Team Member Retention in a Seasonal Market

By Christopher Manley Chief Operating Officer, Stonebridge Companies | January 13, 2019

Occupancy and demands on team members in the hospitality industry tend to follow similar patterns, with certain seasons requiring enhanced focus. For some markets, occupancy soars with the start of summer. Others peak when the ski slopes open or are especially active during the holidays. Seasonality has a great effect on tourism in the hospitality industry, including an impact on associate retention rates for businesses, especially hourly team members. In today's economy, general managers are in a constant battle to remain fully staffed throughout the swings of a seasonal market.

It is important for a hotel operating in a seasonal environment to understand and predict its patterns in order to strategically plan for team member retention.

Identify & Combat Threats

If a property is near a location that is considered a destination during a certain season, there is an undeniable need for additional team members to support the tourism influx. And aside from the obvious factor impacting nearly every company's ability to successfully recruit talent – competitive wages – there are other numerous elements that can influence staffing levels. Identifying the threats specific to a property's market is paramount.

The most apparent challenge in seasonal markets is the fluctuation in occupancy. It is during the tourism booms that the workforce is stretched and the pool of available qualified team members dwindles. Hotels need additional support most during these times, yet team members are most vulnerable to the potential lure of other employers who also need additional talent. Hotels can face similar retention challenges during slower seasons as well, which equates to a varying demand for hourly team members. Such swings in staffing demands can hinder a company's retention efforts when additional support is required only in certain segments of the year.

Stonebridge Companies operates two hotels in the resort city of Glenwood Springs, Colo., a mountain destination during the summer months that is renowned for its hot springs. Though the town is small, the demand for hotels to accommodate the flood of tourists is strong, with more than 20 hotels in this small city comprised of fewer than 10,000 residents. Attracting and retaining talent in this market is especially critical, given the number of hotels competing for talent within a relatively small population.

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.