The Taylor Swift Effect:  Taylor Swift’s Eras World Tour and its Impact on the Hospitality Industry

As the UK & Ireland prepares for Taylor Swift’s highly anticipated ‘The Eras Tour’, excitement is building not only among fans but also within the hospitality industry. The tour, which has already achieved phenomenal success globally, is set to bring a significant economic uplift to the cities graced by the pop icon’s presence. This article explores the impact of the tour on the hospitality industry, highlights innovative business strategies that have emerged, looks at some instances where fan exploitation may have occurred, and offers insights into how the industry can harness the positive potential of such mega-events. 

The “Swiftonomics”of ‘The Eras Tour’
Taylor Swift’s ‘The Eras Tour’ has been a business phenomenon, with its ripple effects extending far beyond concert venues. As the tour weaves across the UK, beginning in Edinburgh and culminating at London’s iconic Wembley Stadium, it brings a wave of economic benefits. Hotels, restaurants, and local businesses are poised to experience a surge in patronage, with fans, affectionately known as Swifties, travelling from near and far to witness their beloved star in person. Barclays have noted that the UK is set to see a £1.2B bounce from the 15 concerts. 

While these ‘swiftonomics’ also cover a boost to retail, the majority of revenue will be going towards hospitality and tourism. The latest figures from STR suggest that Occupancy on the Books for June in the host cities of Edinburgh, Liverpool, Cardiff, and Dublin are all at least 10% ahead of this time last year. London, always more resistant to mega events due to a much larger supply, is also seeing a double digit difference for the concerts in August. Some hotel chains, such as Whitbread’s Premier Inn chain, have been completely sold out since the tour was first announced. In North America, hotels in the cities of Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati hotels saw an average uptick in ADR of 71% between 2022 and the U.S. Leg of The Eras tour in 2023. 

Swift Leverage
Businesses have been quick to adapt to the influx of Swifties, implementing creative strategies to attract increased business. For example, retailers have stocked up on Swift-inspired apparel in response to reports that one in five ticket holders would purchase new outfits specifically for the concerts . Restaurants have crafted special menus and cocktails named after Swift’s hit songs, turning ordinary dining experiences into celebrations of her music. 

Hotels have introduced themed packages, like Royal Champagne Hotel and Spa’s exclusive ‘Champagne Solution’, named after a song on Taylor’s latest album and designed to appeal to Swifties who may wish to follow Taylor’s lead, and find solace in high-end bubbles after heartbreak.  Likewise, a bakery in Paris is being inundated with special orders of “Taylor Swift on a stage with a microphone in fondant, Taylor Swift riding a unicorn, and cakes with her face on them …”. Liverpool has taken this creativity a step further as the whole city transforms itself into a Taylor Town Trail with art installations representing each Era set to be placed across the city centre as Anfield hosts three concerts in June. These creative efforts not only attract more business but also enhance the overall concert-going experience for fans. 

Employee Engagement
Much of Taylor Swift’s stock with her loyal fans has been built through a long term emotional connection. Her music and her interactions with fans has connected with fans who trust her so much that many re-purchased almost identical recordings of albums they already had, in order to support her in her battle with the owners of her original recordings. Hospitality businesses can further enhance customer experiences by leveraging their employees, many of whom may be huge fans, to offer some real authenticity to their guest offering.  

Communicating with your team and empowering employees to engage with guests about Taylor Swift’s music, tour dates and related local events could make interactions more engaging for guests and fans. If appropriate, employees could wear themed attire or participate in Swift-related activities, creating a festive and welcoming atmosphere. In hotels, concierge services may want to brush up on their pop culture and could offer personalised recommendations for local attractions or Swift-themed experiences, to ensure visitors make the most of their stay. 

A Reputation at Risk
Despite the successes, there have been instances where businesses have damaged their reputations by exploiting fan enthusiasm. The most notable example is the Ticketmaster fiasco, where fans faced a chaotic and frustrating ticket-buying experience, leading to public outcry and a tarnished reputation for the ticketing giant.  

In some cities, hotels dramatically increased room rates once tour dates were announced, resulting in backlash on social media. Hotel prices in Sydney and Melbourne in the week of concerts averaged nearly double the price of the next week. In Dublin, hotel prices are nearly triple what they are when the Taylor Swift tour isn’t in town. While this is likely the result of dynamic pricing and very normal in the industry, it has sparked widespread frustration among fans. Such opportunism can backfire, damaging the long-term reputation of these establishments. 

Lessons Learned
The ‘Eras Tour’ offers valuable lessons for the hospitality industry. It underscores the importance of preparedness for handling large-scale events and the need for innovation in customer engagement. Businesses that strike a delicate balance between capitalising on the opportunity and respecting the consumer by investing in their experience, will likely reap long term rewards. By fostering a positive environment and creating memorable experiences, hospitality businesses can ensure that the ‘Taylor Swift Effect’ translates into long-term loyalty and not just a fleeting ‘Love Story’. 

Fair Pricing Strategies
Businesses should balance capitalising on increased demand with maintaining fair pricing. Overcharging can lead to negative reviews and long-term reputational damage. Offering value-added packages that justify higher rates without seeming exploitative is a better approach. 

Creating Unique Experiences
Fans appreciate creative and thoughtful touches. Developing themed packages, limited-time offerings or in-room amenities that celebrate the event can enhance the customer experience and generate positive word-of-mouth.  

Employee Engagement
Leveraging enthusiastic employees to enhance the customer experience can be highly effective. Empowering the team to be knowledgeable and engaging with Swifties while incorporating themed attire or activities can create a memorable atmosphere. Concierge services offering personalised recommendations can further enrich guest experiences. 

Engagement and Transparency
Engaging with fans on social media and through direct communication can build a positive relationship. Transparency about pricing and availability prevents misunderstandings and builds trust. Responding to feedback, both positive and negative, shows that a business values its customers. 

Collaborations
Partnering with local businesses can create more comprehensive and attractive packages for visitors. Collaborations with transportation services, local attractions, and merchandise vendors can enhance the overall experience for fans. 

Taylor Swift’s ‘The Eras Tour’ has highlighted the tremendous potential for economic uplift and innovative strategies within the hospitality industry. By learning from both the successes and missteps associated with the tour, businesses can better prepare for future large-scale events.  

