The hotel industry has turned a corner, with most venues steaming ahead, eager to leave COVID behind. Whilst this is great news for those of us in Meetings & Events, it is important to recognize that the pandemic’s lingering effects will continue to impact hotel operations and present new challenges going forward. In order to stay ahead of the game, planners will need to adapt and change, and we will need to encourage our clients to do the same.
Robyn Cronkhite, Venue Sourcing Consultant, is here to steer us through the ‘new normal’ by highlighting key trends and considerations.
hotel contracting considerations
When countries across the world began introducing travel restrictions, vaccination programs and closed borders, hotels were forced to let go of staff that they could not afford to pay. This gave some hospitality workers the opportunity to reassess their priorities and to pursue jobs that were less labor-intensive and perhaps higher paid. As they begin to welcome guests back through their revolving doors, hotels are finding it difficult to replace and retain staff.
Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for housekeeping to run every other day, or for restaurants to be closed during standard hours as hotels do their best to operate with fewer staff. However, guests’ expectations have not changed since before 2020 and, left unaddressed, this can lead to surprised or dissatisfied clients. We need to remain in conversation with hotels so that we can provide a more realistic picture for our clients during the sourcing process.
The availability and pricing of food is another area that has been directly impacted by labor shortages and linked to production and supply chain issues caused by the pandemic. When budgeting, it’s important to note that menu pricing is higher than it was before the pandemic. For example, the price of meat in the U.S. has increased by approximately 10%, and bread products by 5%. Hotels are often faced with the dilemma of substituting menu items or increasing prices. Extra pre-packaged dressings, butter or silverware are no longer offered without an additional cost and hotels may also charge for individually wrapped sandwiches or salads.
It’s understandable that many guests remain cautious when they find themselves in shared spaces. The vast majority of hotels no longer require people to wear masks or gloves on site, and sanitization stations and temperature checks are no longer compulsory. Many of the common safety measures that were covered by hotels as we emerged out of the pandemic, must now be absorbed by the client. For example, if clients opt for a buffet meal, they now incur the cost of additional servers and plexiglass barriers to minimize contact with utensils and surfaces. Similarly, larger spaces that accommodated social distancing used to be offered at no extra charge to ensure attendee comfort and safety. Nowadays, social distancing is seen as a thing of the past, resulting in additional rental fees for any groups that continue to observe these measures.
The world is excited to be meeting in person once again, but demand across the hotel industry is currently outstripping resource. It’s become increasingly challenging for contractors to find space, as the backlog of postponed events are rescheduled amidst all the new ones. In addition to this, hotel cancelation policies and their force majeure clauses are not as flexible as they used to be.
There’s no doubt that Covid has left its mark, but it’s not all doom and gloom – a good contractor that is familiar with each of these new challenges, will be well equipped to advise clients and to steer them away from any unexpected costs or surprises.