The practice of quality assurance in the hospitality industry arose from the birth of franchising nearly a century ago, when fast-food restaurants began branding their products across a region or even the entire country. Hotels subsequently followed suit, and a need for quality assurance arose.
At one time, inspectors conducted quality assurance inspections at hotels approximately every six months. They evaluated areas such as room service, exterior signage, and bathroom amenities. Today, due to the rapid growth of online reviews and marketing, consumers are becoming more savvy about making decisions based on quality and experience. Despite the shift to social media, the core component of quality assurance has not changed: the customer is always right.
In many ways, while the complexity of the current environment may seem overwhelming, it has never been easier to understand customers’ wants or needs, especially since many of them are more than happy to report their experiences online. Managing these experiences has become key, and a dedicated focus on quality assurance is crucial to maintaining a consistent experience across an entire brand or franchise.
By synthesizing the information found online with other metrics, such as internal performance reviews and quality standards, quality assurance experts have the ability to ensure that hospitality industry professionals meet their customers’ needs at a far more granular level than ever before.
A recent report from the Travel and Tourism Intelligence Center indicates that Asia’s luxury hotel market has recovered from the 2009 economic slowdown and is expected to grow over the next four years. Due in part to an expanding middle class and a growing economy, travel and tourism have recently increased in the Asia-Pacific region. As a result, demand for accommodations has increased, benefitting the luxury hotel sector and global operators such as Marriott, Hilton, and Starwood. The market reported record growth in 2013, with China leading the market with $20.6 billion in revenue. Japan recorded the most guests in luxury hotels, and Hong Kong had the highest occupancy rate and highest revenue per luxury room.
The Travel and Tourism Intelligence Center report looked at the luxury hotel market in 40 countries and provided detailed analysis by region of luxury hotels’ performance. Key indicators include hotels’ average revenue per available room, number of guests for the forecast period, and room nights occupied.
After an unsettling year that included the closing of four Atlantic City casinos, recently released statistics showed that the remaining Atlantic City casinos posted significant profits and increased occupancy rates for hotel rooms. Thanks to significant gains at Golden Nugget Atlantic City, Tropicana Casino and Resort, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, and Resorts Casino Hotel, Atlantic City’s gambling industry posted a more than $340 million gross operating profit in 2014. The number represents a 45 percent increase over 2013. Borgata led the market with more than $158 million in earnings, a 30 percent increase over 2013. The average hotel occupancy rate across Atlantic City increased more than 3 percent.
Some local industry leaders attribute the gains to fewer casinos and hotels, which translates into less competition. However, others said that profits are allowing property owners to invest in upgrades and new attractions. Matthew Levinson, New Jersey Casino Control Commission chairman, told a news outlet that the strong profits would bring more jobs and economic revitalization to Atlantic City.
According to statistics from the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), Dubai’s hospitality industry experienced significant growth in 2014. The sector saw a 5.6 percent increase from the previous year, with the city’s hotels welcoming 11,629,578 guests. This data indicates a continuation of the sector’s sustained year-on-year growth and aligns with growth in key areas, such as the number of nights booked, which increased by 7.4 percent in 2014. Additionally, hotel and hotel apartment revenue rose by 9.8 percent between 2013 and 2014, increasing from AED 21.8 billion to AED 23.9 billion.
In 2014, Dubai’s top international source markets for hotel guests were Saudi Arabia, India, the United Kingdom, the United States, Iran, Oman, China, Kuwait, Russia, and Germany. This grouping includes each of Dubai’s primary source markets from 2013, but reflects minor position changes. For example, China jumped from the 10th to the seventh spot in 2014. While Dubai hotels welcomed 275,675 Chinese guests in 2013, the number increased by 24.9 percent, with 344,329 guests over the following 12 months. This influx may be attributed to the promotional efforts of Dubai’s aviation industry, hospitality sector, and DTCM, which have targeted the ever-growing number of international Chinese travelers.
Additionally, regulatory changes contributed to increases in the number of European hotel guests. In March 2014, the United Arab Emirates government expanded its pre-entry visa exemption to the entirety of the European Union (EU), thereby simplifying international travel to Dubai for residents of the 28 EU member states.
In 2014, Dubai’s hotels welcomed over 11.6 million visitors, a 5.6 percent increase over the year before, according to recent figures released by the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM). The growth was driven by a number of developments. Tourism from nearby Saudi Arabia remained high, with other markets, including China, Iran, the UK, and the U.S., contributing significant numbers of visitors, as well. China was a particularly large factor in the growth, as 24.9 percent more Chinese tourists booked hotel stays in 2014 than in 2013.
Dubai’s tourism industry has been working to diversify the source markets of its visitors in an attempt to hedge against political and economic instability in any given region. The director general of the DTCM noted that the growth occurred in 2014 despite fewer visits by Russian tourists. One factor that contributed to the growth may have been a court ruling that citizens of 13 countries in Europe did not require a pre-entry visa to visit the United Arab Emirates.
The increase in tourism has led to corresponding growth in hotel space, with nearly 8,000 rooms and 46 new properties opening in 2014. Despite the increase in supply, revenue for the industry was up 9.8 percent overall, with room revenue rising 12 percent.
For a long time, airlines received recognition as the drivers of innovation in the travel industry. In more recent years, online travel companies and their digital tools have taken over as the primary driving force. Now, the global hospitality industry is pushing travel forward as it rethinks technology, customer experience, and design. As travel increases around the world, customers are turning to online booking tools to make reservations, a phenomenon that has pushed hotels and resorts to completely redesign and retool themselves to meet the needs of their guests.
Self-service and mobile technologies have fundamentally shifted the ways in which customers and companies relate and interact. The hospitality industry now leads the charge in meeting customers where they are, by changing everything from the way we check in to a hotel to the entertainment available in the lobby.
Starwood Hotels, for example, has begun to offer mobile keyless entry into rooms, thereby eliminating the need to issue key cards and preventing people from locking themselves out of the room, provided they remember their smartphone. Additionally, Starwood has offered flash deals to customers who connect using mobile technology.
Similarly, Marriott International introduced PlusPoints, which encourages customers to connect with the brand via social media. In addition, PlusPoints allows customers to engage LocalPerks. By having the Marriott app open, customers can ping geo-located beacons around hotels for special deals. PlusPoints is also connected to a FlashPerks program that allows customers to turn reward points into digital currency to purchase special experiences, such as a Porsche test drive.