FM Recruitment, part of Hospitality People Group, remains dedicated to exploring all facets of the hospitality industry to provide relevant insights and support our clients’ people strategies. This commitment ensures that businesses can harness opportunities like the ‘Eras Tour’ to create lasting value and positive experiences for their customers. 

If you would like to discuss your people strategy further, then please get in touch. 

Chris Denison Smith, Managing Director – FM Recruitment 
+44 20 8 600 1160 / +44 7775 711923
chrisdenisonsmith@fmrecruitment.co.uk  

Andrea Shaw, Director – FM Recruitment 
+44 20 8 600 1160 / +44 7714 236469 
andreashaw@fmrecruitment.co.uk 

Taylor Swift – Image Courtesy of Paolo Villanueva

Success Story – In conversation with Naureen Ahmed

Naureen Ahmed is a seasoned hospitality professional, a fervent community builder, an engaging storyteller, and the visionary founder of ‘Inspiring Women in Hospitality’.  

With a life journey that saw her living in four different countries by the age of 10, Naureen’s path to the hospitality industry felt predestined. Her academic pursuits led her to the EHL Hospitality Business School in Lausanne, where she felt an immediate kinship with fellow students, each with their own unique stories. 

Embarking on her career with a position at the Landmark London Hotel, Naureen quickly embraced the operational aspects of hospitality, setting the stage for a significant tenure at STR. Over 12 years, she transitioned through roles from analyst to head of departments, playing a pivotal role in transforming STR into the recognised brand it is today. Naureen’s leadership style is marked by inclusivity and a focus on building multicultural team environments. 

Recognising the underrepresentation of women in hospitality, Naureen launched the ‘Inspiring Women in Hospitality’ podcast to amplify female voices and inspire change within the industry.  

Her efforts expanded in September 2023 with the creation of the Inspire Community, a platform designed to foster support among women through mentorship and career development discussions. 

Can you share a significant challenge you faced in your hospitality career and how you overcame it? 

Advocating women’s empowerment is something I deeply care about. For me personally, one of my biggest challenges in the earlier years of my career was centred on speaking too quietly. The belief that hard work alone would get me noticed was a notion I held too closely, only to realise it was far from effective. I had to practise raising my voice, which felt like shouting to me, but it was the only way others could finally hear me. 

It involved pushing myself out of my comfort zone, especially in meetings where I forced myself to speak up, to make sure I was noticed. I learned the hard way that visibility is crucial for career progression. Looking back, I see how I could have approached things differently, particularly in how I shared my achievements and successes during one-on-one meetings with my manager—a practice I really underestimated at the time. 

The process of becoming more vocal and ensuring my voice was heard has become much more natural over time, but it still feels like a work in progress. It still takes time and practice, and it’s not about waiting for the perfect moment to feel ready. You just have to do it. 

What inspired you to create the ‘Inspiring Women in Hospitality’ podcast, and what do you hope to achieve with it? 

The inspiration for creating the ‘Inspiring Women in Hospitality’ podcast stemmed from my years at STR, where I was fortunate enough to interact with a diverse array of companies and individuals across the global hospitality industry.  

Despite encountering many incredible women, I noticed a significant gap in visibility; the industry’s leadership was predominantly male. This observation sparked a real desire to amplify the stories of these women, to create a platform where our voices could be prominently heard and celebrated. 

The concept for the podcast had been brewing since 2019, but it was the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic, with all of us confined to our homes and all using Zoom, that helped bring this idea to life. It began as a passion project, but quickly evolved, and I’m about to do my 200th interview! 

My goal was always to ensure that every story, regardless of the individual’s level of experience, is heard. I believe everyone has the capacity to inspire, and by sharing these diverse journeys, I hope to create a sense of community and connection.  

The podcast aims to resonate with listeners, helping them see that they are not alone in their challenges and aspirations. Ultimately, I seek to foster a reflective space where we can pause, listen, and draw inspiration from one another. 

With joy being a core value of yours, what have been the most fulfilling and joyful aspects of setting up the Inspire Community, and how do you ensure that this stays central to the values of the business? 

Joy is at the heart of everything I do with the Inspire Community. The greatest joy comes from creating spaces where women can come together, share, and support each other, whether online or in person. It’s deeply fulfilling to facilitate these nurturing environments where open, judgement-free conversations allow us to celebrate our successes and navigate our challenges together. 

Maintaining this atmosphere of joy, positivity, and communal uplift is fundamental. It’s about ensuring we progress as a community, fostering an inclusive space where everyone’s growth is intertwined with mutual support. This commitment to collective upliftment and optimism is what I continually aim to embed in the core values of the Inspire Community. 

In your experience, how does the gender disparity in leadership roles within the hospitality industry impact the work environment and team dynamics? 

I’ve been fortunate to work in environments where gender balance was more or less maintained, even finding myself in teams at STR where women outnumbered men. My teams have varied over the years, from being all men to a mix, and coincidentally, by the time I left it was a team of all women, not out of design but based on talent. Personally, my approach has always been to hire the best candidate, regardless of gender. 

However, looking at wider research and insights, it’s clear that opportunities aren’t equally distributed between genders, with bias—often unconscious—playing a significant role. My aim is to raise awareness, educate, and challenge potentially biased decisions to ensure a more even distribution of opportunities. 

An interesting statistic from my interviews is that 51% of the women I’ve spoken to have started their own businesses, choosing entrepreneurship over navigating the complexities of corporate work-life flexibility. This trend underscores a need for more inclusive conversations around work arrangements, not just for women but for all caregivers, encouraging a shift towards more flexible work environments for both parents. 

In advocating for gender balance, it’s crucial to involve men in these conversations too. I’ve met many men in the industry who are strong advocates for gender balance. It’s important to engage with them, learn from each other, and work collectively towards uplifting everyone, finding solutions that benefit all, not just a select few. 

How has your personal leadership style evolved as you’ve navigated through your career? 

It’s a bit challenging to pinpoint this, but I’d say it comes down to two things. The first is that my leadership style is incredibly flexible, tailored to the person standing right in front of me. This realisation came from understanding that everyone I work with brings a different set of experiences, backgrounds, and motivations to the table, and my approach needs to adapt to meet those diverse needs. 

