Embracing Change: Lessons Learned During a Pandemic that Has Changed Hospitality

For the past three months, HFTP has hosted weekly “Hangout” sessions on Zoom, uniting hospitality professionals to learn from and support each other during a particularly difficult period. Paul West has been a familiar face in these virtual meetings, so it was only fitting that he capped off HFTP’s inaugural Hangout season with his own session on Tuesday, June 30 – where he touched on the lessons espoused by the moderators that came before him. West is a technical consultant and risk advisor with GapSpot! Technical Solutions.

Change is never easy, especially the kind you do not see coming. It is a reality reinforced by the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic earlier this year. There are many different types of change: that which is smooth, predictable and relatively constant or that which is unevenly marked by alternating periods of tranquility and fast-paced interruptions. Then, there is the discontinuous change symptomatic of pandemics: a radical and significant shift away from the way things were done before.

From the very beginning, HFTP Hangout moderators and participants have worked together to define the change that altered the face of hospitality, as well as determine the ways to rise and meet the new expectations of guests.

In “What Will the Industry Look Like Post Pandemic?,” Henri Roelings of Hospitality Net was the first to illustrate a new, post-pandemic hospitality experience back in early April – while in “The Road to Peak Hotel Occupancy Rates Has Many Forks, Bends,” Jamie Lane of CBRE used emerging industry data to demonstrate impact and recovery trends.

Comparable guidance was offered to clubs by Jim Hankowski, CPA of Condon O’Meara McGinty & Donnelly LLP (“How Clubs Have Adjusted Budgets, Dues Programs and Internal Controls During Pandemic”) and Ray Cronin of Club Benchmarking (“Clubs in a Crisis – The Framework for a Strategic Response”).

How we navigate and respond to change will determine our success in overcoming it. We may choose to take an economic approach, trying to save money through cost-cutting, downsizing and substantial redundancies. Or we may choose a more organizational approach, cultivating operational agility and focusing on culture, attitudes and employee mentality. The best results come from a mixed approach: economically increasing efficiency and creating a culture of resilience through leadership.

Lessons on leadership have been introduced throughout the Hangout series, including the session by DataWorks Founder/CEO Mark Cecil on “Navigating Crises and the Tech It Will Take to Overcome Covid-19,” as well as the session by Phil Le-Brun, director of enterprise strategy at Amazon Web Services (“Create a Culture of Agility, Place These Five Tech Bets”).

Leadership is not to be confused with management; it is transformative. Leadership is the set of processes that creates an organization or leads it to change and adapt according to its circumstances. It is essential to motivating and supporting your staff. An unmotivated staff can easily derail any change process. Successful motivation ensures your employees feel cared for and are totally involved in the process.

The whole face of hospitality is changing. Covid-19 exposed the vulnerabilities of one of the largest industries in the world, and it will be up to hospitality businesses to rebuild and strengthen it through adaptation and innovation. John Picard shared his thoughts on design innovation being the catalyst for change during his Hangout session (“Interoperability, Health Innovation Are the Keys to Recovery”).

A special thank you goes to Paul West for ending this season of HFTP Hangouts with his own insights on change and his reflections on the lessons from his predecessors. For all the Hangout blog recaps, visit HFTP Connect. Special Hangouts will take place intermittently during the remaining summer months; while the regular schedule resumes September 16 with a Europe-focused session led by HFTP Global President Michael Levie, CHTP. Registration is already open.

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About the Author: Briana Gilmore

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