"The American Hotel & Lodging Association 2023 State of the Hotel Industry Report" provides an optimistic view of the future for the post-pandemic hotel industry. Despite tight labour markets and inflationary risks, the industry is in better shape. New traveller behaviour and new technologies offer real growth opportunities for hotels and hoteliers.
A "new era for U.S. hotels" has begun, according to the American Hotel Association, which has just unveiled its report on the state of the hotel industry in 2023. The report highlights the faster-than-expected recovery of the sector from the Covid crisis. It also addresses the major challenges the industry is facing to drive growth.
Optimistic forecast for 2023
According to an Oxford Economics analysis for AHLA, hotel demand is already exceeding its 2019 levels, while business figures are expected to reach new highs.
The rise of bleisure travel, the return of MICE and digital nomads have helped the sector to recover more quickly.
By 2022, hotel room demand has caught up with 2019's records, reaching 1.278 billion room nights. Demand will continue to grow in 2023, with an expected 1.308 billion room nights according to CoStar Group (Oxford Economics and STR).
While occupancy rates have not reached the scores of 2019, they are expected to come closer and closer in 2023. For example, CoStar Group projects an average occupancy rate of 63.8% for US hotels in 2023, a score that flirts with the 65.9% of 2019.
Total room revenue, meanwhile, is expected to reach new highs, with forecasts of $197.48 billion in 2023, up 15.9% from 2019.
Encouraging trends for the sector, despite international uncertainty
Forecasts for 2023 suggest :
Persistent tightness in the labour market,
Continued inflation and supply chain disruptions
Travellers expecting cleanliness, flexible pricing and sustainability,
A strong return of MICE,
Technological developments that are boosting the sector,
Ancillary services that are becoming more and more important.
Addressing the challenges
A tight labour market
The lack of workforce remains the major concern of the industry. A leakage of talent that affects all categories of hotels. From 2019 to 2020, the sector lost 682,000 direct employees. While the trend is improving, the forecast for 2023 is still far from what is needed. 2.09 million direct employees are expected to be in operation in 2023, compared to a workforce of 2.35 million in 2019.
AHLA and the AHLA Foundation are actively working to raise the profile of the sector and bring in talent, through initiatives such as
The “National Hotel Employee Day” event
“A place to stay" advertising campaign
The US Department of Labor's “Hospitality apprenticeship programs”
Support for the Workforce & Immigration Initiative's "Hospitality is Working" campaign.
Inflation is a concern
AHLA Platinum Partner Avendra offers some advice on how to deal with inflation:
Food & Beverage: for better cost management, adjust menu items, reduce portions, favour seasonal fruit and vegetables, make the protein/vegetable balance more flexible, adjust menu prices
Disposables (Paper, Resins, Towel-Tissue): communicate with distributors to find out about alternative products
Equipment and supplies: anticipate replenishments, look for other options that are more easily available and cost competitive.
Friction in the supply chain is also a concern. Inflation, tight labour market, product availability, high demand for certain products, war in Ukraine, energy prices, longer delivery times are among the main issues.
The tech trends of 2023
According to HTNG, the trends that will take over in 2023 are :
Artificial intelligence: with chatbots, but also for data analytics, customer service, and more refined personalization
Robotics: as long as it does not replace humans in front of customers, robotics will play an increasing role
Sustainability: technology accompanies hotels' anti-waste and responsible policy, particularly through monitoring energy consumption and automating connected appliances
Cybersecurity: remains a crucial issue for all hotels, which are regularly targeted by cyber attacks on their sensitive data
Privacy: hotels must comply with various international regulations, which are constantly evolving.
Ancillary services as a valuable source of revenue
The report is punctuated by an analysis from Alex Alt, Senior Vice President & General Manager, AHLA Platinum Partner Oracle Hospitality, who highlights the importance of ancillary sales:“According to an Oracle Hospitality and Skift consumer and hotelier research report from Spring 2022, 81% of hoteliers expect a big service model shift between now and 2025, and 49% strongly agreed that special amenities and upselling are critical to their revenue strategy.13 In turn, customers seem open to new pricing strategies that give them more choices over the course of their stay. Over half of consumers from across the world (54%) said they are willing to pay more to choose their view; 38% to choose their room; and 32% to choose their room floor.” he says.
Technology and artificial intelligence enable us to intervene at the right time in the booking tunnel. Repeat customers or one-time visitors can be captured at different points in their booking journey. The data is coupled with artificial intelligence that learns on a continuous basis from behaviour in real time. Alex Alt is forecasting an increase in incremental sales as a source of revenue for US hotels. It is likely that this forecast is also valid for hotels outside the US.
As a journalist and luxury hotel expert inspired by the men and women who embody it, Vanessa aspires to enhance and sublimate the beauty and elegance of palaces through her writing. "In a palace, simplicity serves the quest for excellence" she admires.