The second, and perhaps the most pivotal shift in my leadership, has been recognising the role of empathy. For the longest time, I didn’t openly attribute my success in leadership to being empathetic. It wasn’t something that was traditionally highlighted as a key trait for leaders. But over time, I’ve come to see that empathy is what truly defines me as a leader. It’s allowed me to listen more intently, create a supportive space for my team, and understand their unique needs and motivations. This deep level of understanding has been crucial in helping each member of my team grow and develop in the direction they aspire to. 

What are the most significant challenges that women face in the hospitality industry today, and how does your platform aim to address these issues? 

We’ve all heard of the “old boys’ club” – a network that, frankly, doesn’t exist in the same form for women. At the same time, I’ve come across too many stories of women competing against each other due to the scarcity of leadership roles. This counterproductive mindset needs to change, and that’s where my platform steps in. We’re here to create a foundation for strong bonds and mutual support, to counteract these outdated dynamics. 

The community we’re building is not just about making connections; it’s a space for learning from one another. Each month, we delve into topics aimed at career development, offering practical insights that members can apply directly.  

Furthermore, recognising the gap in mentorship opportunities for women, we’ve initiated mentor matching to make these crucial relationships more accessible. It’s become clear to me that women often don’t have the same networking opportunities as men, especially those who juggle their careers with primary caregiving responsibilities. This limitation often restricts their ability to attend events and conferences, which are traditional networking avenues. 

By creating this community, we’re breaking down the barriers to networking and mentorship. We’re addressing challenges like building your profile and networking, both of which are essential for career advancement. Yet, it’s not just about what we can do individually; organisations also play a crucial role. They need to cultivate more inclusive cultures where everyone feels comfortable speaking up and sharing their ideas. If the environment doesn’t support openness, progress for anyone is stifled. 

This need for cultural change in the industry also ties into the broader issue of showcasing the diverse career paths within hospitality. Part of my motivation for the podcast was to highlight these opportunities, to show that there’s so much more to the industry than is commonly perceived.  

Organisations need to do a better job of marketing themselves as desirable places to work, focusing not just on customer satisfaction but also on being employee-centric. It’s about making the industry attractive to potential talent, and addressing the labour shortages by showcasing the variety and richness of careers available in hospitality. 

Looking ahead, what changes do you hope to see in the hospitality industry regarding gender balance and inclusion, and what role do you see the Inspire Community playing in this transformation? 

While some organisations and regions, not just in hospitality, have adopted quotas as a means to ensure diversity across the board, I must admit, I’m not a big fan of quotas. However, I do believe in the power of starting conversations and taking a hard look at the existing data within organisations to understand where the gaps and patterns of exclusion are. 

From my perspective, the focus should not solely be on recruitment but on nurturing and retaining the talent we already have, particularly women who have been invested in by their companies. It baffles me why any organisation would want to lose such valuable assets, especially considering the costs associated with hiring new employees versus retaining existing ones. 

Flexibility in the workplace is another area ripe for innovation, extending beyond the option of remote work to include flexible hours, part-time roles, and job sharing. Moreover, the approach to parental leave needs a broader perspective, encouraging leaders, especially men, to lead by example by taking their full leave if it aligns with the company’s values, setting a precedent throughout the organisation. 

As for the Inspire Community, I see it playing a crucial role in this transformation. Our community, predominantly composed of women in mid-career positions, represents the next generation of CEOs and industry leaders.  

My vision is to prepare and propel these women into leadership roles by fostering a strong support network, increasing visibility, and encouraging them to be vocal and recognised for their contributions. We aim to ensure that these women are not just filling positions but are also on stage, leading discussions, and gaining the recognition they deserve.  

The change starts with each of us, working together to create a more inclusive and balanced industry. 

To discuss how we can support your businesses with your overall people strategy or to access our full suite of human capital services through Hospitality People Group, please get in touch on Tel: +44 20 8600 1180 or directly with team below:

Chris Denison Smith, Managing Director – FM Recruitment
+44 20 8600 1160 / +44 7775 711923
chrisdenisonsmith@fmrecruitment.co.uk   

Dan Akhtar, Managing Director – HPG Advisory Services
+44 208 600 1166 / +44 7808 157796
dan@hpgsearch.com   

 Guy Lean, Managing Director – Madison Mayfair
+44 20 8 600 1180 / +44 7813 009787
guylean@madisonmayfair.com   

Andrea Shaw, Director – FM Recruitment
+44 20 8 600 1160 / +44 7714 236469
andreashaw@fmrecruitment.co.uk  

“RevPAR to TRevPAR: More Than a Metric – Insights from HOSPACE 2023”

Introduction
As proud sponsors of HOSPA, FM Recruitment’s Chris Denison Smith, Andrea Shaw and Tairona Lattanzi had the privilege of attending HOSPACE 2023 last week at the Royal Lancaster London. Here we share some of their insights and observations. This year’s conference echoed many of the themes and discussions encountered in similar gatherings throughout 2023, however, offered an additional comprehensive and practical insight from the perspective of the UK’s specialist hospitality leaders.  

From the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to an evolving approach to measuring success, the event provided a valuable forum for these leaders to share ideas and strategies for navigating the hospitality landscape. 

The Role of AI: Augmenting, Not Replacing the Human Touch 
As we have previously reviewed, the impact of Artificial Intelligence and its role in the hospitality industry was a popular theme running through the day. However, the narrative certainly seems to have shifted from the worry of AI as a potential replacement for (human) employees to an enthusiasm for a tool that enhances and complements human capabilities. The discussions centered around the importance of preparing team members to effectively utilise these technologies, while also being adept at managing any technical shortcomings. 

Effectively training employees to operate technologies and empowering them with the skills and acumen to intervene when technology can sometimes fall short, is something that the best businesses have been doing for years, and in this sense, AI is just another technology that could otherwise be badly served by a disinterested employee. 

The warmth, empathy, and personal attention that employees should provide, are irreplaceable and often make the difference in guest satisfaction. Therefore, while AI can enhance efficiency and personalisation, it won’t replace the need for human interaction in the hospitality industry. The future of hospitality lies in a balanced synergy between AI and human ingenuity, where technology is used as a powerful tool to augment, not replace, human service. 

