By F.F. Miles and Frederick DeMicco Ph.D., Professor, the Franke College of Business, School of Hotel and Restaurant Management, Northern Arizona University
With our extraordinary downturn in hospitality and travel, I sought out a corporate business traveler, a frequent flyer, road warrior extraordinaire and someone in our global travel industry who occupies the C-Suite. With travel starting to spring back to life, especially for leisure travelers, I thought it would be a good idea to interview a frequent traveler to learn what life is all about today when flying, staying in hotels and renting cars, etc.
Below reflects my interview with F.F. Miles with a goal of providing insights for enhancing the overall guest experience during covid-19.
Collateral Damage: Customer Services/Customer Hospitality
Observations on current travels in November 2020.
As a “road warrior” and frequent global traveler, like many, my travels were significantly curtailed during the height of COVID-19. The entire Hospitality Industry from transportation to restaurants, to hotels, to rental cars and to attractions basically locked their doors. From May 1st through August this Frequent Traveler and Frequent Flyer (FT & FF) joined the Zoom approach to doing business. But all business does not readily or ever will transfer to a “zoom” world. It was time to start seeing clients and customers in person in real time in the real world we are all trying to negotiate.
As an FT & FF last year, as typical was over 125,000 in seat air miles and about 20 car rentals, approximately 125 + nights in hotels and timeshares and too many restaurant meals to count. I thought I had seen it all until venturing out to see if the Hospitality Industry will and can rebound from the current situation.
Below is our Part 2 from F.F. Miles journey through our hospitality and travel industry.
F.F. Miles journeys have continued for the last month since I shared my experiences as a re-engaged Frequent Traveler/Frequent Flyer. Over the last 6 weeks, I have had 6 trips all by air travel. These trips included 5 different destinations all west of my mid -Atlantic, east coast home base. My goal is to share with all segments of the industry that a recovery from the current dismal outlook for our beloved industry is going to take more than just hoping. Let me explain my thoughts.
We have remained in a “shut down” status now for 8 months and are looking at this model well into the New Year. Discretionary travel is being cancelled or postponed by the average person for a variety of reasons of which there is logic to support staying home. But for some, travel is a requirement and for others a necessity, and for most it is optional. These are the people keeping parts of our Industry at least functioning. But, most importantly they are a barometer of what anyone will face if and when they too travel. This message is important to all segments if we believe we will return to travel as an optional positive way of life. Personally I would not want to eliminate this from my future. There is a great and wonderful world out there to experience and explore.
F.F. Miles messages are somewhat repeated from a month ago:
To the airline industry: You are doing a great job in COVID safety and all your efforts are appreciated. Your lack of common sense services is sadly sub-par. A few days ago I flew a nonstop 4 hour flight with only a complimentary prepackaged snack box. There were only 13 passengers on the total flight! A financial loss, but with no amenities or options why would anyone fly 4 hours when airport lounges are closed and on board services are basically eliminated.
For Hotels: I have focused on full service hotels when possible. Brand standards are eliminated all in the name of COVID. Full service, and to some extent limited service are to provide a “haven” for the efforts of travelling. Instead, with no assurance of services I have had more Styrofoam packaged delivered food at Hotels than one should ever anticipate. By the way the rates are not inexpensive either. Most properties will not automatically refresh your room which is unacceptable from my perspective.
Rental Cars: This is a big variable from unacceptable to not so bad. The airport has a lot to do with the quality of cars and services. Basically there are too few quality vehicles and regardless of status in their frequent renter club, you are throwing the dice.
Restaurants: This is by locale and by brand. Personally I have experienced some brand restaurants that are doing an excellent job and also some privately owned that I would give compliments. Best advice, check it out if you can and do not hesitate to leave if it appears the level of service and cleanliness does not meet your expectations. I get Q code menus, but many of them are poorly designed and difficult to navigate.
I will continue to travel but am hoping the various segments of hospitality become creative in new ways to bring back all of us. For those of us that are on the road now, we need you and your teams to step up to customer service and go the extra mile. It is not about mandating, it is about delivering service and customer interactions even if there are only 13 people on an entire plane. The Industry is at a crossroads. More of the same will be disastrous. Get out of the Bunkers and start talking in real time to your customers. They will help you chart the unknown future of our Industry. If services are not delivered we will be avoiding returning to travel for a long time and this industry will be significantly diminished.
Our Hospitality and Traveler Road Warrior, F.F. Miles is staying healthy and moving forward supporting our great Travel and Hospitality industry.