Keynote speaker Mr Björn Olthof (Senior Manager Graduate Recruitment Europe, Middle East & Africa at Hilton, Netherlands) and virtual panellists Mr Russell Cool (Regional General Manager – VIC and SA at Minor Hotels, Australia) and Mr Reno Verikakis (Director, Luxury Sales, New Zealand, Fiji & French Polynesia at Accor Hotels) presented an industry perspective on the ‘new normal’ hospitality and tourism landscape as part of THE-ICE Virtual International Panel of Experts (VIPoE) 2020.
In his keynote address, Mr Björn Olthof spoke about the unprecedented closures and reopening of Hilton hotels due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and provided an overview of recovery trends in China using data from STR SHARE Center. It was noted that recovery will be different in each country and city, although there are consistent trends emerging across Europe, and that business demand will return in phases as more movement across borders is permitted. Recovery will be significantly impacted by the rollout of a vaccine and, although the demand for travel is not irreparably damaged, Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR) in most markets is expected to return to pre-COVID levels in 2023 at the earliest.
Björn noted that hotels are leaning heavily on the business sector at this time, relying on the resumption of business and the recovery capacity of airlines to aid in their own recovery, and that ultimately hotels and airlines should seek ways to support each other. Within the hotel industry, Björn noted that digitisation is not taking away jobs but is changing the landscape, and that students entering the workforce need to be agile, flexible, and able to deal with crisis impact and management, which should be embedded in curriculum. Health and safety are now a top priority for travelers, and hotels are increasing their capacity for contactless check-ins, digital keys, and other technological measures.
Mr Russell Cool and Mr Reno Verikakis joined Mr Olthof to form a virtual panel, and through their discussion a number of key themes emerged:
- Projections for industry recovery and reopening
- ‘New Normal’ in the hospitality and tourism industries
- Impact of COVID-19 on tourism and hospitality as career prospects
- Projected and recommended changes to TH&E education
Within these areas, the following key takeaways were highlighted:
Projections for industry recovery and reopening
- It is one thing to have an average daily rate, but another thing to have to pay staff. Although RevPAR is important, hotel revenue is not only the room – food and beverage, car parking, dry cleaning, conference room rentals, and more contribute to overall revenue. In this unprecedented time, many hotels have had to change their mindset, lowering rates and accepting business they may not normally.
- A vaccine is expected to be rolled out in 2021, but it is expected that it will take until 2023-24 to return to pre-COVID Average Daily Rate (ADR)s and occupancy. This recovery is also dependent on border closures domestically and internationally. In many cases, government restrictions must ease before employment and education opportunities can be opened up again.
- Significant human resources exist in the many people furloughed or stood down from the industry. However, quick turnarounds are required as restrictions change quickly – how can a hotel manage the jump from 30-80% occupancy overnight?
‘New Normal’ in the hospitality and tourism industries
- Unexpected circumstances and reduced staff numbers have seen General Managers and other senior staff carrying bags and cleaning tables. It is great to have an integrated approach, but it must be ensured that the same level of service is being delivered.
- This pandemic will not disappear overnight, and individuals need to be dedicated to service regardless of their role in an organisation.
- Efficiency looks different when employees are working from home, and organisations need to ensure they are providing sufficient support and training.
- Although a portion of guests may wish to use contactless, staff need to be properly trained and have the competency to deliver this. Digitisation of these processes is also more difficult in regional locations.
- As always, different guests will have different behaviours and may have different expectations, and data captured through the CRM can be used to tailor guest experiences.
Impact of COVID-19 on tourism and hospitality as career prospects
- Students should be given a true and clear idea of what it will be like to enter the industry now, and their expectations should be managed. Students need to understand the realities of the roles they are aspiring to, and the true competencies that are required for them to be successful in that role.
- How willing are students to move back into hospitality after this shutdown? How can academics and industry ensure that students have an appetite to join the industry, be hands on, and grow their careers even in these uncertain times?
- Some hotels are designed around multidisciplinary roles. Hotels are a career, and hospitality is incredibly broad. The business acumen, skills, and competencies needed for these careers have changed over time, and will continue to change, but fundamentally these are people-serving-people industries.
Projected and recommended changes to TH&E education
- Multiple competencies are not only the responsibility of the university, but of the industry, who should contribute to closing any skills gaps they perceive.
- All universities are different, but could learn from each other in terms of sharing best practice.
- Digital competency, flexibility, good attitude, willingness to learn and work hard, high levels of empathy, and agility were noted as crucial skills for graduates entering the workforce. Graduates should also have a holistic perspective, and a full appreciation and understanding of all departments and roles, and communication between them, within the organization. Every level of organization has a role to play in the overall success of the organization.
- Of the panel attendees polled, 63% said they were planning to make changes to the internship/placement elements within the programmes they offered, based on the continuing challenges in the industry, 21% said they were not, and 16% were unsure.
- Of the panel attendees polled, 79% said they were planning to change their curriculum to meet the changing needs of industry, and the remainder were unsure.
The recording of the VIPoE 2020 Keynote Speaker & Virtual Panel 1: The ‘New Normal’ Hospitality and Tourism Landscape – an Industry Perspective can be accessed here.