Persistent Resourcing Challenges
The UK’s hospitality industry continues to face significant recruitment and retention challenges and this topic was extensively discussed at the conference. The latest Quarterly Recruitment Outlook report from the British Chambers of Commerce reported that 79% of hospitality firms were struggling to fill roles in Q3 2023. While this may be a slight decrease from the previous quarter’s (86% in Q2) the hospitality sector, is still the industry most likely to be experiencing challenges. Industry bodies attribute this to a combination of factors, including the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic and the implications of Brexit. 

Shift in Revenue Metrics: From RevPAR to TRevPAR
A significant shift in the industry’s approach to measuring success was also evident at the conference. Total Revenue per Available Room (TRevPAR) has overtaken Revenue per Available Room (RevPAR) as the most important metric. This shift indicates a broader focus on the profitability of the entire stay, encouraging hotels to maximise opportunities for incremental spend. 

TRevPAR, unlike RevPAR, considers revenue generated from all departments of a hotel, including rooms, food and beverage, spa, parking, and other amenities. This comprehensive metric provides a more holistic view of a hotel’s financial performance, helping hoteliers identify areas where they can increase revenue. 

In terms of maximising opportunities for incremental spend, hotels are exploring innovative ways to merchandise their space. For example, transforming lobbies into chargeable co-working areas or converting dormant meeting rooms into extensions of the restaurant. These strategies not only increase TRevPAR but also enhance the guest experience by offering additional services and amenities.  

The Evolving Role of the Revenue Manager
The knock-on effect of a more holistic approach to total revenue metrics is the expanding scope of the hotel revenue manager. Traditionally focused on managing room rates and negotiating commissions on distribution channels, revenue managers are now at the forefront of strategic and commercial decision-making. With the influx of new data sets and technology, their role has become more sophisticated, requiring a blend of analytical skills, market research, and critical thinking. 

Revenue managers are increasingly seen as the hub of hospitality commercial teams, tasked with a wide range of responsibilities, including implementing and operating technology systems and aligning closely with sales, marketing, and e-commerce. They are expected to lead and solve complex problems, optimising profit while navigating the challenges posed by new data and technology. 

USALI: First Update since 2015
To further support this evolution, the conference also shed light on the most recent update to the Uniform System of Accounts for the Lodging Industry (USALI). This update, released late last year and the first since 2015, reflects the change in the industry over the past decade, with new schedules and categories for tracking financial performance. The changes included the introduction of the Energy, Water, and Waste (EWW) Schedule, expanded definitions for rate categories, and enhanced guidance for tracking costs associated with Guest Loyalty Programs. The advice from the financial specialists at HOSPACE underscored the importance of financial controllers becoming certified in the system. 

Keeping the Faith – Outlook for 2024-2025
Looking ahead, the industry’s outlook for 2024-2025 remains steady, with a focus on maintaining high rates and profitability. The expectation is that customers are willing to pay more for high-quality experiences that deliver a higher level of perceived value. This offers opportunities for driving incremental spend and repurposing underutilised space for additional revenue. Increased hotel supply in cities such as London, Edinburgh and Manchester will certainly challenge businesses to drop rates but with revenue managers holding firm so far, we may continue to see growth. 

Conclusion
HOSPACE 2023 provided a wealth of insights into the current trends and future directions of the hospitality industry. The discussions and themes resonated with those observed in similar events throughout the year, emphasising the importance of AI as a tool to enhance human work, the ongoing staffing challenges, the evolving role of revenue management, and the significance of financial tracking systems like USALI. As the industry continues to navigate these challenges and opportunities, the focus remains on balancing technological advancements with the irreplaceable human touch in hospitality. 

If you would like to discuss any of the topics that have been discussed here or any other elements of your people strategy, then please contact:  

 Chris Denison Smith at chrisdenisonsmith@fmrecruitment.co.uk / +44 208 600 1160

Andrea Shaw at  andreashaw@fmrecruitment.co.uk / +44 20 8600 1161

Tairona Lattanzi at taironalattanzi@fmrecruitment.co.uk / +44 20 8600 1164

The Middle East’s Undimmed Investment Lure: Future Hospitality Summit 2023 in Abu Dhabi with Andrea Shaw and Tairona Lattanzi

Last week, Andrea Shaw and Tairona Lattanzi attended the Future Hospitality Summit (FHS) in Abu Dhabi, which attracted industry professionals from around the world to explore, discuss, and decipher the current status and forward trajectory of the hospitality sector in the Middle East. Here, Andrea shares her comprehensive insights and experiences from the summit, providing a nuanced look at the opportunities, challenges, and emergent trends in the industry. 

Investment Landscape
Contrary to the whispers at the International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) earlier this year that suggested that investment opportunities in the Middle East were reaching a plateau, this event hinted at a far from exhausted investment landscape there. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Abu Dhabi have all accelerated their ambitions in recent years, but we found that this event had a considerable focus on Dubai and how it has astutely steered itself to hold substantial weight in the global hospitality industry, luring investors with its infrastructural marvels, technological advancements, and dynamic customer base. In particular, the Russian and Chinese markets are being eyed as potential catalysts for sustained investment. 

Russian and Chinese Investment
As the global ramifications of the war in Ukraine continue, Russian investors and tourists are tending to spend considerably longer in the region. A strong relationship seems to be budding between Russian nationals and the Dubai hospitality sector, signalling a niche for tailored services and more authentic experiences. By understanding their preferences, spending habits, and cultural nuances to craft offerings that seamlessly align with their expectations, the hospitality industry in the region can maximise profits in a market that holds an uncertain future. 

Touted as a colossal market with untapped potential, the Chinese traveller stands on the cusp of being a significant player in Middle Eastern hospitality. While a large section of the market is yet to re-embrace travel after the pandemic, there is a significant expectation that this will happen soon, and hospitality operators are eager to make preparations for it yet cautious enough to protect costs and cash flow in the meantime. Again, understanding their buying behaviours, shopping habits, and technological usage (like their predilection for platforms like WeChat and Weibo) will be vital to winning market share. Tailoring marketing strategies and operational aspects to accommodate and attract this segment could pave the way for a torrent of opportunities in the not too distant future. 

