What Keeps Hoteliers Up at Night?

Q&A with Fred Deschamps, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group

By Suresh Acharya Vice President of Product Development, JDA Software Grou | January 06, 2013

What are the major drivers of change confronting the hotel industry? To delve deeper into these issues and more, I recently spoke with Frederic Deschamps, vice president of global revenue optimization at Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, about the issues that currently keep him up at night. His concerns are not much different from executives in other industries; like many others, he stays awake thinking about pricing and the impact of social media, mobile technology and big data. Excerpts from our conversation follow:

What are the business critical issues that keep you up at night?

First, price transparency's fundamental reshuffling of the transaction with the customer. We used to be able to rely on channels to target customer segments with distinct needs. Now customers have access to all the rates in real time so we have to rethink how we segment and what the customer is willing to pay.

Additionally, the meaning of brand has evolved. Brand is a way to convey product content and set expectations with the customer. Until recently, that's really all the customer had to go on, with the occasional magazine review and hearsay. Today, numerous websites aggregate customer feedback into satisfaction and product content indicators so the brand level expectations are supplemented with a finer, individual hotel level of detail and there is instant accountability on delivering these expectations.

Finally, the "now" phenomenon, the ubiquitous availability of information, is shortening the customer's decision cycle. There is instant access to ratings, comparisons, and opinions ‒ both expert and experiential - so customers research and decide basically when the need occurs. Electronic payment options further facilitate this. The specific impact to hotels is that the booking curve is growing ever shorter. This deprives the hotel of vital information on how to price a room night, as forecasting what ultimate demand will be is based on ever shorter booking curves and can become less accurate.

What are some of the dominant challenges facing the hotel industry in 2013 and beyond?

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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.