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Passing the pain point

There can be no denying that the sector is in pain right now, so HOSPA CEO Jane Pendlebury hosted a series of masterclasses which, we hope, provided some tips on alleviating the worst of it

The role of digital was one of the themes of the week (the highlights of which can be viewed here). Addressing marketing, David Barrett, Managing Director, Pic PR, said: “Travellers have become a lot more digitally savvy in the last two years - everyone's online - so for us and for hotels, that means we really need to prioritise digital marketing.”

Barrett talked about the move from being in print, to being online, and the growing importance of influencers. He said: “There are some people who will chance it for a free stay, but if you can get through to the right people, who have got a true audience, and there are some very good influencers out there, they will make a difference. It’s not that clever - you're just inviting someone who's got influence to come and stay - but hotels aren't doing enough of it and it is the easiest way to get the best online coverage.”

The issue of finding and retaining team members is one of the most pressing for the sector. Barrett pointed to the importance of making sure information was kept up to date online and that social media was also maintained. This, he noted, could also help attract new team members, critical during the current staffing crisis.

He said: “We suggest to a lot of our clients that they might try and make the front office role a bit more sexy and put people on social media. Try and build that following, get engagement going, and ultimately try and get bookings.

“It’s a great way to highlight your culture, to try and get that message across about how cool it is to work in the hotel, whether you're the chef or front of house. People want to see that. I think in the UK it's not seen as a career of choice, we get that. But it’s weird because hospitality can be such a great career path and we need to get that message across.”

Staffing was the subject of one of the other debates during the pain week. Linda Best, Consultant Sales Director, Swinfen Hall Hotel, said that the hotel had not seen a drop off in staff during the pandemic, but that she had wanted to look at how technology could be used to make the team “work efficiently and better together as a team”.

She added: “Like in every hotel, the processes were very manual, there was no digital product in place, that would take every function; from housekeeping to sales, right the way through to your operations. It was a manual system where you type on paper and walk it to a different department and put it on a notice board.

“So we found a digital solution which we have proven in the last three months can free up 30% to 40% of our staff time from manual tasks. And that's made the hotel and the operations a lot more slicker and smoother, and we've got time to go out and get more business because there are salespeople who are not busy doing the functions that the operations would do.”

Time is also freed up to deliver a better experience for guests. Rupert Gutteridge, Head Of Sales, Oaky, commented: “If there can be a silver lining to COVID, it is that the whole online experience is now a default, which has meant that the implementation of solutions has become acceptable online.”

Discussing how well teams accepted a move into a more digital environment, Maria Macree, Head of Sales UK, iVvy, added: “We chose a system that is not too complicated, that makes sense how you work through the process from start to finish. Of course, it's different and people have had to change the way that they work, but we haven't had any any resistance at all. Nobody's ever going to fall in love all at the same time and understand it, but it's knowing your teams and working with your staff and understanding their processes and adapting your timelines to make sure your people are comfortable.”

Best concluded: “Adaptability is key, embrace change, don't be afraid of switching your strategy. I think it is important to review your tech stack and certainly the last few months, more than ever, have been a boon for technology. But you can't beat seeing people in person.”


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