Time to pause and focus on strengthening the core
Suresh Kumar, Founder, KUE Management Services and Founder & Mentor, ROSAKUE Hospitality, lists the lessons to remember in order to revive in the post-pandemic industry scenario
Health and safety considerations have raised a new aspect that plays a determining role in the future of work ie ‘physical dimension’. This includes physical closeness, frequency of human interactions and site dependent work. The unprecedented global scenario caused by the pandemic has resulted in extensive short-term and potentially long-term disruptions across the travel and hospitality sector. The way of doing business and working has changed overnight, from in-person to remote and in numerous cases, it has led to shut down of enterprises.
As travel and hospitality segment shows signs of recovery and comeback, time has come for the industry to gear up and adapt itself to face increasingly uncertain times and events ahead. This primarily covers the following five core aspects as part of efforts to repurpose operations and prepare for the future.
* Not returning to ‘status quo’
* Focussing on the impact of the pandemic
* Its psychological aftermath
* The path and models for recovery
* Reskilling, cross-training and building resilience
The trend of e-commerce vs brick-and-mortar businesses accelerated, resulting in a huge impact on the hospitality sector. Additionally, hybrid/ remote work and automation led to reduction in business travel and consumption, causing a ‘collateral impact’ on business hotels and restaurants, ie on-site customer interaction businesses. Work in the hospitality businesses, defined by frequent interactions in close proximity, almost evolved and migrated online overnight for survival and to cater to customer needs. With declining cases, improving business sentiments and reopening of travel, this increased reliance on ‘online transactions’ appear to be a behavioural change that is likely to remain in the long-term.
A McKinsey Global Institute research lists physical proximity scores for the leisure and travel segment (out of 100), based on human interaction and work environment metrics:
LEISURE & BUSINESS TRAVEL COMEBACK
Psychological aftermath: The growth in remote/ hybrid work, e-commerce and ‘delivery economy’ has disrupted jobs in the travel and hospitality market, leading to a fast decline of employment in the brick-and-mortar restaurants and hotels while simultaneously increasing opportunities at the distribution centres and delivery services.
One of the most challenging aspects of recovery for businesses in the present situation is knowing how and when to bring the staff back. Imbalances in talent supply and demand due to the above trends and uncertainty is curtailing demand for work in these roles, resulting in a larger section of the workforce looking at ‘switch in occupations’ going forward or not returning to their original workplaces. Reskilling and upskilling workforce to deliver new business models in the post-pandemic era will be an important aspect of people hiring and retention policies going forward.
PATH OF RECOVERY
* Understand post-Covid19 guest behaviour: Guests are more sensitive to the environment and community. Business travel has reduced.
* Focus on digitalisation and online marketing: Online and digital media strategies have gained more importance.
* Accept being proven wrong: In an environment of uncertainty, it is important that the hotels adopt agile management methods and navigate unpredictable markets while accepting that the mistakes in predicting trends are a part of the journey in a volatile environment.
LESSONS TO REMEMBER
‘New normal’ of business: An important learning for hoteliers to return to is ‘different strokes for different folks’. Historical data is one such stroke that has to be kept in mind for operations as well as undertaking new investments and renovations. It may be true that historical data may no longer apply ‘year over year’ but rather ‘period over period’. Forecasting needs to evolve to factor in the above. This is the time for the industry to pause and focus on rebuilding and strengthening the core to continue to remain in readiness to face future disruptions. Recovery from the pandemic should be through development of conceptual framework for the future than going back to the ‘good old ways and days’ of traditionally laid-down business practices.
* Is any other department, other than operations, getting attention for development and investment?
* Is your team managing business or people?
* Is culture growth- or comfort-oriented?
FOCUS ON BUILDING FOUR SKILLS
* Digital – building technical awareness and skills to enable employees to expand their ability to operate in a fully digital environment.
* Higher Cognitive Skills – problem-solving, creativity and innovation to take on challenges of a rapidly changing environment and business model
* Social and emotional – strengthening interpersonal skills to ensure effective collaboration
* Adaptability and resilience – to help employees thrive during evolving business situations
Training and development budgets should be guarded and not be the first to face the axe as decreased budgets are delayed investments and not additional savings, particularly in uncertain times and the ‘New Normal’.
Business model and path to recovery: The post-pandemic industry scenario is poised to get more competitive with ‘revenge travel’ leading to altered lodging developments to cater to the new customer needs. Aspiration in leisure has returned and we may be heading to a future of small hotels since high density means higher risk.
This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'INVESTMENT SPECIAL ISSUE VOL 7, ISSUE 6'
Around The World