Sustainability 
A discernible thread through the summit was the heightened emphasis on sustainability. Dialogue with investors underscored the imperative of embedding eco-friendly practises into the very early stages of planning and construction. The financial and operational challenges of retrofitted adaptations seem to be rather easier to negate in the Middle East, with a stronger new build culture than they might be in other parts of the world. While sustainability was being pushed as a key theme during the event, the buy-in from attendees was sometimes disappointing given the low turnout at these sessions. 

With authenticity playing such an important role in appealing to customers, it seems clear that a robust and transparent environment, sustainability, and governance strategies will be crucial in appealing to both internal and external audiences. Branded hotels now tend to include operational standards to address basic ESG requirements that appeal to third party booking platforms, including corporate booking partners, and this could add to the appeal of branded hotels, which we will discuss in further detail below. You can also read more on the key role ESG can play in recruitment and employee retention, which Hospitality People Group published recently.

Food and Beverage Conundrum
With the Global Restaurant Investment Forum (GRIF) taking place on the first day of FHS, the food and beverage domain garnered unanimous attention. An interesting debate that peppered the sessions concerned the question of how food and beverage outlets should be managed. While some advocated for the inclusion of celebrity chefs and high-profile names, others veered towards third-party management or even in-house handling of F&B. The strategic choice in this regard can significantly mould the guest experience and brand positioning in the hyper-competitive market, but the general consensus was that there was no consensus, which suggests that any of these management strategies can be successfully implemented in the right circumstances. Unfortunately, this also suggests that any of these can fail when the conditions aren’t suitable. 

Brand vs. Independent
In a similar vein to the question of how best to manage food and beverage outlets, the summit raised the topic of affiliating with established brands or steering through the market as independent entities. The Middle East, with its penchant for brand recognition and associated prestige, seemingly tilts the balance in favour of brand affiliations. However, there’s a sprouting of independent hotels, no doubt hoping to appeal to the growing trend for unique and authentic experiences, and they seem keen to challenge this assumption. There didn’t seem to be any evidence so far to measure the impact of this, but with so many large hotel operators with newer brands that offer the best of both worlds (e.g., Marriott’s Autograph Collection or Hilton’s Curio Collection), we may see this develop over the next few years. 

Conclusion
Andrea and Tairona’s time at the Future Hospitality Summit was a journey through a landscape of ideas, opportunities, and genuine connections. The spirit of the region, ever-resilient and ambitious, continues to embrace the global challenges in the hospitality industry, and this event will continue to linger in the minds and strategies of those hospitality professionals, operators, owners, and potential investors who attended. 

If you would like to discuss any of the topics that have been discussed here or any other elements of your people strategy, then please do not hesitate to contact Andrea Shaw at  andreashaw@fmrecruitment.co.uk or on +44 20 8600 1160. 

Will AI replace human hospitality recruiters?

Last year, the Metaverse was touted as the future of business. While that might certainly be the case at some point in the future, it feels that the enthusiasm for this project has waned.  

The technology needed to experience Web 3.0 is still unfamiliar to many, but more importantly, there has been a huge backtrack in recent months from innovators such as Meta and Disney, as they have dramatically reduced their workforces dedicated to this sector. 

On the other hand, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is growing in influence. We are familiar with AI through popular culture, and Hollywood movies have often highlighted the advantages and disadvantages very clearly, and often, dramatically!  

Since Chat GPT was launched in November 2022, we have seen a sudden deluge of AI add-ons and features added to familiar websites, search engines, and productivity programmes. Devices we already own, suddenly have the ability to leverage the power of advanced AI…. for free. 

There is no doubt that AI is disrupting the way we work, live and interact. Like all advancements, it has the potential to create both new opportunities and challenges for various sectors, and the hospitality industry is no different.  

But what impact is this technology likely to have on recruitment in the hospitality industry? 

Hospitality Skills
Before we look at how AI could affect recruitment, it is important to ask if AI might make a difference in the type of roles or skills that may become more sought after in future.  

AI can enhance the efficiency and accuracy of many jobs across the sector by automating repetitive and routine tasks, such as data entry, reconciliation, invoicing and payments.  

This can free up time and resources for employees to focus on more strategic and innovative activities. This could help hospitality professionals to generate new insights and recommendations, identify new opportunities and trends, and create new products and services. 

While the reduction of manual tasks may certainly affect the number of employees required, it may also help augment the skills and capabilities of employees to help them to deliver more value for their businesses and guests. This would require the industry to continue to adapt and evolve roles and responsibilities and acquire new skills and competencies to leverage the power of these technological advancements. 

Recruitment
We know that finding and hiring perfect candidates for hospitality roles is a challenging and time-consuming process. AI will certainly be able to help streamline and improve certain recruitment processes including: 

  • The screening and shortlisting of candidates based on their resumes, skills, qualifications and experience. AI could help save recruiters time and effort and reduce human bias and errors 
  • Providing personalised and timely communication, feedback and guidance throughout the recruitment journey. This can increase candidate engagement and satisfaction, and improve the employer brand 
  • Providing insights and recommendations for recruiters and hiring managers. This can help them make better and faster decisions, optimise their strategies, and identify talent gaps and opportunities. 
  • Helping candidates find and apply for roles that match their preferences, goals and potential. This can increase the quality and diversity of the talent pool, and reduce the turnover rate. 

Understanding Bias in AI  
A 2021 Forbes article, Understanding Bias in AI Enabled Hiring, it was highlighted how AI objectively assesses the data points and reduces assumptions, mental fatigue and bias that humans often succumb to.  

While there is a risk of human bias being subconsciously programmed into the AI algorithm, there are still clear advantages to relying on AI to screen candidates on a large scale.  

In 2019, a Harvard Business Review article, Will AI reduce Gender Bias in Hiring, it highlighted that AI does not need to engage in unconscious biases to penalise based on gender or other under-represented groups in order to get a self-esteem boost. 

Reducing human bias is undoubtedly a fairer solution, but this lack of bias could also be a significant drawback to AI-based recruitment.  If a business wanted to diversify its workforce or business culture, recruitment without any human judgement may not serve the purpose.  

