The times they are a changing…or are they?

times are a changing...Our industry has seen many changes over the past 3 decades. Much of the change has been driven by technology – mobile phones, the internet, the ever decreasing cost of computing – matched only by the increasing sophistication of the software.

Today it is difficult to imagine a world without it – how did we take bookings, drive revenue, sell rooms, collect customer information, and price and track items in our F&B departments?

Back in the day as a corporate trainee I arrived at my hotel in London just after the first wave of computerisation, and was subjected to the exciting project of assisting the reservations department moving from the “Whitney System” to a computer system which had already been set up in Front Office some months earlier. If you are much younger than me you may need to look up what that is!
I recall working with the night audit team of 2 and hearing about the property next door (another large hotel) making a similar transition to computers resulting in 45 night audit staff being made redundant…

We spent endless hours trying the balance the ‘x’ and ‘z’ reading from our NCR and Sweda registers before we could go home and relied on manual counts to analyse our item sales for the evening in the bar and restaurant…

So of course it was all done, but took significantly more human capital to achieve it. What happened to all those labour cost saving? Well, some was expensed on the then high cost of the technology – the rest went into the pockets of the owners and expected financial norms were adjusted.

I remember proudly commissioning the first website at my hotel which at the time was little more than a colour brochure on this mysterious thing called the internet. It was seen as something of a novelty – little did we grasp how quickly things would develop and see our industry play a major part in the on-line travel revolution. Not just an easy mode of booking; now advance revenue management tools are available and purchase decisions are linked to customer reviews via sites like TripAdvisor. Marketing departments have found new ways to spend their budgets despite not needing to destroy forests of trees printing tens of thousands of brochures…

I digress…

What hasn’t changed too much is the way some owners and management companies continue to use and abuse their number one asset – their management and staff.

Our industry is still a very labour intensive one, so in a sense it is no surprise that there continues to be significant pressure on labour costs in most regions internationally.

Line staff remain amongst the lowest paid of any sector and managers work upwards of 60-70 hours a week as if they don’t they are overlooked for career progression within the company.
Work – life balance? – not for most in our industry.

Management of labour costs through good business practice is one thing, but we still come across far too many cases of malpractice.

Some recent examples we have heard about include senior team members are not being paid their salaries, or are not paid for 6 months, or who have been subjected to mandatory salary cuts – in spite of having binding employment contracts.
We see people dismissed or laid off without notice or cause as a result of temporary or cyclical business changes.
We see contract terms not honoured on the whim of a disgruntled owner or ineffective management company agreement.

This is of course not reflective of the whole industry as there are good companies, and good people running them, but probably still not enough….
There’s an old expression which says “the more things change, the more they stay the same” and this has never been truer in our ever changing world of hospitality…

About the Author

rsz_tim_johns_cc1Tim Johns is a former Hotelier and Managing Partner with Elite Search – a leading hospitality recruitment firm. For more information about Tim and Elite Search visit and The Elite Hotelier


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