By Rohith Kori

Hotel employees have been trained to focus on “service”, but is that enough?

Merriam-Webster defines service as the act of serving such as a helpful act, but if that’s all staff provide, guests aren’t receiving the exceptional experiences that encourage repeat stays and five-star reviews.

Properties that view guest service as more than just following standard protocols focus on equipping team members to offer above-and-beyond efforts that make guest experiences exceptional.

True “hospitality” goes far beyond guest service in a hotel environment. The goal of providing top-level, hyper-personalized guest experiences requires a different mindset than standard rules of operation and service. It requires a management team that provides staff with the training and the technology that allows them to exceed guest expectations.

This concept can be described as High Return Hospitality, where both the guest experience and staff experience are elevated. With continuing staffing shortages reported by 87% of hotels surveyed by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) at the end of 2022 and 36% classifying their shortages as “severe”, hotels are realizing not only the importance of finding and hiring great employees but creating a work environment they don’t want to leave.

Invest in Guest-facing Solutions that Relieve Workloads

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), in collaboration with Oxford Economics, released the results of a Staff Shortages Survey that examined the issue in France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union. The survey revealed the importance of technology to the hospitality industry – especially when optimizing staff effectiveness and improving job satisfaction.

Hotel companies can better utilise real time data on current and future occupancy to prioritise which rooms to service first whilst improving human resource management, the WTTC survey noted. Online room selection, kiosk check-in and giving guests an opportunity to make service requests through their digital devices can alleviate pressure on daily operations.

Technology solutions like these free up staff to focus on providing guests with exceptional experiences. Aside from helping these teams be more productive, many of these solutions allow guests to customize their stay and experience. When guests can book more prior to their stay, properties can better manage rooms and inventory and predict staffing needs. When employees have more time to focus on their guests, they have the opportunity to create the type of personal connection that leads to repeat stays.

Give Staff a 360° View of Guests

When hotels and resorts ensure their team members have access to dynamic guest profiles updated at every guest touchpoint, they can anticipate what will make a guest’s stay exceptional and act proactively. Staff with a 360° view of guests know a guest’s favorite dessert from their last trip, they can offer an early tee time so a guest can make their brunch, they can help a guest make an anniversary celebration extra special, and deliver a guest experience that goes beyond basic service.

Uniqueness and customization should be the norm, not the exception, a recent article from the well-known hospitality management school, École hotelière de Lausanne (EHL) suggests. (Hotels) can create guest portfolios showing important information. This helps reception staff greet guests and tend to their needs from check-in onwards. With repeat guests, there’s an opportunity to further personalize their stay by mining past data. For example, if a guest ordered a favorite wine from your hotel bar, why not reward them for their repeat stay by having a glass of that same wine sent up on the house?

Staff members that have access to guest preferences and history have the ability to anticipate special celebrations. With access to their schedule, hotel team members can help provide a seamless transition to their next activity; if a round of golf runs late, they can help adjust a dinner reservation. With a full view of each guest profile, staff can stay one step ahead and create memorable experiences that the guest will appreciate. Guests have decided to spend their money at that hotel, and it’s the responsibility of the property to remind them why they chose it and make them glad they did so they are willing to share their experience with others and return in the future.

Empower Staff

Employees who are confident in their roles and enjoy their jobs stay. When staff are allowed to exceed guest expectations or anticipate a problem and fix it before the guest is disappointed, their job satisfaction level will improve. Reviews and ratings are gold to hotels, so every effort by the property – whether hiring outstanding staff or investing in technology to support them – can help prevent disappointment in guests, reinforce its reputation, and build loyalty.

It’s also about giving employees the autonomy to make decisions on the spot and be empowered to act spontaneously on them, a recent EHL article notesThat comes with trust; in hiring the right people with the right attitude. People that genuinely care and are sensitive to the client’s needs, who can read their body language and interpret the guest’s tone of voice. And, as a manager, being a good role model and able to connect with employees…It’s about creating ‘magic’ and delivering this – and the dream – to each individual guest, all the time.

Hotels that empower staff members create a culture dedicated to hospitality and pleasing the guest at every touchpoint. Staff at these properties embody the culture of hospitality with a guest focus that leads to return stays and five-star reviews.

Continuous Training

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) predicts that the travel and tourism sector will add 126 million new jobs between 2022 and 2032, and training will be essential in staff recruitment and development. Comprehensive training will relieve staff stress, give them the tools and confidence to elevate the guest experience, and reduce staff turnover.

Training, reskilling, and upskilling schemes aimed at equipping one’s workforce with new and improved skills to operate in the Travel & Tourism sector, such as enhanced digital literacy, will be essential to strengthen the future readiness of the sector’s workforce, and help overcome the issue of talent shortages, the Council reported.

The culture of true hospitality over being helpful or the lackluster thought of just providing service is the key to delighting guests and creating that magic. Properties that invest in training their staff are ultimately investing in happier guests.

Preparing for the Year Ahead

In 2023, global revenue in the travel and tourism market is projected to reach $854.80 billion (USD), and hotels, the largest segment in this sector, have a projected market volume of $408.80 billion (USD) alone. That’s a lot of guests. Hotels and resorts that build talented and committed teams that live elevated hospitality will see the highest ratings, the best reviews, and increased revenue.

Investing in staff by providing them with tools and skills and empowering them to deliver personalized zero disappointment guest experiences will ensure happy staff, delighted guests, and rave reviews.

Reprinted from the Hotel Business Review with permission from

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