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How strong O&M got the best hotel properties back on their feet (and primed them for the travel rebound and its future)

5 min read

Real Estate

After more than two years of massive slumps in travel due to COVID-19 health restrictions, the sudden travel rebound is giving whiplash to some hospitality property owners.

To realize the record prices that higher occupancy rates are making possible, hospitality property owners and managers will need to employ next-level operations and maintenance strategies to better serve their guests, enhance their properties and future-proof their investments. 

Here’s how some of the best hotels and resorts got back to pre-pandemic revenue rates.

Exceeding expectations for a heightened guest experience

How we see it: Travelers have returned and they’re now expecting greater conveniences and new services. Innovative venues have responded by upgrading their properties and offering new features and amenities such as:

  • Greater digitization – Making more personalized services possible, such as hotel apps and room preset preferences like temperature and lighting
  • Pet-friendly policies – Allowing vacations to last longer and helping to preserve travelers’ mental health
  • Contactless services – Promoting health safety among guests
  • Experiences unique to the property – Differentiating their hotel or resort, instead of just having the standard set of expected offerings
  • Eco-friendly features – Meeting consumer demand for environmentally sustainable practices throughout the property

In fact, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) even went so far as to create guidelines for what it calls a “Responsible Stay.” These guidelines address carbon dioxide emissions, indoor air and water quality, energy efficiency, waste management and responsible sourcing. Sustainable features may also expand outward to include electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, vegetarian menu options and conservation efforts.

“The past is to have a cookie-cutter hotel. The future is to have something that no other hotel has.” 

– Mark Maddox, Regional Engineering Manager, Hospitality at ABM

What this means for you: Honestly ask yourself, “What am I doing to offer a unique, attractive and competitive experience at my property?” If the answer isn’t something new or innovative, then odds are your property will get overlooked within the sea of properties doing the same exact thing. Instead, embrace your property having its own culture and brand experience – one that influences every part of the operation and maintenance from design to services to staffing decisions – and the ability to adapt in the face of evolving consumer demands.

Our recommendation: At the very least, start implementing several of the features listed above. Doing so requires months of planning, new operational standards and tons of technical knowhow. So, lean on a reliable facility engineering partner to plan, install and maintain them. Ideally, all facility operations and maintenance should be managed holistically by a single, end-to-end facility services provider, such as ABM.

Pushing through regrowing pains

How we see it: Owners and managers who maintained their properties during the pandemic were, are and continue to be better positioned to take on projects related to enabling and supplying the guest amenities listed above. Those who didn’t, however, may face a backlog of operations and maintenance projects, as well as the potential of compounding damages from issues left unaddressed. Combine that with not having enough – or the right – people on staff to get the repairs or updates done, and they’re staring down a perfect storm of more lost revenue.

Due to tight margins and continually fluctuating revenue, the hospitality sector has traditionally been hesitant to outsource O&M, Maddox says. But that’s changing, he added, as the popularity of online public-rating sites continues to bring greater focus to guest experience and satisfaction. As a result, O&M requirements become more specialized, and holistic property management techniques prove their worth.

What this means for you: The immediate challenge is having the right people in place. In 2020, 

the US hotel industry reported its worst year on record, with all-time lows in occupancy and revenue per available room (RevPAR) and the average occupancy rate hovered at just 44%. As a result, about half of leisure and hospitality jobs disappeared, including advisory positions. Now, however, the sector is in a hiring frenzy. And teams rebuilding – and retaining – staff in a tight labor market can benefit from the knowledge of a specialized facility engineering and services firm.

Our recommendation: If you’re understaffed – or if your staff roster is a revolving door – find a partner skilled at handling outsourced talent. Because ABM manages hospitality portfolios across many job titles, it has unique insight into salary rates, performance indicators and means of retention, including training programs. Moreover, ABM recruiters take the culture of a property into account when hiring, conducting performance reviews and understanding what is involved with each position. That’s especially valuable with jobs requiring specialized engineering skills. 

“Hoteliers should look for a complete solution when researching outsourced engineering services providers. One who can not only maintain the aesthetic of their portfolio of properties, but also the mechanical systems. All while using established procedures and policies that have proven successful for other hotels.” 

– Mark Maddox, Regional Engineering Manager, Hospitality at ABM

Protecting the bottom line

The key to making the most of a healthy hospitality market is keeping current on what clients want, ensuring that the right talents are on staff and taking a holistic approach to O&M. Why? Because a properly run hotel will create higher guest loyalty and lower capital expenses.

And, by partnering with a strategic engineering facility services provider to help handle all of the above, hospitality property owners and managers can protect their margins, enhance the customer experience and grow their businesses for the future of travel.