BLLA conference tackles hotel operations
Industry leaders attending BLLA’s Boutique Hotel Investment Conference in Los Angeles discussed how the effect of the pandemic on the hospitality industry is permanent and how it will continue to have an impact on all market sectors. This undisputed truth was the subject of many conversations and invited participants to share their survival strategies. Throughout the conference, executives discussed what these changes entail and how different companies are changing their operating strategies and integrating new technologies into their designs to adapt to a complex market.
“When hoteliers reopened, they were forced to become more efficient and to ask themselves what they were doing before the pandemic and to try new things,” said Matthew Livian, general manager of Prospect Ridge, in a panel. entitled “Equity”. One of the lasting impacts is that our business will emerge more operationally efficient.
With no other options, these business models were forced to get creative, striving to become highly adaptable to unprecedented circumstances, especially when it came to raising capital and reframing investment strategies. operation. The speakers all offered the different techniques that they have found most useful over the past two years.
For some, this presented a new realm of opportunity to engage a new community. Davonne Reaves, President of the Vonne Group, invited new voices to join the conversation. “Some of the ways we did that were a lot of crowdfunding,” she said. “Essentially what I’ve done is I’ve created a community of people who aspire to be hotel owners and investors. I’m being tapped into a market that a lot of people aren’t tapping into, which is diversity, in terms of stepping into different cultures and teaching strategies on how to raise capital Crowdfunding and bringing groups of different people together has helped.” By inviting voices to contribute and learning from this experience, Reaves enabled a passionate and potential group of new perspectives to engage in problem-solving techniques.
Others have turned to technology to solve day-to-day problems facing their operating structures. Examples of products discussed in the market include contactless check-ins, automated ticket processing, and designing housekeeping strategies to cover more space efficiently. These systems provide needed support to hoteliers, directly address labor shortage issues, and “have a direct effect on hotel profitability through product evolution triggered by COVID,” explained Rani Gharbie, SVP , acquisitions, urban growth manager, Life House.
Although many “solutions” are appearing on the market, it can be difficult to find the right options for individual projects and businesses. During the Hotel Innovation Roundtable, Sara Masterson, President of Olympia Hotel Management, said, “I find the environment to be quite confusing right now in the tech space. It’s very dense. There are many products on the market, and these products tend to be very fragmented,” referring to the plethora of technology products on the market.
Luca Zambello, CEO/Co-Founder of Jurny, echoed Masterson’s sentiment, adding, “Technology is a must in today’s world. However, finding the right tools to leverage business operations is an extra step in a saturated market. Participants agreed on the vitality of integrating modern solutions into functional design for hoteliers looking to succeed this year; however, opinions on how to choose and implement these products differed.
Michael Heflin, chief revenue officer at Stayntouch, offered his advice: “If you develop an operating strategy and then define what technology supports it, you’re primarily looking for flexibility,” he said. “I have to change trades as market demands change, and we’ve all learned over the past two and a half years that markets sometimes change, and the more responsive we can be to them, the better.”
Heflin’s insights support that the more flexible a hotel design can be, the more likely it is to succeed in a future of unlimited possibilities and encourages starting with a solid operating plan before incorporating useful tools.
So what are the most critical areas where hotels should take advantage of new technologies?
“A remote means of being able to check in will be a must for most properties,” Zambello said. He also highlighted the value of diversifying the reach of the platform: “On the distribution side, the more channels you can distribute your properties, the more exposure you will get. Whether or not you drive your reservations will be an important element. And finally, the management of cleaning, repair and maintenance operations.
Heflin also shared his two cents, “The concept of being able to actually assess the unique hotel space itself will be critical technology moving forward.” He believes consumers can no longer trust historic definitions of room categories and need to be able to see “what the physical space will look like”.
“That and flexible productization,” he added. “The idea that the top floor of your hotel can be 12 individual rooms, or a party room, or three sets of three bedrooms, or three sets of four bedrooms, etc. The ability to really customize the space to suit the needs and demands of hoteliers will occur.
Heflin believes both of these concepts represent significant operational changes “that will be made possible by good technology.”
While COVID-19 continues to have a significant impact on hoteliers around the world, these challenges are also creating opportunities for innovative redesign. What is clear: the industry is not slowing down. Approaching each new challenge with unique perspectives and creative solutions underscores this community’s relentless determination to provide the highest quality service to an evolving marketplace.
Pictured above, left to right: Equity panel with Rani Gharbie (Life House), Davonne Reaves (The Vonne Group) and Matthew Livian (Prospect Ridge)