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Hotel recovery levers after covid: Insights from Spain

During the months of July and August 2020, only 50% of the hotels in Spain have been open, as opposed to 100% that would have been in a normal year, a year in which we would not have been living through a pandemic. The figure is even worse for the month of September, when the operating hotel offer did not exceed 30%. From October onwards, the hotels have had to gradually close, until there is a remainder called “refuge hotels” of barely 10% of the existing capacity in Spain, as establishments open to facilitate the accommodation of transport or health personnel throughout the country.

The whole country, like the whole of Europe, is suffering the consequences of a completely unknown health crisis. Never before, not even with the consequences of warlike confrontations, had European economies suffered a complete closure of their economic and social activity. Tourism could not tiptoe through this crisis. Both the closure of all economic activity, teleworking, online teaching and the obligation to eliminate all social contact have reduced tourism movements to a minimum, both within and beyond the borders of our countries of residence.

Since last March, all professionals in the tourism sector have been asking themselves what the appropriate measures will be to favor the recovery of the activity, and when to apply each one of them. Entrepreneurs must plan in advance the investment that will make it possible to restore the flow of customers to our establishments.

To try to shed light on these issues, in this article the research carried out by TURIJOBS, the largest tourism employment portal in Europe, will be described. On the other hand, the solutions provided during the ITH Innovation Summit that took place on November 18th and 19th, in which the most important entrepreneurs in the tourism sector and the most innovative technology providers in Spain participated, will also be highlighted.

In both the research and at the Summit, the key points for the reactivation of the sector are technology and the retention of talent. The adaptation of the business models to the new needs of the clients will be achieved by professional creativity, flexibility and common sense. Talent is more necessary today than ever before: without people thinking about people’s needs, the sector will not fully recover.

Sustainability, a value that we have been talking about in recent years with great interest and emphasis, must be understood in its three aspects. Firstly, the economic aspect, that is, responsibility towards the company’s partners and customers, respecting ethical values. Secondly, the environmental aspect, respecting the use of resources. And thirdly, the social aspect, applying values to the people who work in the company, visit and/or live in the local community.

Within this social sustainability, it is worth referring to NTG social skills. Respect between people, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, religious ideas or age, is the pillar on which the relationship between colleagues, a company’s management, tourists and local people must be based.

In this social aspect, technology also plays an important role: it can be the facilitator of understanding between people of different languages or the means to reduce the harmful effects of the social distance imposed to avoid contamination. Any technology that facilitates communication between people will be a tool that improves the customer experience by providing the necessary added value. Some examples can be online check-in, applications that connect with room service or chatbots to communicate with any department in the hotel.

In this respect, in the study carried out by TURIJOBS, 27% of the employers surveyed said they had invested in technology to train staff in new tools and new ways of managing work. This effort will provide professionals with the necessary new skills.

For all this, we also count on the know-how of all the hotel professionals. The evolution of the hotel sector is also going to have an impact on professionals. The capacity to adapt and the rapid learning of the use of technology that facilitates the application of these solutions will be the key to the efficiency of the professionals. The ability to communicate with clients, as well as the rapid resolution of problems and the ability to assume clients’ risk situations, will be the most demanded social skills.

The digitalization of processes will also improve the efficiency of workers, reduce critical points and improve compliance and quality management. All this will result in an improvement in the profitability of the hotels.

Technology has played a key role for everyone and especially for hotels in adapting to a new normality in which social distance and lack of contact make it necessary for people to relate to each other.

The most relevant query is to know if what has happened is that the current situation has changed the course of technology, whether it has caused an acceleration in speed on that same course or whether it has caused a change in priorities. The conclusion is that technology, as in Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, has been adapted to survive or overcome this new stage.

From now on, more emphasis will be placed on the implementation and enforcement of procedures, which will require much stronger training of staff and information to the client. Repetitive, tedious and cumbersome processes where people do not add value will be automated and many of them will be digitized, making knowledge and analysis of data necessary for decision making.

Security and trust will be one of the pillars of the business, both for employees who need to perform their jobs safely and for customers who need to have a very high degree of confidence in the establishments they select for their stays.

As can be seen in the TURIJOBS study, in all European countries jobs have been destroyed in the tourism sector and a full recovery in pre-crisis volume is not expected for another 24 months.

The talent of tourism professionals must now be applied in finding new business models that will allow them to recover income to generate employment. 55% of those surveyed said that they had already put in place some strategy to offer products and services needed at this time. Some of them are facilitating co-working and co-living in hotels, as well as long stay offers. More disruptive ones have been to adapt hotels as movie sets or becoming logistics hubs.

In short, the combination of investment in technology and talent will be the accelerator of change and the reactivation of the industry.

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