Sustainable growth roadmap launched for hotel industry

A TRANSFORMATION roadmap has been launched to help the hotel industry position itself for sustainable growth at a time when it is battling a competitive operating environment and manpower constraints.

The four key pillars of the map are to build manpower-lean business models, develop new solutions via innovation, boost businesses through internationalisation and create a strong pool of quality talent.

Overall, the strategies and initiatives are expected to create jobs for 200 new professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMET) each year until 2020.

"The hotel industry can continue to be a growth sector that offers good career opportunities for Singaporeans," said Minister for Trade and Industry, S Iswaran, speaking at the launch event on Monday.

"However, achieving the same growth as in the past will be increasingly difficult unless we transform the hotel industry."

Customer expectations are rising, he went on to note, while an ageing workforce and the changing aspirations of today's job-seekers make productive and manpower-lean business models necessary for growth.

Among the initiatives in the works is a four-month programme that aims to help hotels put productivity measures in place.

Commencing in the first quarter of 2017, it includes classroom training and on-the-job coaching.

Sixteen hotels have signed up for the programme, which is in collaboration with McKinsey & Company.

Meanwhile, a Hotel Innovation Committee, spearheaded by the Singapore Hotel Association, was set up in February this year to develop innovative technologies to combat industry pain points.

The committee will be exploring areas such as artificial intelligence, robotics, analytics and the Internet of Things to pilot industry-wide projects.

Some hotels, such as Marina Bay Sands (MBS), have already started to tap data analytics on its own to enhance the way it operates.

For instance, MBS is using demand forecasting and data triangulation to improve the check-in process, luggage delivery and its housekeeping services.

This has allowed it to better allocate manpower and improve manpower productivity by 15 per cent over the past four years.

It is also using analytics in other areas of the hotel, such as the front-office, valet and its food and beverage outlets.

Ian Wilson, MBS's senior vice-president (hotel operations), pointed out: "It's small, iterative projects but as you go forward, you build a lot more knowledge, capability and insight which can allow us to improve."

Another key area earmarked under the map is internationalisation, with the STB and IE Singapore to offer support to local hoteliers to help them venture into new markets and raise awareness of Singapore's hotel brands.

These include support schemes such as IE Singapore's Market Readiness Assistance and Global Company Partnership programmes.

"As hotels internationalise, there will be opportunities to bring along other businesses in adjacent industries," added Mr Iswaran, pointing to the retail, food services and food manufacturing industries.

Finally, to try to bolster interest in hotel careers, a Hotel Career Campaign is slated for the first quarter of next year to raise awareness of available jobs.

Singapore's hotel industry contributes nearly one per cent of Singapore's GDP and employs about 33,000 workers.

There are presently some 63,000 rooms across 400 properties in Singapore.

But more hotel rooms are expected to come onstream in the next couple of years, which could put downward pressure on room rates.

According to research from some industry watchers, hotel room supply in Singapore could rise to over 67,600 rooms by end-2018.

This year, in the eight months spanning January to August, industry-wide revenue per available room (RevPAR) slid nearly 3 per cent year on year to S$201.

While average occupancy held firm at 85 per cent, RevPAR was affected by a 3 per cent decline in average room rate which fell to S$236, according to preliminary data from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

This article was first published on November 22, 2016.
Get The Business Times for more stories.