Hotel general managers have always worn many hats – chief problem solver, employee morale booster, head of the complaints department. If something needs to be handled, GMs at properties, regardless of price point and location, are often the first to roll up their sleeves to help. Throughout the pandemic, GMs were at the forefront, guiding their property and making unprecedented decisions as protocols and mandates changed on a seemingly daily basis. In recent months, travelers have once again hit the road, and with national hotel occupancies at above 50% according to the Wall Street Journal, hotels are still working to overcome numerous challenges. A GM’s daily tasks and role have significantly shifted since the beginning of the pandemic and will likely continue to evolve as the hospitality industry continues to redefine services, processes, and expectations. Here is a glimpse into the general manager’s new challenges - and how hotel operations technology adapts alongside the evolving role of the hotel general manager.
General Managers Tackling New Challenges
Although many areas continue to open up, guidelines and mandates are still changing in many places. As they have been doing since the start of the pandemic, hotel general managers are still modifying processes and ensuring their properties are complying. In addition to health and safety issues, GMs are now responsible for solving the following COVID-related issues:
Properly staffing with an increase in last-minute bookings
Travelers decide at the last minute to reschedule a cancelled vacation. Or they realize that they have extra vacation days that they need to use or lose. And many people just want to use their newfound freedom to visit new places or friends and family at a moment’s notice.
Mike Waddell, general manager at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells in California, told Travel Weekly that the short booking windows have made it harder to predict staffing needs. And with no road map or past year booking to compare to, general managers must spend more time attempting to predict scheduling needs and then scrambling to adjust to more guests than expected.
Exceeding new guest expectations with current limitations
Although the property is open for business, services and processes look different at many properties than before the pandemic. Some restaurants or spa services may still be closed. Your property may no longer be offering daily housekeeping. The breakfast buffet may still be closed. And the in-room minibar or appliances may not yet be operational. GMs must now work to manage guest expectations with the current service level to prevent poor reviews and losing loyal customers. And at the same time as they are proactively communicating, GMs must also be looking at the bigger picture of their hotel experience when the pandemic is finally declared over.
Just like Hilton has announced that some cuts and changes at their properties may be permanent, GMs must be balancing margins, staffing and guest expectations to reimagine their property both six months and six years from now. At a recent Skift Hospitality & Marketing Summit, GMs from top properties discussed how guests expect a more meaningful visit and their hotel must rise to that expectation. Each of these transitions requires GMs to both look into a crystal ball and lead their team to create the new version of their hotel.
Many hotels are having to fulfill more extensive processes, especially in terms of cleaning, with less staff. A recent Wall Street Journal article detailed how hotels around the globe are either short-staffed due to lower budget or unable to find skilled employees willing to work, including Remington Hotels, having 500 open positions at its 78 properties. Because hotels were closed for many months, some employees moved to jobs in other industries in order to pay their own bills.
GMs are now under pressure to find new staff or to design processes to make do with less. And if there is more work than people, most GMs roll up their sleeves and jump in. David Marriott, general manager of Remington-managed One Ocean Resort & Spa in Atlantic Beach, Florida, told the WSJ that he spends about 25 hours a week personally helping with housekeeping, including cleaning guest rooms and driving the laundry truck. Additionally, SHRM says that GMs must focus on retaining top employees in the current soft labor market.
Turning to Operations Platforms to Improve Hotel Efficiency and Guest Experience
With new responsibilities and challenges, GMs increasingly are turning to hotel operational platforms to increase their productivity to give more time to ever-changing issues. By streamlining operations and improving guest communications through text messaging and other channels, GMs can improve guest satisfaction at the same time. GMs also can get more time back in their day by using preventative maintenance, which keeps assets in working order to prevent rush maintenance tickets and guest complaints. As travelers increasingly turn to reviews to make hotel decisions, ALICE Guest Services helps GMs resolve any complaints and improve guest satisfaction.
Operational platforms, such as ALICE, also make it easier to provide the contactless and digital processes that guests have come to expect. ALICE makes it easy for staff to communicate with each other, especially during times of continual change – no more worrying about lost handwritten notes or stickies. San Luis Resort Properties found that the flexible permissions in ALICE allowed other staff to fill in for housekeeping to deliver full-service with less staff due to the pandemic.
Because the pandemic-related challenges and changes are likely not completely over, ALICE also positions your property to react quickly to whatever lies in the days and months ahead. The past year has shown us that how we react to challenges is what defines the success of a business. By equipping yourself and your property with the digital tools you need to make the best decisions and changes, you are setting yourself up for success.