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Is It Time to Revitalize Sales Hiring in the Hospitality Industry? 

Sales hiring in the hospitality industry is on the road to recovery. Learn how you can align your strategy with the emerging consumer behavior trends.

Out of all industries around the globe, we cannot deny that the hospitality industry is among the hardest hit when the pandemic began, with about 80% of hotel rooms were reportedly empty and 99% of booking decrease in 2020. In general, the global tourism and hospitality industry is very sensitive to events, whether it is political, social, environmental, or economic events. But the emergence of COVID-19 is certainly the greatest reset the hospitality industry can ever imagine.

While the calamity has wiped the strategy board clean now, organizations can take this opportunity to sit back and realign priorities to adapt to the new business environment. One of the most important priorities in the hospitality industry is sales—as we know, travel restrictions, lockdown measures, and border closure have led to the loss of demand overnight.

But fret not—just like any other industry, the hospitality industry is also on the road to post-pandemic recovery. With that being said, organizations will enter a marketplace like never before, as consumer behavior has also shifted due to disruption. It is clear that now is the time to revamp the strategy for sales hiring in the hospitality industry, and organizations that are not prepared will be outcompeted.

The emerging trends

As mentioned before, the disruption that we all experience also change the way customers behave. In general, we observe four consumer behavior trends that emerge from this change:

  1. Health and safety become the main importance in the travel experience. About 67% of travelers feel that strict health and safety protocols will positively impact their experience.
  2. Digitalization is taking over. First, concerning maintaining employees' and customers’ health and safety above, many travel and hospitality establishments have started implementing touchless technology. One brilliant example is the face-recognition kiosk that gives passengers flight updates at Chengdu Shuangliu airport in China. Secondly, before the pandemic, consumers of 55+ were reluctant to purchase online. However, now that they have experienced the efficiency of online booking, many of them prefer to continue with this. Thirdly, business travel and in-person meetings are replaced with webinars and online meetings.
  3. Consumers are becoming more eco-conscious. The crisis has increased consumers’ awareness of environmental and societal issues. This leads to an increase in the interest in responsible travel and sustainable practices.
  4. Consumers are less impulsive. Due to the massive unemployment that happened in 2020, the purchasing power of consumers has decreased, leading to a decline in consumer spending. This also causes them to be more careful with their planning. According to a study by TripAdvisor and Accenture last year, almost half of all bookings for 2021 have a 3 month booking lead time (the period between the booking and the travel).

It is clear that now is the time to revamp the strategy for sales hiring in the hospitality industry, and organizations that are not prepared will be outcompeted.

The implications for sales hiring

The emerging trends above shift the focus of sales departments. What worked during the pre-pandemic may not work anymore in the post-pandemic world. Therefore, to thrive in the new business environment, organizations need to understand what qualities are needed within the sales functions.
Here are the top five qualities you need to keep an eye for:

  1. Reliability and honesty
    Reliability and honesty are two of the top qualities that organizations need to look for in candidates. As customers are more sensitive to health and safety issues like never before, being reliable and honest is imperative to build trust. Cutting corners and not being transparent with processes will simply not work.
  2. Creativity
    As digitalization has touched the entire hospitality industry and consumers are getting more tech-savvy, customer expectations are also increasing. We need salespeople who are digitally adept, innovative and have a creative commercial approach to improve the whole customer journey and experience.
  3. Fortitude
    We have seen during the pandemic that it is not enough to just sit and react to changes. It is not enough to think about the next step only when a pandemic happens, or when the competition starts to be ahead of you. The key to success is perseverance, resilience, and proactivity.
  4. An understanding of the broader impact
    Profit is important, but you also need to understand the broader impact outside of the profit. The urge to go the extra mile to help customers needs to outweigh the mere urge to reach a sales target. Good salespeople ask these questions to themselves: have I provided value that solves my client’s problem? Have I truly helped my clients to the best of my capability? Did I harm any parties in the process?
  5. Humanness
    Touchless technology has transformed many aspects in the hospitality industry—contact centers are getting more digitalized, more hotels turn to self-service kiosks, hospitality staffs operate on digital checklists, etc. However, social media posts and remote interactions cannot substitute a sincere human contact. A salesperson’s ability to personalize will inject a sense of humanity into the customer journey.

For the past year, many external factors have tremendously transformed sales functions in many industries, including the hospitality industry. Some say that the hospitality industry is fragile, for it is easily affected by events. But remember, in the end, our human ability to rise is too strong for a pandemic to beat, making the hospitality industry also resilient. Sooner than you know, travel will rebound, hotels will be filled, and restaurants will be flocked again. And now is a great opportunity for businesses to reorganize priorities and rejuvenate their sales functions.

SHL’s solutions help transform sales hiring in the hospitality industry. Contact us to learn how we can help you and your business.

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Jason Jaber

Jason joined SHL in 2012 and currently works on the Talent Solutions team as a Senior Consultant. His primary role is to provide expertise/client support in talent acquisition and management. As a Senior Consultant, Jason serves as a resource for clients and works to identify appropriate solutions for employee selection and development. During his tenure, he has gained considerable consulting experience in conducting job analyses, content and criterion validation, adverse impact analyses, competency modeling, workforce reviews/talent audits. Jason has worked with many organizations, across a variety of industries, to implement solutions that are valid, reliable, and legally defensible.

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