Mairea Doyle Balfe, a director in our Hotel, Tourism and Leisure team, moderated a panel discussion of hotel operators at the Bank of Ireland Hospitality Conference in the InterContinental Hotel on 10 November.
The panel consisted of Bernadette Randles, owner of Dromhall Hotel in Killarney, Sean O’Driscoll, CEO of The iNua Collection and Director of Hotels at Cliste Hospitality, and Tom Walsh, founder and CEO of Staycity Aparthotels.
The panellists were asked about key learnings from the pandemic. Tom stressed the importance of spending the time to develop a clear strategy. He wanted his team to own the guest experience so that they encourage customer loyalty and build a great reputation for guest experience. He cited the availability of technology like automated check-in options to help save their guests’ time and reduce or remove queueing times.
Sean outlined the importance of investing in their team, saying that they have invested in their people strategy to help bolster staff retention, and of learning and development to help support the performance of senior staff as well as the wider hotel team.
Bernadette praised her team, explaining that even when she was at a low point at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown, they helped her and the hotel face the challenges the pandemic posed. She noted that her bank was also very supportive, enabling her to reinvest in the property and look to the future by adding extra rooms to the hotel. She believed it was important to maintain a hotel reinvestment programme and not fall behind in renovation work as it then becomes harder to play catch-up.
The panel were positive and optimistic for the future, despite the head winds of inflation and rising costs, demand that has not yet returned to pre-COVID levels, and a competitive employment market.
Energy conservation and minimisation of waste was noted as a key area for future investment, with each panellist acknowledging the importance of sustainability from both operational and customer perspectives. Corporate clients are already seeking information from hotels on their green credentials, and in the near future this information is likely to be a determinant of which hotels they support.
Hotels need to be able to communicate metrics around energy usage, water consumption and waste levels, and so need procedures to measure and capture this data. Future investment needs to be in people development and training, and not just in relation to renovations, technology or innovation. Overall, a figure of 4-5% was suggested for annual investment across these areas.
The panel were unanimous that hospitality is a great industry which has shown resilience during recent years. The hotel sector has a good future but there are still opportunities to improve its attractiveness as an employer so it becomes a sector of choice for careers.
As specialist hospitality consultants, we provide impartial expert advice on hotel, tourism and leisure projects at every stage of the lifecycle. For more information about how Crowe’s dedicated hotel, tourism and leisure team can assist you with any hotel or hospitality project, contact a member of our HTL team.