Notes from a GM Summit
I’ve had the great privilege of attending the Aimbridge Hospitality GM summit this week in Dallas. Aimbridge has been a strategic partner with HSS for many years so it’s always great to have a chance to meet with their team and connect on a personal level. But this week has also been an opportunity to connect with literally hundreds of GMs from all over the country and hear about their experiences and challenges. Here are a few highlights:
Food & Beverage Is A Focus
As occupancy rates climb back to 2019 levels, it’s no surprise that demand for services focused on food and beverage have also increased. But this trend has extended further with restaurants connected with hotels have ramped up their offerings to become boutique high-end dining destinations catering to hotel guests as well as others. This has the potential to significantly alter the dynamic of hotel operations blurring the lines between out-of-town traveller and the local community. GMs here are excited about the new possibilities of food and beverage to boost revenue and differentiate hotels. The foodie culture that only grew during the pandemic is something that they see as a way to further leverage growing occupancy but also compete in their marketplace.
Conference Space is at a Premium
The hotel building boom over the last decade tended to focus on stand-alone limited service properties. Today, ballroom and conference space at a premium, but many hotels have made important renovations to update these spaces and make them more appealing. GMs as excited about the possibilities of hosting not only business conferences but weddings and parties that value the architectural enhancements that have been made. Banquet and meeting revenue are looked at as important growth area moving ahead.
Business Travel Recovery is Complex
While we tend to think of business travel as having a correlation to the work from home dynamic that emerged during the pandemic, many GMs see business travel in a different light. First, despite inflation, fears of a recession and business travel still lagging 2019, many hotels are seeing record numbers driven by specific industry dynamics. Housing for oil platform workers prior to their deployment comes to mind as a sector of business travel that has seen growth as that market grows. In addition, many GMs are seeing an increase in Fall conventions and conferences are already seeing bookings increase at record levels. The jury may be out on the future of business travel, but GMs are seeing continued growth from this sector.
The New Reality of Wages
While the dynamics of the labor crisis have not changed, GMs have settled into a new reality of higher wages. It is still a big topic of conversation, but is more focused on reducing turnover. In other words, GMs know the wages they need to find workers, but are creating workplace dynamics focused on keeping workers through training, incentive programs and flexible work schedules.
Poised for Growth
Overall, GMs are excited about the short and long term growth the industry. After a severe impact of the pandemic and a slow, steady recovery, GMs are excited to be in a growth mode and a narrative that extends beyond the pandemic. Most of the conversations I’ve had during the conference have centered around staffing hotels so they can fully take advantage of occupancy demand and growth opportunities from food and beverage. In addition, most GMs see services from overnight cleaning returning as more guests demand the service during their stay. While stress from a tight, competitive labor market remains, most GMs see this as more of a hurdle to overcome rather than an obstacle.
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