how it continues to shape the travel market. Changing conditions, largely as a result of COVID-19, were listed as a challenge by 68.4% of respondents, making it by far and away the biggest issue for non-chain hotels in 2022.
The depth and size of this challenge arises from the potential swings in the market, whose effects have an extremely long tail. For example, although China’s lockdown policy is increasingly an outlier, the sudden and complete lockdowns in several major cities have created massive knock-ons, not only for properties in those cities, but outbound markets too. Shanghai has a population size bigger than many countries, to give context to the issue.
Similarly, international sanctions implemented following the outbreak of war in Ukraine have resulted in the sudden loss of a major source market, while the closing of European airspace to Russian planes has led to large changes in global flight patterns. Beyond those direct geopolitical situations, there are the longer-term effects to consumer behaviour from recent upheaval to consider, including the economic fallout.
Consumers are increasingly making reservations in shorter booking windows, displaying unusual stay patterns and looking for more flexible policies. This creates headaches for revenue managers, who must oversee a greater variety of rates.
For those building a comprehensive commercial strategy, trying together the econometrics of cause and effect is the icing on the cake. Spiraling inflation, cost of living squeezes, rising inflation rates and trade conflicts are all likely to filter through to consumer sentiment and spending power this year. Understanding this requires real-time, forward looking indicators and strong analytical capability.
In this context, agility of analysis and decision making is vital, as demand forecasts must be re-run frequently and approaches tailored to market conditions. However, running the numbers and reconfiguring approaches in these conditions is extremely challenging - another one of the three key challenges highlighted in our survey.
A little over a third of respondents said that they lacked adequate time (34.6%), just under a quarter are finding that creating pricing strategies is consistently challenging (23.4%), while 19% told us that increasingly complex business processes were hobbling their capabilities.
This paints a picture of a fight to produce adequate insight and forecasting for properties in the current environment, with teams fighting to corral all the data and produce the analysis in time, creating a significant daily burden.
In the survey, a substantial proportion of independent hoteliers are ploughing large proportions of their working days into adjusting their pricing, marketing, and distribution strategies. A quarter of respondents said that they spend two hours or more on this process, while 41.1% find themselves spending one-to-two hours per day doing so.
Sitting atop these issues, and perhaps the most difficult challenge of all, is a squeeze in staffing. After 'COVID19/changing market conditions', hiring and retention was noted as the next biggest issue by 38.5% of hoteliers polled.
Alongside this, 32.5% said that their team was understaffed, 13.9% had issues training personnel and 9.5% were challenged by a low knowledge base.
With the majority (55.3%) of respondents noting that their commercial team consists of at least four staff members, there is a hunger for qualified staff. Each team member is a vital cog whose loss would hit productivity hard. As a third already say that they are understaffed, then each resignation becomes even more impactful in this context.
The individuals in each independent hotelier’s commercial team are therefore a critical resource that need to be maintained and supported through this difficult time.
When both time and labour are at an absolute premium, hoteliers need to find ways to efficiently increase productivity. There clearly isn’t the market to simply hire more revenue managers, and those that are currently employed need help to reduce their workloads, or they too will soon be lost.
The answer needs to come from employment of a different kind: hotel technology.
Principally, the solution lies in quicker, simpler and cleaner approaches to accessing and analysing data, followed by actionable insights that can directly inform strategy.
We can see this issue in the survey, where 18.6% said that they are struggling with too many tools and systems. Digging deeper into independent hoteliers’ technology stacks, there was widespread usage of a variety of different tools and systems, with only marketing platforms (23.4%) utilised by less than half the survey population.
While data volume is important and a wide spread of intelligence helps inform commercial teams, there are limits to this, especially if much of the data transformation and analysis has to be done manually.
In this framework, revenue management teams are performing a high wire act, balancing themselves between the granularity, type and volume of data so that they can be accurate without being overwhelmed.
This is where industry leading hotel software steps in, parsing information down to what is genuinely needed and moving that analysis to the fore in easily interpretable ways from real time data streams. Commercial teams can then adjust their forecasts and create dynamic rate strategies, segmented by market type that can make an impact, even in the current fast-moving environment.
Fortunately, we at OTA Insight have been thinking about this problem long before COVID chaos and labour market woes became the norm. This has allowed us to build an approach that gives you adaptable, appropriate and condensed dashboards, with all the key metrics with just a few clicks, enabling you to build a comprehensive commercial strategy in a faster, smarter way.
We combine rate intelligence, real-time market insights and business intelligence solutions that can plug-and-play with your existing Property Management System (PMS). We know that your team is under pressure, which is why we’ve made integration easy and user interfaces intuitive.
It's 2022. It’s time to stop fighting with spreadsheets, wading through datasets and jumping between tools. It’s time to work smarter and swifter with cutting edge hotel technology.
Click here to learn about our suite of productivity-enabling technologies. Or, to become a revenue management guru for your own independent hotel, download the free ultimate guide to revenue management for single properties in 2022 here.