A growth opportunity

21 March 2023

Finding new sources of growth is an ever-present challenge, particularly when it comes to hospitality. Andreas Scriven, head of hospitality and leisure at Deloitte, breaks down the results of the survey carried out by Deloitte on the hospitality sector in 2022, looking at the expectations of industry executives for the year ahead and laying out the path to prosperity

The lack of leisure travel during the pandemic created significant pent-up demand among consumers, leading to an increase in hotel bookings throughout 2021 and most of 2022. While the hospitality industry has demonstrated its resilience and adaptability, the current high inflation, interest rates and operating costs, combined with political instability, have since put further pressures on profit margins.

Deloitte’s survey of hospitality executives found 83% saw rising costs as one of the top risks threatening growth in 2023. More than three-quarters (77%) expect to see some distress activity in 2023, with one in four expecting it in Q1; twice as many than the same period in 2022. With 85% of executives also citing management of inflationary pressures as their top priority, many are shifting to a more defensive stance. Focusing on performance improvement and cash flow management. At the same time, consumers are weighing up price versus value when it comes to travel, and a looming concern for hoteliers is their ability to deliver the experiences that travellers expect.

Like most of the service industry, hotel businesses have struggled to recruit for front-line roles at a time of labour shortages, and 60% of executive specifically mention staff productivity as a risk to growth in 2023. Labour shortages will remain a challenge for the sector, meaning hiring and re-staffing remain a high priority for 63% of respondents. As a result, operators are reviewing how to protect margins, with many looking to invest in new sources of revenue.

Achieving higher speed for room           

Some sources of new revenue include offering personalised experiences, innovative services and more flexibility to achieve higher spend per room. Some hoteliers may also need to review and adapt current offerings in response to changing guest preferences and behaviours. In the context of a cost-of-living crisis, pricing is another important area to consider, particularly as one in four consumers plan to reduce their total holiday budget for 2023. In terms of location, too, consumer preferences are changing according to the increased pressure on their pockets. One in five UK consumers will reduce the number of foreign holidays they take in 2023, with another one in five planning to take fewer breaks in the UK.

As the cost of flights has also steadily increased, consumers are adapting their travel plans by holidaying outside of peak travel periods and also considering all -inclusive packages as one way to maintain control over costs. Despite these cost pressures, there remain some consumers who are likely to prioritise a holiday over other discretionary spending, albeit with a strong focus on getting value for money. As well as changing their spending behaviours, consumers are also looking for more flexibility and security around travel cancellations and loyalty redemption.

Hybrid working practices are offering new revenue opportunities for the travel industry. In terms of space, this might include redesigning properties to include remote working or multi-purpose gathering spaces. For hotels, this might be offering day rates, which could also include access to fitness centres, food discounts, in-room coffee, or complimentary Wi-Fi and printing. Other examples include extended-stay packages for consumers looking to combine travel with remote work.

Understanding what trade-offs the consumers are willing to make will help hotels to better tailor their offerings. Having the digital tools to facilitate additional services and products at every guest ‘touchpoint’ will be critical.

For those hotels located in highly competitive locations such as city centres, using location-based geospatial tools and analytics can help adjust on-site offerings. This has the potential to open up opportunities to local consumer who may not ordinarily require accommodation, but may make use of ‘third space’ environments to work from when they are not in the office or at home.

A cheaper and more sustainable way to run infrastructure

Deloitte’s survey of hospitality executives also found that 63% identify pressure from investors as a key driver of sustainability innovation, with 56% highlighting demand from consumers. Innovations include, for example, retrofitting existing buildings and making infrastructure more sustainable to reduce both running costs and carbon footprint.

To specifically reduce energy costs, some businesses may look to lighting upgrades, installing motion sensors, switching to more efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment, and enabling customisable settings in rooms or common spaces to adapt to the occupancy rate.  

Finding operational cost savings

Operational programmes centred around cost savings and better workforce management can also play a pivotal role in maintaining margins. This may include a review of property insurances, or renovating and updating cycles of furniture, fixtures, and equipment, which can otherwise pose a large expenditure. Automation for parts of the finance and reporting functions can also free up time, as it removes the more routine elements and allows employees to focus on other areas of their role.

Better and more efficient workforce management

The hospitality industry is always looking to find the right balance between labour costs and maintaining excellent customer service. Forecasting staffing needs can be achieved with the help of workforce software, which can also be used to ensure staff are not overscheduled or underutilised, and in turn, improves attrition rates and productivity. Training staff for multiple roles can also provide speedy coverage during times of unforeseen need and enable seamless relocation of staff across functions.

The percentage of hospitality executives who cite staff productivity as a risk to growth in 2023.

As labour shortages prevail, workers are expecting more flexibility, training, and compensation. Therefore, better assessing and addressing employees’ needs will help to attract and retain talent. Upskilling and reskilling the existing workforce are also important for limiting employee turnover. Better use of technology can also take on some guest interactions, allowing staff to focus on the more personal, influential relations.

The percentage of hospitality executives who see rising costs as a risk to growthin 2023.

Overall, the opportunity to improve top-line revenue often arises in time of crisis and change. Deciding which costs or revenue levers should be adjusted will very much depend on the specific challenges and market conditions faced by each individual travel operator. Those that embrace transformation are most likely to benefit as the rate of travel activity rises again.

Andreas Scriven analyses the results of the latest hospitality survey.

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