Podcasts

30. The‌ ‌Future‌ ‌of‌ ‌Work‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌Hospitality‌ ‌Industry | Ciara Crossan, Founder & CEO of WeddingDates

Podcast

Ciara Crossan | Founder & CEO of WeddingDates

PODCAST DESCRIPTION

The pandemic might have almost closed Hotels and the hospitality industry, but that doesn’t stop us from chatting to Ciara Crossan, a tech entrepreneur who combined a degree in Business Information Systems with a family background in hotels to found WeddingDates 13 years ago. 

GUEST BIO

Ciara Crossan with short hair and pink lipstick

Ciara is an expert in sales, marketing. and PR for small businesses. Under the leadership of her infectious enthusiasm, industry knowledge. and entrepreneurial drive, She has won numerous awards including Innovative Business 2019 at the All Ireland Business Awards and Best Online PR at the 2011 Social Media Awards.

She was also accredited as a Thought Leader in International Hospitality Marketing by the All Ireland Business Foundation in December 2019.

 

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

[00:00:00] – Ciara Crossan
We’ve already seen robots delivering room service. That’s definitely going to become way more prevalent, it’s going to become the norm in the next 5 to 10 years.

[00:00:16] – Doug Foulkes
Welcome to The Future of Work, the podcast that looks at, believe it or not, the future of work, it’s brought to you by WNDYR for their blog, Chaos and Rocketfuel. WNDYR are productivity and human behaviour specialists who use technology to help us humans on our digital journey from disruption to transformation.

[00:00:36]
And you can check them out at WNDYR dot com.

[00:00:39]
That’s WNDYR dot com. I am Doug Foulkes and along with WNDYR CEO Claire Haidar, we regularly meet up with industry experts and mavericks to get their take on work in the future.

[00:00:52]
While the pandemic might have almost closed hotels and the hospitality industry around the world, but that doesn’t stop us from chatting to Ciara Crossan.

[00:01:01]
A tech entrepreneur who combined a degree in business information systems with a family background in hotels to found WeddingDates 13 years ago. Ciara is an expert in sales, marketing, and PR for small businesses. Under the leadership of her infectious enthusiasm, industry knowledge, and entrepreneurial drive, she has won numerous awards, including Innovative Business 2019 and the All Ireland Business Awards and Best Online PR at the 2011 Social Media Awards. She was also accredited as a thought leader in international hospitality marketing by the All Ireland Business Foundation in December 2019.

[00:01:42]
Today, we will look at how the hospitality industry plans to bounce back after the pandemic and how your stay will change with the introduction of A.I.. And will there even be jobs in hospitality once the robots arrive? So let’s jump in and find out exactly the current state of the hospitality industry.

[00:02:01] – Ciara Crossan
I think the hospitality industry is, by nature quite a positive industry to be in. And I suppose the last few months have been absolutely so challenging. You know, it’s been beyond difficult for hoteliers and everybody in the hospitality sector. But I think the general sentiment around it was, you know, this is a health issue. You know, the pandemic. It’s not like, you know, I lived and traded through the financial crisis in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

[00:02:35]
And, you know, there was a lot of anger at that time, whereas this it was definitely felt different because it did feel like, you know, this is something that it’s affecting old, young, poor, rich, it’s all over the globe. And it did, you know, we did have a sense that we were all in it together. And I suppose looking forward, as I said, it’s generally, you know, the people who work in hospitality, I always say the clue is in the name.

[00:03:03]
So it’s a very, you know, people are hospitable generally and they’re generally a good natured bunch. So I do think there is a lot of positivity as we look ahead into the future. We’ve had a really tough few months. But, you know, there was some good signs, a good recovery in the industry during the summer months, particularly outside of cities. So cities worldwide just suffered massively. But during the summer as lockdown’s eased in various countries around the world.

[00:03:35]
People wanted to get out of the city, get out of their homes and take breaks. And they generally went to the beach, to the mountains, to the countryside. So resorts and leisure destinations actually did quite well in summer 2020. And a lot of them were nearly at full occupancy. However, you know, then of course coming into the autumn it massively quietened down again. So they have been through the mill for sure. But the sentiment looking ahead is positive, particularly as we’re already seeing the vaccine being rolled out, which is unbelievable.

[00:04:10] – Claire Haidar
I like the differentiation that you’ve made there about, this is a health issue. I haven’t considered it from that lens and that, you know, it’s not like the hospitality industry itself is going through a crisis. There’s a crisis outside of this space that has come in and impacted this. It’s actually a very important differentiator because it puts a different slant on where to pivot and how to innovate really.

[00:04:38] – Ciara Crossan
Absolutely.

[00:04:40] – Doug Foulkes
Ciara from my side. Hello, nice to meet you.

[00:04:43] – Ciara Crossan
Nice to meet you too, Doug.

