When we think of exceptional service and brand standards, the conversation often centers around convenience, personalization, automation, technological innovation, loyalty incentives, and the usual bells and whistles of modern hospitality. While these are undeniably integral considerations for any hotel to remain competitive, we need to include an often overlooked piece of the puzzle: hotel safety. Traditionally, the topic of hotel safety -- for both guests and staff -- was frequently understated. But throughout the pandemic, concerns relating to public health reached a fever pitch, and the hospitality industry was especially vulnerable. As the health and safety protocols offered by hotels were placed under a magnifying lens of hyper-critical proportions, industry leaders quickly took note of the writing on the wall. This ‘new normal’ wasn’t going anywhere.
Even with the promise of a post-pandemic future on the horizon, the topic of staff and guest safety would remain at the forefront of our industry. Now, perhaps more than ever before, hoteliers are implored to look at the broader picture of their safety infrastructure. Beyond pandemic-specific protocols, what technology does your property have in place to ensure the ongoing safety of all those who step foot on property? More importantly, how are hospitality leaders protecting their staff from harmful circumstances unique to this line of work? Hospitality workers are, after all, often working in isolated conditions while performing physically demanding tasks. To this effect, hospitality workers often report incidents relating to the violation of their personal security, including sexual harassment or violence inflicted by guests and physical injury.
With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that employee turnover in the hospitality industry is exceptionally high -- a rate of 73.8%, compared to the annual average of 10-15% across other sectors. And right now, as hotels emerge from the pandemic into the rebound and recovery phase, an industry labor shortage has created a crisis of its own.
Over the last few months, hotels are struggling to re-hire or hire enough housekeepers, front of house staff, kitchen staff and other hourly workers. In fact, industry surveys reveal that a third of former hospitality workers won't return to their former jobs during the labor shortage because they want higher pay, better benefits, and a new work environment.
This is a notorious challenge for the hotel operators, as prioritizing the staff experience is equally important to the guest experience because happy staff creates an environment for happy guests. You simply cannot have one without the other.
In 2018, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) shone a spotlight on this issue when they launched their 5-Star Promise, a voluntary commitment by AHLA members to enhance policies, trainings, and resources, including employee safety devices, that together are aimed and strengthening safety and security for hotel employees and guests. The hallmark of this program was the push for dedicated safety technology and infrastructure, specifically, the implementation of safety devices throughout hotels nationwide. Finally, hotels are being asked to equip their staff with more than a promise -- but rather, technology-backed assurances that their continued safety is top of mind. With the help of stand alone safety devices, many of which utilize the power of BLE/Wi-Fi gateways that provide real-time data from other devices, hotel staff have peace of mind that they can summon assistance quickly, effectively and discreetly when they need it most.
The use of this technology also helps hotels comply with union requirements and emerging local laws and regulations relating to the 5-Star Promise. More importantly, however, these devices create a safer environment for both hotel staff and guests. Hoteliers, if the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything, it’s that safety for both guests and staff is not just nice to have -- it’s a non-negotiable. The push for enhanced security and safety measures will live on well beyond the pandemic, as industry leaders move quickly to get ahead of guest demands and establish new standards that will define the future of our industry. The writing is on the wall: hotels that establish a dedicated safety ecosystem that works to reinforce both guest and staff safety today, are sure to succeed in their pursuit of service excellence and long-term success tomorrow.