Hotels head for ‘new era’ of service


Hotels are “moving into a new era of service, and a new era in how we define service in hotels”, according to HVS chairman Russell Kett.

Looking at the growing issue of reopening, Kett added that there was “no point opening and making more of a loss than you do when you are shut”.

He said: “Closing was relatively straightforward, but reopening is going to be quite challenging particularly as people are thinking there might be a second wave of the pandemic.”

When to bring staff back out of the furlough scheme was an on-going issue, as well as the inevitable decision that some people are not going to be required.

Speaking on a webinar organised by HVS and Bird & Bird, Karen Friebe, partner, Bird & Bird, said: “Inevitably there may be staff cuts, but you have to balance this with the level of service you offer”. She added that the implementation of social distancing in a hotel was likely to prove challenging along with ensuring that any new protocols are implemented effectively.

“I think there’s going to be a greater use of technology, which we are already seeing in countries that have re-opened for business, such as China,” she said, adding that hotels were likely to be run with a lot less social interaction with their customers, which opened up a whole new dilemma for the hospitality sector and the concept of service in a service-led industry.

Creativity, flexibility and a passion for perfection were three key team attributes identified in the new era of hotels – while the costs of implementing new health and safety protocols were likely to be off-set against savings made on reduced servicing of rooms and the stripping out of moveable collateral materials.

The panellists agreed that the 14-day quarantine for visitors to the UK and elsewhere was unworkable, with some only planning to open their properties once this decision had been reversed. Extended stay-type properties, which afforded guests a degree of autonomy were seen as having an advantage moving forward, as was the importance of sustainability, the need for leaner structures within management teams and operating companies, and the on-going popularity of virtual meetings, which was seen as likely to remain albeit perhaps only for smaller groups and one-to-one meetings in the longer term.

“We are moving into a new era of service, and a new era in how we define service in hotels,” concluded Kett. “Customers will be different and have different needs and management teams have to work together to address these in an attractive and appealing, but profitable way.”