By James Tehrani
Whether it’s heading to a hotel near a serene, picturesque beach in the Caribbean, exploring innovative and breathtaking hotels like the InterContinental Shanghai (China) Wonderland built on an abandoned quarry–which actually has two levels of rooms below the water’s surface–or jetting off to a conference to meet with clients and colleagues in person for the first time in a couple of years, more and more people are ready to explore the world again.
After two years of Zooming and social distancing, people are masking up and zooming off to their next travel destination.
The U.S. Travel Association said travel spending hit $92 billion in December 2021, which almost equaled the number we saw in December 2019 right before COVID-19 officially went viral.
The association also predicts domestic leisure spending will jump 3.4% this year to $726 billion vs. $702 billion last year. Domestic business travel on the other hand is predicted to hit $206 billion in 2022, which would be a 51% increase from last year’s $136 billion total.
As people begin to return to their jaunting ways, it’s no wonder why the hospitality industry is hiring in droves. In January, the leisure and hospitality sector saw the biggest employment jumps of any U.S. trade adding 151,000 new jobs, which was almost twice as much as the next industry on the list: professional and business services at 86,000. In December 2021, the leisure and hospitality industry added even more headcount: 163,000 jobs.
Even so, unemployment in the sector still went up in January by 1.5 percentage points to 8.2%.
With all that growth, it’s not surprising that hotels are turning to technology to meet their day-to-day needs. The 2022 Hotelier Technology Sentiment Report, a survey conducted by software company Stayntouch and the New York University Tisch Center of Hospitality, found that hotel software spending increased 31% in less than two years, and hotels are turning to automation to improve efficiency.
As hospitality companies begin to bring on new talent, software will become even more important to deal with the influx of new faces finding their way to these facilities.
Max Starkov, a hospitality and online travel tech consultant, told Hospitality Net that the report “shows that hoteliers have learned their lesson and have realized that the only way out of the current labor crisis is by investing in technology to solve the current labor shortages through technology innovations, automation, mobile technology, AI, robotization and next-gen technology applications.”
Beyond common hospitality-related technology, such as contactless entry, in-room devices, and so forth, human resources software–integrated human capital management software, including time and attendance tracking, payroll and tax management, learning management, and more–can help leisure and hospitality organizations manage their teams better. After all, the better staff are trained, the better the service they will provide, which is key to boosting occupancy rate and, ultimately, the bottom line. It’s like being upgraded to a “sweet.”
Turn Up Service
One area of potential concern in these return-to-traveling times, especially if facilities are understaffed, is the potential for workplace bullying and harassment.
Last year, I had the opportunity to speak with Michelle Carlstrom, a licensed social worker who is the founder and principal consultant of Build a Better Culture. She is an expert on managing abusive behavior and cultivating compassionate leadership. We spoke about workplace leadership in the general sense, but these principles clearly apply to the hospitality industry as well.
She told me, “When you look at the research and in the areas of workplace bullying, we look at what we call accidental bullies as well as malicious bullies. You could say an accidental abrasive leader is someone perhaps who hasn’t had much leadership training, perhaps they’re overstressed, understaffed, under-resourced, overwhelmed and their style therefore becomes abrasive.”
On the other hand, there are other people, she said, who choose to manage with a heavy-handed, abrasive style “because they believe that is how they stay in power, get control and get results.”
A compassionate leadership style can boost not only morale but also productivity, Carlstrom explained.
Additionally, as headcount remains low, the potential for harassment looms larger from guests who are used to quicker service or even from fellow colleagues who are overwhelmed with requests.
It’s imperative that companies stay in compliance when it comes to workplace harassment, which could lead to fines, lawsuits and even damage to reputation. In the most recent data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, there were 25,673 harassment cases in all industries in 2020, not including regional cases, that were resolved (this includes sexual harassment cases) leading to $137 million in monetary benefits. The EEOC defines “monetary benefits” as cash relief for charging parties or other aggrieved individuals. Keep in mind that occurred during the start of the pandemic when many employees were working remotely.
Logically speaking, the potential for harassment claims looms even larger as more people begin to go back into the workplace and, for the hospitality industry, as folks return to their hotel-hopping ways. To learn more about how companies can meet their 2022 anti-harassment training requirements, register for our upcoming webinar with Kara Govro, Mineral’s senior legal analyst. Mineral is an EPAY partner.
Turn down service is not included but we won’t turn down an opportunity to help you learn more.
James Tehrani is EPAY Systems’ digital content marketing manager. He is an award-winning writer and editor based in the Chicago area.