There are candidates out there with atypical work experiences that fail to meet the AI algorithm standards, who could potentially be the best fit in terms of their individual personality, interests, character and work ethics. 

Our Conclusion
As specialists in people strategy, we recognise that our view comes from a position of bias, but we strongly feel that AI will never replace our consultants. It will likely become a powerful tool that can augment our capabilities and performance, by helping reduce mundane tasks. This will allow us to focus on the human aspects of people and performance strategies, such as building relationships, focussing on retention and culture, and providing added value to businesses and candidates. 

If you would like to have a chat about your people strategy, please get in touch and we can chat – human to human – on Tel: +44 20 8600 1166. 

 

Is Hospitality really the most stressful industry in the UK?

April is Stress Awareness Month, and after a number of publications last year reported that 57% of hospitality employees regularly experience high levels of stress, we want to ask if hospitality really is the most stressful industry in the UK? 

The most stressful industry in the UK? 

In July last year, a report from addiction and rehab specialist Delamere, on the toxicity of the hustle culture, gave a breakdown on stress in various industries. This report was picked up in a number of other articles at the time, and presented hospitality as the most stressful industry in the UK. According to the report, 57.1% of “Accommodation and Food Service” workers reported poor mental health, more than Health and Social Care and Manufacturing which rounded out the top three places. The data to back this up were attributed to Lifeworks’ monthly Mental Health Index. These figures tend to vary by month and while Hospitality is no longer considered the worst offender in terms of workplace stress, it still rates consistently low in areas such as Average Hours Worked and Work-Life Balance.  

The impact of stress on retention rates 

Long Hours and Work-Life Balance, contribute highly towards levels of stress, which can eventually lead to burnout, especially if the level of commitment to the business and its culture begins to wane. Inevitable this can lead to reduced productivity and employee retention levels.  

Last year, we published The Battle for Retention which looked at a number of other factors that can affect employee turnover. 

Advice on how to tackle stress in the workplace consistently revolves around how to spot it in yourself, and in your employees. As individuals, we all have a responsibility to ourselves to recognise when we are working too hard or neglecting our personal commitments. Hospitality Action is a charity that supports hospitality employees both inside and outside of the workplace. In their Advice Hub, they share expert advice and information on how to get further support on a range of issues, including Stress.  

Signs of stress can include:  

  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Feeling irritated with family, friends or co-workers 
  • Drinking more than usual 
  • Struggling with work deadlines 
  • Feeling isolated and lonely 
  • Physical symptoms such as: panic attacks, headaches, chest pains, indigestion, dizziness, nausea, sweating, breathing problems

Mental health charity Mind recommends some ways to manage it including:  

  • Identify your triggers – Try to prepare for stress by recognising what sets it off 
  • Organise your time – Make a list of your tasks and approach them in order of urgency 
  • Be clear about your limits – While it isn’t always possible to say no to things, let people know if you don’t have the capacity to fulfil their demands 
  • Try to take a short break – it may seem counter-intuitive to take a break when you are stressed but if you can allow yourself one, this can help how you feel 
  • Develop interests and hobbies – Outside of work, try to make time for what you enjoy to take you away from stress 
  • Get enough sleep 
  • Stay physically active 
  • Eat a balanced diet 
  • Spend time in nature 
  • Build a support network – having friends and family, or finding support at work to talk through why you feel stressed can make a big difference 

Employers also have a duty to instill a workplace culture that can help spot the signs of stress and empower them to engage with employees on a more personal level, especially if they are seeing symptoms of stress in the team or in individuals. According to the Health and Safety Executive, signs of stress in a team can include: 

  •  Increase in arguments amongst staff 
  • Higher staff turnover 
  • More reports of stress 
  • More sickness absence 
  • Decreased performance 
  • More complaints and grievances   

 In individuals, leaders may notice a change in the way people act or feel, such as: 

  •  Taking more time off 
  • Arriving for work later 
  • Being more twitchy or nervous 
  • Mood swings 
  • Being withdrawn 
  • A loss of motivation, commitment and confidence 
  • Increased emotional reactions – being more tearful, sensitive or aggressive 

In addition to the free support for hospitality employees, Hospitality Action also offers a number of support packages including Stress and Resilience Training, designed to bolster the resilience and wellbeing of your employees. 

If you would like support with your people strategy in 2023, FM Recruitment are here for you. With a superb track record in finding the right people for the right role, we have long standing relationships with clients and candidates and we can help guide you through challenging and sometimes stressful times.  

 If you would like to chat about your people strategy, please contact us on +44 20 8600 1160.  

 

The Battle for Retention

The Battle for Retention  

The hospitality industry has become very familiar with the phrase War for Talent in the last couple of years. A number of factors have led to recruitment challenges we have not faced for decades. Indeed, last summer we wrote an article on “How can Culture win the War for Talent?” and the role of company culture in attracting the most talented candidates. 

However, as recruitment challenges are expected to continue throughout 2023, it seems clear that the most important battle being fought right now is the ‘Battle for Retention’.  

While recruitment and executive search form a large part of the services we offer, we pride ourselves on our overall strategic people support. Our track record of building and maintaining relationships in the industry has allowed us to support clients with long-term people strategies that focus on retention by supporting natural succession, rather than a reactive continuous replacement strategy. Here we share some of the insights that we have found to support a healthy retention strategy. 

Employee Turnover – Facts and Figures
Firstly, it is important to recognise that employee turnover can be good for business, but only if you can achieve a healthy balance of retention. If you track and record your turnover, identify trends to adjust your strategy, you will have a great opportunity to minimise disruption to your operations through excessive turnover.  According to a study by Fourth, the average hospitality employee turnover rate is currently 6% per month, which equates to over 70% annually. Other industries average just 15% for the whole year. This level of turnover is likely to directly affect customers, due to the impact on the overall service experience.  Longer standing employees are also likely to be affected as they become frustrated with the continuous cycle of onboarding and training. 

In order to understand what causes turnover, let’s look at some of the top reasons given for people leaving their position. According to a Forbes articles from 2022 the number one reason for moving jobs is due to a toxic company culture (62%). This is followed up by low salary (59%), poor management (56%), lack of healthy work-life boundaries (49%) and not allowing remote work (43%). 

