Emerging from the pandemic: opportunities to thrive in hospitality in 2022

Our recent webinar focused on the hospitality sector. Following a turbulent few years many operators in the café, pub, bar and accommodation space are still facing enormous challenges.

Hosted by Purplefish founder, PR and comms expert Joanna Randall, the session incorporated insightful discussions surrounding technology and innovation, recruitment challenges and how to market brands to changing audiences.

Our Panel of Industry Experts:

Lucy McKerron: As Head of Culture at Purplefish, Lucy works with clients to define an intentional culture reflective of their brand values. Her background in hospitality provides real world insight.

Sarah Cade: Sarah is managing director at hotel software firm Avon Data Systems. With 30 years’ experience she is passionate about driving innovation to keeps hotels running smoothly.

James Laverick: James is hotel manager at the Bristol Mariott Royal Hotel. He has been a part of the Marriott group for 20 years and has seen the hospitality sector change and evolve.

Key topics under debate included:How has technology changed how the sector operates?

From a tech perspective, Sarah spoke about how the past two years have catalysed a shift in the hospitality industry. During the pandemic, technology enabled employees to switch from static desktop working to remote locations. Many day-to-day processes can be done from smart devices.

Contactless technology and online check-ins are more commonplace cutting down on queues and speeding up time-consuming manual tasks.

James spoke about how he has also seen tech have positive impact; today guests can load their preferences into an app before they arrive for check-in. Food allergies, check-in preferences and drinks on arrival are just a few examples – hotels can now cater more easily to individual needs.

He also described how more data is now available through research. For example, understanding where guests are travelling from enables hotel operators to be more targeted with advertising.

Lucy brought a new perspective to the conversation, speaking from a brand reputation angle. She expanded on the guest experience by discussing the different channels that hospitality brands are using to collect data and build their reputation. For example, with the growth of technology, many people use websites and apps to review and recommend hospitality services.

She expressed that for this reason brands need to be intentional about guest and employee experience and how they are delivering to each of their audiences. Whether face-to-face or digital, if a company hasn’t defined or delivered its brand effectively, conversations around it are unlikely to accurately reflect the brands ethos.

Lucy also introduced social media to the conversation, reflecting on how Instagram has been a brilliant visual aid for the hospitality industry. With TikTok’s ever growing popularity, she is interested to see how brands will utilise that platform next!

What is recruitment like in the hospitality industry and how does having a seasonal/temporary workforce effect the industry?

Sarah addressed how difficult recruitment has been following the pandemic, noting that many people have left the industry. Major online retailers have done a great job of offering sweeteners such as starter bonuses and hourly rates to draw staff in. In a similar vein, hospitality brands need to be thinking about what they can do to make their job roles more appealing.

James highlighted the many benefits of working for a hotel such as access to on site gyms, free parking and discounts at the hotel restaurant. He also pointed out that if you work for hotels which are part of a big chain, there is always the opportunity to work in its many branches around the world.

He highlighted the evolving jobs such as role-shared concierges between several people who split their hours over seven days. Finding creative ways to adapt the changing working world is key to attracting the staff needed.

Agreeing, Lucy explained how brands can encourage recruitment by establishing and maintaining a good culture. She noted that it is often overlooked that employee experience has a direct impact on customer experience. If staff appear upset or uninspired, it sends a negative brand message to customers.

Brands can also benefit from the fact that many of their employees reflect their target market. So, a big question that companies in the industry should be asking is: how can we our use employees to best represent and advocate our brand?

What do you think the future of the hospitality industry holds?

Looking to the future, Lucy is optimistic. She argued that the hospitality industry is longstanding and will always be in demand. For her, a big part of maintaining the industry is working on building a permanent, engaged staff team. Right now, employment is the number one issue facing the industry however it sits against a financial backdrop of inflation and a cost-of-living crisis.

Sarah highlighted the challenges in payments legislation. Due to data protection, it can be hard for hotels and restaurants to store card details and take deposits online. In addition, many hospitality brands use third party booking sites which makes issues surrounding refunds difficult.

Whilst there is still much to be improved, Sarah spoke about 3D secure payment links replacing cards on file arrangements in the future. This could be an effective way of preventing credit card fraud and could also make refund processes easier.

James expressed that despite the disruptive past few years and the current economic climate, people are still prepared to pay for experiences. He pointed out the growing social media sharing culture describing the importance for brands to utilise emerging platforms such as TikTok for marketing.