Lovely photos and attractive holiday packages may be great for getting guests in the door, but the key to longevity in the resort business is the oft-overlooked human resource planning. While plenty of attention is usually paid to filling “top” posts like managers and heads of divisions, the chances of these employees coming into daily contact with guests are far slimmer than those of their staff. And in the age of social media, that’s a fact you should take a moment to meditate upon.
Visitor reviews are ubiquitous on the Internet, and while they may not be everyone’s dealmaker or dealbreaker, they are certainly a significant factor when travelers are selecting a resort or specific hotel.
The take-away here is that what you should be striving for as part of your digital media strategy are enthusiastically positive reviews. And it turns out that the highest scoring social media reviews for any resort experience generally have a common denominator: the warmth of the staff and their level of engagement with guests, young and old.
Your staff members are not merely employees. They are the ambassadors of your resort.
Finding, training, nurturing, and retaining a team of resort ambassadors across all departments will continue to be the greatest challenge for resorts globally, and it is exacerbated when there is no proximate workforce. The isolated or rural nature of many resorts, which is one thing which makes them great escapes, can be the greatest challenge for human resource planning.
Be cognizant of this in your operation strategy and, importantly, at the resort planning stage. Design staff facilities, accommodation, and recreational facilities that create a village community and a pleasant environment in which to live and work. The principles of sustainable real estate development extend beyond guest accommodation and holiday home development; they apply to your staff housing as well. Your team need affordable, pleasant, safe accommodation, with security plans built in, that make it feasible and attractive for an employee to stay with your resort for more than a single season.
The Wellness factor also comes into play. The health and mental wellbeing of your staff is critical. Alongside the design of staff facilities, invest in training, health and other benefits, and recognition programmes. It will improve your employees’ lives, give them pride in their work, and make you stand out from the crowd as an exemplary employer. This will not only give you a larger pool of applicants for every position; it is the key to retaining good employees who love your business and want others to love it too.
If this seems like a lot to take on, it helps to remember that good human resource planning has the same simple goal at its core as your resort: to improve people’s lives. When you consider that your staff, in addition to providing services, are also directly responsible for capturing the loyalty of your guests, prioritizing their needs is a no-brainer. It’s another example that what is often held up as resort or real estate innovation is often about getting back to the basics, and the human element is the foundation of the hospitality sector.
Muriel Muirden is the former Head of Strategy at design firm WATG. She has now returned to Scotland, but remains active in the boutique resort sector.