Culture
While salary will always be a hugely important factor in moving jobs, company culture is proving to be more important when it comes to deciding to change jobs. With the cost of doing business under the microscope as we head into the new year, ensuring that your company culture reflects your business values and is clearly communicated throughout your team, could be the most value-adding action you take to increase retention rates in 2023.  

How we communicate our company culture and values internally and externally is also crucial to managing your online reputation. Current employees want to feel pride in where they work and potential candidates will thoroughly research positions they apply for. Too often, we come across businesses who have not invested in a company website, or indeed any online presence. This lack of visibility can present a challenge with recruitment and retention and is often more damaging than a below average online presence. 

Recruitment and Onboarding
Hiring the right person for the right position may seem like a very obvious choice. However, it can be very tempting to take shortcuts and gloss over red flags in order to fill vacant positions quickly. Taking time to get to know the candidate by asking the right questions and then sharing accurate information about the role and future opportunities is critical to managing expectations on both sides. Equally important is the onboarding process, where all of the hard work in communicating your strong company culture can be quickly undone in the first couple of days in a role. 

Hospitality Students and Graduates
We would always recommend building strong relationships with hospitality schools and universities to help support the future of the industry. Hospitality students and graduates are some of the most passionate and ambitious members of the sector.  

How they progress within your business is often a fair measure of how well you will retain and attract employees. If you find that they are choosing to leave the business or leave the industry after a fixed term of employment, then there may certainly be opportunities to adapt your strategy. We know that hospitality graduates have higher than average expectations of career progression. While promotions and full-time positions are always dependent on a number of factors, how we encourage and communicate ongoing development and promotions when trying to attract the best and brightest graduates, will directly impact decisions at the end of the program.  

Importance of Exit Interviews
Often overlooked in what can be a period of mixed emotions, exit interviews are critically important to identify trends specific to your business. The questions should have a variety of open questions that appeal to different personalities and encourage interviewees to share their thoughts without fear of offending. This can sometimes be a challenging issue, as some employees may have valuable information to share, but might also be hesitant to burn bridges or get people into trouble. 

However, combined with well-structured and recorded annual reviews, exit interviews can be used to identify opportunities to help develop a strong people strategy that supports succession planning, anticipates natural turnover and increases retention. 

If you would like some support with your people strategy in 2023, FM Recruitment are here for you. Specialising in finance, with a superb track record in finding the right people for the right role, we have long standing relationships with clients and candidates and we can help guide you through challenging times. 

As part of Hospitality People Group we are also able to support all areas of human capital across the global hospitality industry. 

Chris Denison Smith, Managing Director
+44 20 8600 1160 / +44 7775 711923
chrisdenisonsmith@fmrecruitment.co.uk 

Andrea Shaw, Director
+44 20 8600 1160 / +44 7714 236469
andreashaw@fmrecruitment.co.uk 

Tairona Lattanzi, Recruitment Consultant
+44 20 8600 1164
taironalattanzi@fmrecruitment.co.uk 

 

 

HOSPACE 2022 – Overview and looking ahead to 2023 

After two years of huge challenges, hospitality enjoyed a bumper year in 2022 as pent-up demand drove business. However, as the Permacrisis (a word that was recently chosen as Collins English Dictionary’s word of the year) shows no sign of abating, 2023 has already been labelled by some as the “year of coping”. In this article, we reflect on some of the insights from HOSPACE and the hospitality industry in 2022 and look forward to what trends we might expect to see in 2023. 

Sustainability
Despite the ongoing cost of living crisis, sustainability continues to be a driving force behind many of the decisions made by owners, operators and investors. The current costs of energy and our reliance on fossil fuels have made more sustainable options a preferred option in terms of future-proofing.  

Speaking at HOSPACE in November, Danny Pecorelli, Managing Director of Exclusive Hotels, noted that while their collection of hotels may include some challenging designs, they have put sustainability into every decision they make. This has led to the introduction of wild swimming pools, technology-led solutions and a gradual movement from gas to induction in the kitchens. 

Unfortunately, many operators noted that none of this comes cheaply, but the cost of not doing something is even higher. 

Danny’s commitment to sustainability was later recognised as he was deservedly announced as the winner of the Inspirational Sustainability Leader of the year award. 

Recruitment
From a recruitment perspective we are continuing to see trends from 2022 expected to continue throughout 2023.  

Culture continues to play a determining factor in decisions candidates make to accept new roles or stay in current positions. We have spoken before about how candidates want to share the same values as their current and prospective employers.  

The way in which companies communicate and act on these values will be seen as a crucial factor in successful recruitment and retention. The cost of living is also a huge factor as many candidates are starting to see moving jobs as being an easier route to an inflation busting pay rise.  

With inflation hitting double figures in recent months, any pay increase less than this is viewed as a real terms pay cut. Moving jobs is often seen as the best way to increase a wage packet and we are now seeing remuneration expectations hitting +20% on current wages.  

2023 – A Coping Year
With these additional costs and an uncertain revenue forecast facing hotel operators in 2023, it is no wonder that a number of commentators at HOSPACE were referring to “A Coping Year” ahead.  

Hospitality has faced huge challenges in the last three years and those that have come through have developed a significant level of resilience.  

In many ways, the Pandemic Pivot was a lifeline for hospitality as it forced operators to adopt new technologies and ways of working to directly improve the customer and employee experience.  

While this agility and adaptability were necessary survival techniques in 2020/1, these skills will be used to continuously improve processes, control costs, boost revenues and drive profits in 2023.  

Previous recessions saw hotels forced to drop rates and drive occupancy to maintain profits. With many hotels still struggling with being under-resourced and the costs of selling a room increasing alongside the cost of living, many hotels will be looking to maintain or even increase rates. Some operators are potentially closing parts of their building or restaurants to save costs.  

Overall, it does look like the luxury sector may be in a stronger position to adapt to the current challenges. Their ability to pass increased costs onto customers who can still afford luxury is a comfort that won’t be reflected at every level of hospitality, which will be faced with a carefully balancing act of cutting costs and raising prices. 

Although 2022 has been a bumper year, we’re seeing a degree of caution for 2023. 

