Staying Competitive in the Holiday Hotel Rush

Maddie Tabor | Nov 27, 2019

Working in hotels is not for the faint of heart. It’s a 24-hour operation with lots of moving parts, and it only gets more stressful during the holidays. As a former Front Office Agent and Manager, I’ve outlined some common challenges you may encounter at your hotel during the holidays and provided some solutions, taken from my personal experience, to help you solve them.

Problem: A Nor’easter of employee PTO requests

It’s no surprise that more PTO requests from your staff will come through during the holidays. Unfortunately, you can’t hire people under that assumption. Many hotel managers struggle with last-minute PTO requests, frustratingly leaving them understaffed during the holidays.

Solution: Don’t be afraid to venture out

The easy answer is don’t let employees take PTO during the holidays unless you have more than enough staff to cover them, but that is much easier said than done. Obviously you’re not going to hire full-time employees just for the end of the year, given the drastic decrease in staffing needs in the following months. One way you can keep your hotel fully staffed while keeping full-time employees happy is by hiring temporary or seasonal workers. Doing so will give your tenured staff more flexibility to take time off during the busy holiday months while ensuring you have adequate staffing coverage and no one is getting overworked. After all, employee satisfaction is just as important as guest satisfaction, especially in an industry with as high of a turnover rate as hotels.

Problem: Higher nightly room rates = higher expectations

My dad always says “Vacations are the most stressful time for people”, and after working in hospitality for over 5 years, truer words have never been spoken. Many of your guests will enter the property with a negative attitude, and it’s your job to turn their mood around. In addition to this, increased demand may skyrocket a nightly room rate to 3X its usual price. Unfortunately, the higher rate won’t change what your hotel offers guests, but if they’re paying more, you can bet they’re expecting more too. Because of this, guest service needs to be through the roof. 

Solution: Set your goals around guest satisfaction

Guests should have short wait times in line, friendly interactions, and most importantly, rooms that are ready ON TIME. If guests are treated well at the front desk, they’re more likely to be lenient when their room isn’t ready upon arrival. However, once that promised check-in time passes by, their mood can plummet instantly. Keeping satisfaction high is a big job, but with these 5 steps, it can be easier to accomplish:

  1. Invest in a seasonal lobby host who can help keep your guests entertained and happy through the long wait times
  2. Empower your employees to go the extra mile to delight guests at check-in
  3. Proactively offer luggage storage, and have a daily sheet of activities happening in the area to keep them entertained while they wait for their room
  4. Make sure rooms are ready by the guaranteed check-in time
  5. Encourage front office staff to call guests once they’ve settled in to make sure they are happy, and correct any issues before they escalate

Of course, you might be thinking, all of these tips require you to have extra personnel on hand. This is where having a holiday staffing plan in place, aligned to your goals and who’s responsible for executing them, prior to the arrival of your holiday guests can help. It’s also important to have access to temporary hotel staff who can supplement your existing team to keep guest satisfaction levels high.

Problem: It’s a family affair

Families travel together during the holidays, and the ones with small children don’t love waiting. Families also require specific room types that accommodate their larger brood, which means they may experience longer wait times than a flexible traveler willing to take run-of-house.

Solution: Be understanding and accommodating

In a perfect world, every room would be available right when guests arrive, but we know that’s not usually the case. To help you prepare, I recommend that you have specialty rooms such as suites, specially requested connecting rooms, and rooms with two beds cleaned and inspected first. Guests needing these room types will likely be preferred members of the hotel or larger groups who will be more antsy to get to their rooms earlier. Not to mention it’s more cost-efficient to provide compensation to a solo traveler or couple if needed than a larger group or family.

To help ensure you’re able to maintain high standards of cleanliness while efficiently turning rooms around, it could benefit you to leverage temporary housekeeping staff who can work individual shifts at a rate that expands and contracts with the booked rooms in your hotel.

Problem: More competition than the NFL

With so many other hotels competing for the dollars of your guests, you need to make sure your hotel stands out. Many hotels will have extravagant decorations and special holiday packages to draw crowds like the The Plaza in New York or the The Westin St. Francis in San Francisco.

Beautiful holiday decorations, pop-up experiences, or not, it’s important to understand how the increased traffic to your property can affect all guests of your hotel, even the ones not spending the night.

Solution: Find a way to stand out from the crowd

Regardless of your holiday decor, you can ALWAYS provide your guests with an amazing experience.

For hotels who are able to use holiday displays as a selling point, make sure you also account for the number of non-guests visiting your hotel. Staffing is decided based on arrivals and departures for any given day, and when you have thousands of additional tourists taking up your staff’s time with questions, it can have a negative impact on the experience of your actual guests. Focus on providing an unprecedented guest experience by scheduling extra housekeepers, front desk agents, and bell staff to give them that true “wow” experience.

For those of you unable to offer these packages and holiday festivities, I’ll reiterate: you can ALWAYS provide your guests with an amazing experience. Make sure your staff is providing exceptional service, and you’ll give your hotel a competitive advantage that won’t only benefit you during the holidays, but also well into the new year.

With these seasonal hotel recommendations, you can feel confident marching into the holidays knowing you have the tools to set your hotel up for success. Many of you may read this only to realize you need access to skilled hotel Workers. The GigSmart Get Workers app has over 25,000 on-demand hotel Workers ready to supplement your staff this holiday season. To get started, create a FREE gig posting. You can even hire workers who have passed background checks right from the app.

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