Eighty-four per cent of hotel operators are concerned about the impact of the end to freedom of movement on their future recruitment, with almost half prioritising investment in their workforce over the coming year, according to the latest survey from audit, tax and consulting firm RSM.
The survey, of over 300 middle market consumer business leaders, revealed a high degree of optimism for the year ahead among hotel operators. In total, 87 per cent of respondents from the hotels and accommodation sector said they were positive about their business prospects in 2020, higher than the average of 81 per cent across all consumer-facing business sectors.
However, 77 per cent of hotels reported having struggled to recruit effectively in the last 12 months. This challenge looks set to continue with 79 per cent saying they plan to increase their headcount in 2020.
When asked to list their priorities for the coming year, investing in the workforce was considered the highest priority for hotel businesses (47 per cent). This is likely to include investment in workplace training and employee incentives in an effort to retain staff, as well as a higher spend on wages, employment agencies and search services.
Investment in technology was the second highest priority for hotels and accommodation providers, with 44 per cent saying this was a priority for the year ahead. Operators are under pressure to replace traditional models with innovative customer experiences.
Commenting on the report’s findings, Chris Tate from RSM’s consumer markets team said: ‘Despite some emerging risks, such as coronavirus, hotel businesses are remarkably upbeat about the year ahead. However, many are mindful of the challenges to come particularly with regards to recruiting and retaining the best staff.
‘Many operators will now be trying to understand the implications of the recently announced points-based immigration system that will come into force in January next year when freedom of movement comes to an end. This will pose a challenge for many who have previously been reliant on EU staff to plug skills gaps. Sensibly, many are budgeting for higher investment in their workforce over the coming year in an effort to retain staff and prepare for the recruitment challenge ahead.
‘We are also seeing signs that hoteliers are recognising the need to innovate when it comes to their use of technology. Customers are now more demanding, and hotels can gain a competitive advantage by offering guests better digital services. Some operators, for example, are using virtual reality to give guests a more engaging pre check-in experience.
‘Many are also recognising the value of investing in back office tech, like using AI or robotic process automation to deliver significant savings through reduced labour costs.’