31 January 2013 | InterContinental Hotel, Park Lane, London

EY Real Estate and Hotels Workshops

‘Setting a course for the future’

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Grow your people — they hold the key to success

With so many priorities competing for attention, it is important that hotel operators do not forget how important their employees are in the whole equation.

“They are the DNA of what the brand looks like to the customer,” says Robert Cook. “When you want to grow a business or grow a brand, you’ve got to grow the people in it no matter how big or how small you are.”

Front-of-house staff play a vital role, not just in creating loyalty but in getting the extra dollar out of the customer’s pocket. There was a general consensus that hotels had a lot to learn from other industries in upselling opportunities.

“I can’t go into a garage without being sold a Twix candy bar,” says Hugh Taylor. “Unfortunately, the upselling is not as prominent in a hotel. Offering someone on a standard rate in a standard room an upgrade is hugely profitable — that extra US$30 to US$45 goes straight through to the bottom line. Front-desk staff should not be allowed to give the key out until they’ve checked if there’s an upgradeable opportunity.”

This is just one example of how much difference training can make to the profitability of a hotel. The problem has been that, with RevPAR largely flat across Europe since the post credit-crunch downturn, operators have been under increasing pressure to take cost out of the business in order to try and maintain profitability. In this environment, training and staff development costs have been cut, which all too often has adversely impacted the guests’ experience.

Investing in people starts at a very early stage: in the UK this year, an industry-wide initiative known as the “Big Hospitality Conversation” aims to create 50,000 opportunities to work in, or experience, the industry through apprenticeships and work placements.

“This industry has a huge opportunity to attract people, to train and give them skills,” says Patrick Dempsey. “Big brands have a responsibility to first of all take a position on that, and secondly, to offer those opportunities.”