For support with your next career move or to improve your recruitment strategy, please contact FM Recruitment now using any of the below details:   

 Office +44 20 8600 1160 I Email fm@fmrecruitment.co.uk   
Chris Denison Smith +44 7775 711923 I Email:  chrisdenisonsmith@fmrecruitment.co.uk  
Andrea Shaw +44 7714 236469 I Email:  andreashaw@fmrecruitment.co.uk  
Tairona Lattanzi +44 20 8600 1164 I Email: taironalattanzi@fmrecruitment.co.uk

 

“We don’t use recruiters!”

As proud sponsors of HOSPA, we were delighted to attend HOSPACE 2022 and as ever, there were some intriguing discussions with industry experts which we enjoyed. One of the presentations got off to a thought-provoking start when a panel member announced “we don’t use recruiters!” 

At a time when finances need to be so carefully managed for businesses, we understand that the costs involved in recruitment should be fully justified. However, at a time when so many businesses are experiencing huge challenges in retention and recruitment, is this the kind of support you can do without? 

Naturally, as specialist recruiters, we are speaking from a biased perspective and so appreciate that we need to try and understand this challenge from a different angle.  

In that vein, we should ask why someone would feel like they don’t get value from recruiters? 

In terms of value, a good recruiter will solve the immediate challenge of placing a high performing employee in a key role. However, there are other benefits that can be easily forgotten.  

Depending on the size of the operation, recruitment often involves other employees taking the time-consuming jobs of sifting through CVs, contacting candidates and co-ordinating diaries.  

This takes employees away from their day-to-day roles and away from areas where they can offer direct value to your customers. While some businesses are lucky enough to rarely need to recruit, the lack of experience in the market can make this particularly challenging and time consuming when they do.  

In fact, this lack of experience can often lead to an even more frustrating result if a lead candidate unexpectedly decides to pull out of the application after using the process to negotiate a better package somewhere else, or decides to leave soon after starting in their new role. A recruiter can protect your business and your current employees in these positions. 

Of course, not all recruiters will suit your needs, and your needs may not suit the cheapest option. If you simply want to distribute a job vacancy far and wide then that will be an economical way to get hundreds of CVs and applications, but do you have the resources to sift through them all and find suitable candidates to interview, let alone to hire?  

A specialist recruiter can give you and your team the gift of time, and since fees are usually only paid once a candidate has started their role, there is no outlay until the position is filled. With the guarantee of replacing the role should the candidate not make it through the minimum period, it really is a risk-free solution to a particularly challenging problem. 

As it turns out, we were able to ask a few questions of the panellist about their comment and it was interesting to note that they did backtrack somewhat on their comment to support specialist recruiters like ourselves. This was quite a relief to hear, as we have helped recruit roles in the industry for over 20 years, and have actually successfully assisted this individual’s company several times! 

If you would like to have a chat about your recruitment strategy then please get in touch with our team.  

Office +44 20 8600 1160 I Email fm@fmrecruitment.co.uk    

Chris Denison Smith +44 7775 711923 I Email chrisdenisonsmith@fmrecruitment.co.uk  
Andrea Shaw +44 7714 236469 I Email andreashaw@fmrecruitment.co.uk  
Tairona Lattanzi +44 20 8600 1164 I Email taironalattanzi@fmrecruitment.co.uk

How Culture can help Win the War for Talent

As we reflect, a year on, we take a look at what’s has changed: 

  • Have employers adapted their recruitment strategies?  
  • Has the hospitality industry adapted to meet employee or candidate expectations?  
  • What role does company culture play in the War for Talent? 

What happened?
The Big Quit and The Great Resignation are just two of the phrases that appeared in the last couple of years. The pandemic precipitated employees around the world to collectively reset and reassess both their professional and personal goals and priorities. This exacerbated the normal cycle of employee turnover and concentrated the timeline to a specific shortened period.  

This turnover sparked a real battle to attract and retain employees, not just between competing businesses, but across industries, where some were far more willing to recruit the right personality with experience from a different industry.  

Hospitality employees were particularly badly hit as many businesses were forced to close multiple times, forcing businesses to make positions redundant. Many of these employees applied for roles in different industries and chose to stay there as hospitality. In addition, many school leavers, who may have applied for their first jobs in bars, restaurants and hotels found jobs unavailable as businesses had closed, or were operating with a reduced workforce.  Again, many  chose an alternative option rather than waiting it out. 

What is the situation now?
The UK’s Office of National Statistics has recently reported that for the first time since records began, job vacancies have outstripped unemployment. However, wages have decreased in real terms against inflation, which continues to rise and remains a threat to the cost of living and doing business. Many hospitality businesses are struggling to attract employees as confidence in the hospitality sector has been rattled by events of the last few years. 

How has the hospitality industry reacted?
“Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast”. It’s a memorable quote often attributed to Peter Drucker, but is particularly relevant now.  

We have found that the businesses that have focussed on their company culture and engaged with employees throughout the pandemic were able to recover much better. As demand to travel started to increase as restrictions eased, they were the ones best placed to scale back up with an existing workforce, but also able to attract talent by offering the stability that comes from a happy workforce that feels like they belong and are able to develop and achieve their goals.  

The Future
Many employers have already increased wages by adopting the national living wage, and adding financial benefits will always help attract the best talent. However, cultures that embrace diversity, equality and inclusion, while offering a better work life balance and aligned values have become more important than monetary reward alone.  

The recruitment process is now very transparent as candidates have access to so much information on businesses, through their website, social media channels and review sites. By the time it comes to an interview, many candidates will be asking probing questions to ensure that everything is aligned and may prioritise other opportunities if this is not the case.  

FM Recruitment can support both the recruitment and retention strategies for employers. Attracting the right people to a business demands looking at everything that communicates the company culture, and as an external resource, we can do the heavy lifting.  We look at all aspects of an available position to ensure we match the perfect candidate with the perfect employer. This gives the candidate the information they need to commit and adapt quickly to a new role and saves the employer time and resources so that they can focus on their day to day operations.
If you would like to chat about your recruitment strategy, please contact either chrisdenisonsmith@fmrecruitment.co.uk or andreashaw@fmrecruitment.co.uk Tel:
+44 20 8600 1160.  

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