Written by: Jennifer Jones
It’s no secret that the bubble has burst and travelers are back out on the road. With busy summer months still ahead, our hotels are experiencing demand that is certainly welcome after the pandemic decimated occupancies. However, the lingering black cloud of the labor shortage means hotels are going to struggle to meet guest expectations from a service perspective with fewer front desk agents, housekeepers, restaurant staff, etc. Service will be slower and limited at times, and it will be challenging to make great impressions. We are all well-aware of how the airlines are struggling with staff shortages, causing a ripple effect of delays and cancellations — frustrating many of us who were trying to get to HITEC!
At HITEC Orlando, many of you present shopped the aisles of technology to find new tools to implement at our hotels to bridge the labor gap. No one ever wants to say that we want technology to replace people. But at this time, we need technology, since we don’t have the people. Of course, technology can help ease labor issues and make businesses more efficient — but that takes away from the whole purpose of hospitality and service. It’s a conversation many of us go back and forth on.
In my previous blog post, I discussed how technologies like online contactless check-in made a huge entrance into the market because of Covid-19. Those technologies will continue to stay as long as we don’t have the staff to run the hotel properly.
Self-service kiosks also became extremely popular during the pandemic to decrease the amount of face-to-face interaction. Again, these genius little gems are still popping up in lobbies everywhere, as we can’t seem to provide enough ways for guests to get checked-in seamlessly without a wait. On Sunday of the week leading into HITEC, I witnessed a phenomenal check-in line at 7:00 p.m. at a prominent hotel brand that wrapped around the lobby. It was painful to watch, as no less than 150 people stood in line at a front desk that was clearly understaffed with three stressed-out agents. As room rates continue to rise, expectations of travelers will as well, causing a dynamic that could be disastrous for traveler reviews.
But this labor shortage isn’t just affecting our staff in hotels; it’s also affecting the staff at many of our technology vendors. Sometimes, it takes weeks or even months once a contract is signed to get technology implementations scheduled. One of the main reasons hotels are trying to implement new technology is to help make operations more efficient and deal with their own lack of staff. A great example is not being able to get integrations implemented for months — integrations that are meant to help alleviate staff from manually re-entering data into another system (staff that doesn’t exist, or staff that can’t take on any additional responsibilities). So, it’s a double-edged sword for most, and now the properties are frustrated from the lack of service from vendors, just like their travelers are frustrated with them! As I stated earlier, demand is high everywhere. A lot of hoteliers are trying to get these technology initiatives going as soon as possible to stop the bleeding right now. I know our vendors are aware, but it’s definitely a log jam that I’m afraid either will never clear up or the purpose of these technology projects will lose their immediate return on investment. What a catastrophe!
Jennifer Jones is president of J2 Hospitality Solutions and an official event guest blogger for HITEC Orlando 2022, which took place June 27-30 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida USA. Read all her event experiences on HFTP Connect.