RETARDED, was how a Singapore-based hotel chief described the industry at a recent panel discussion on innovation.
Pan Pacific Hotels Group president and CEO, A Patrick Imbardelli, made this cutting but possibly spot-on observation at the Singapore edition of PATA’s Hub City Forums last week.
He explained that while hotels had systems to retrieve information about arriving guests, these currently “tell you everything about the customer that you don’t need to know”.
Instead of being privy to a guest’s flight number, what reception staff should be armed with were details such as how many hours the customer had been travelling in order to better anticipate needs, especially for someone who might be checking in after a longhaul trip, Imbardelli said.
His point was that hotels had to do better in customising experiences, a resounding concern raised by numerous speakers and participants during the half-day session.
One attendee said what rankled him was how most hotels were still sticking to the decades-old pricing model of charging guests a full daily rate even if they arrived late at night and had the room until only late morning/noon. Hotels have perishable inventory but so do rental car companies, he argued, yet the latter allows customers to book by flexible hourly blocks.
Though simplistic, it is very true. If suppliers are serious about personalising their offerings, why not start with their core product and how that is sold?
This is especially crucial in Singapore where rates have continued their upward march and the industry is being rallied to work towards ‘quality tourism’. Travellers to Singapore, many of them corporate road warriors with increasingly sophisticated tastes, are going to start expecting something extra from hotels here to justify the high prices.
Even as hoteliers attempt to address that, another group in the supply chain that they have to tailor-make solutions for are employees.
According to reports, Singapore is expecting some 10,000 rooms to be added from now until 2016, raising the country’s inventory to over 50,000 rooms. This burgeoning supply combined with the reality that the city-state’s workforce is projected to contract in 2017 due to fewer births should make hospitality executives nervous.
Attracting and retaining today’s Gen Y talent requires thinking outside the box, redesigning roles, reporting structures and training programmes, said panellists at the forum.
As a Gen Y-er myself, here’s what I think every forward-looking workplace should offer:
• An exciting job scope: Young people like new challenges and being entrusted with responsibility. Brands like Ibis are already equipping staff to serve in multiple capacities, so this idea is not far-fetched.
• Good career prospects: There must be a real recognition that Asians can do the job. How many branded hotels here have general managers that are local? Gen Y-ers are in a hurry to progress and they will run for the exit the moment they realise that they are ‘stuck’.
• A global experience: Gen Y-ers aspire to travel frequently. Some are even willing to take a gap year to do that. Although hotels may not be able to match wages in other more lucrative sectors, why not offer promising employees the chance to do an overseas stint with a sister property once a year?
Hotels in Singapore have always been looked upon with envy by their neighbours, but they need to get more creative in meeting the needs of their customers – both internal and external – if they want to be able to compete with other destinations or other industries for that matter.
This article was first published in TTG Asia, June 1, 2012 issue, on page 4. To read more, please view our digital edition or click here to subscribe.