[00:04:44] – Doug Foulkes
I’m going to move quickly away from the pandemic and just focus more on the software side of the hospitality industry. I think it’s fair to say that the fundamentals of hospitality hasn’t changed in many years, but the tech that’s coming in has changed dramatically.

[00:05:01]
Can you just give me some of your thoughts around the biggest changes that have happened with regards to technology within hospitality?

[00:05:08] – Ciara Crossan
Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely happening at a fairly rapid pace. I mean, like all industries, technology is having a big impact, but I suppose you hit the nail on the head there. The fundamentals of the industry haven’t changed massively. We are seeing, you know, tech advancements both front of house and back of house. So a lot of changes would be happening in particular on the marketing side.

[00:05:34]
So traditionally, you know, hotels, and venues, and restaurants would have marketed themselves locally in local papers, by putting up posters and signage, whereas now, you know, all of that is moving online or the vast majority of it. So I’d say that’s probably where some of the biggest changes happening, is really on the marketing side and advances with AI technology and really understanding the customer and bringing them on that journey quicker and more efficiently. I think that’s probably where the biggest change is happening.

[00:06:06] – Claire Haidar
Ciara can you actually give us a few specific examples then? What I’d love is if you can, because you specifically called out marketing, which is highly relevant to our listeners, because if you look at the thousands of companies that we as an organisation serve, we predominantly work within the marketing departments. And so I know that for our listeners, this would actually be a very interesting piece to dive into a little bit. Do you mind giving some very practical examples of where you are seeing that change happening within marketing?

[00:06:36] – Ciara Crossan
Absolutely. So I suppose a huge amount of marketing is happening now on social media, connecting with guests or potential guests on social media and bringing them through that journey. Remarketing is massive across the industry with ads, hotels are now having to deal with, and restaurants and bars are having to deal with people making reservations via Facebook Messenger or via an Instagram DM, in addition to their typical booking process, which I suppose when you look back, the transformation that has happened in digital in the hospitality sector. 20 years ago, you know, hotels were just getting websites and they were very basic brochure websites.

[00:07:14]
And then they started getting booking engines. And then, you know, about 13, 14 years ago, booking.com and hotels.com, those websites absolutely burst onto the scene and they would be known in the industry OTA’s. So online travel agents and, you know, that absolutely disrupted the whole market. And then people were really comparing rate and it became very price sensitive. So the whole industry has been through a lot in terms of marketing.

[00:07:41]
And now they’re trying to deal with social media on top of their websites as well. And the next thing, I mean it’s here already, but it’s only going to be more prevalent for the industry; is artificial intelligence and understanding the guest journey and personalising it to give them a really seamless experience.

[00:07:58] – Claire Haidar
So let’s zero in on the AI changes. How are those changes and the personalisation of the guest experience, changing actual jobs in the industry?

[00:08:12] – Ciara Crossan
Well, I think there’s more people now that work in the industry or let’s even say industry adjacent, that have those type of skills. So, you know, for me, I run a software business, but it serves the hospitality industry. So I don’t work in hospitality, but I’m adjacent to it. And so everything that goes on in that industry affects me. So there be more businesses like mine, popping up to support the industry, where hotels and bars and restaurants might not necessarily have data analysts and experts in-house.

[00:08:44]
They can use companies like mine and other companies to service that need for them. So I suppose there’s more businesses popping up around the industry if you get me, as opposed to specifically working within it.

[00:08:57] – Claire Haidar
Which is interesting because, and I really like that because one of the challenges that we navigate with our customers is the fact that AI is coming into companies and the fact that we’re becoming smarter about the customer experience and where people get freaked out about that is the fact that they think they’re going to lose a whole bunch of jobs, you know, and companies stress about it because they’re thinking, how are we going to manage that transition?

[00:09:24]
We absolutely want to do it. But at the same time, we don’t want to half our people and do wrong by our people. But at the same time, they’re also looking at it going, how are we going to handle the crisis of the skills change that comes within that? And what you’re essentially sharing with us here is that because you have this support infrastructure that’s rising up around industries, is that a transfer of skills actually becomes so much easier, because somebody who before was literally siloed to just the hospitality industry actually now has the ability to expand their skill sets and move into one of these support functions, which is exciting because it opens up career paths and it opens up completely new job, opportunities for people.

[00:10:07] – Ciara Crossan
Absolutely.

[00:10:08]
And I suppose people that have traditionally worked in hospitality, there is a huge amount of upskilling going on in the industry, they’re exposed to a lot more now, you know, there’s more conferences and webinars and training provided to people in the hospitality sector now than there was 5 years ago, 10 years ago. So I see it time and time again, people that would have been customers of mine, that would have worked in hotels, maybe a sales marketing manager in a hotel or in a hotel chain.

[00:10:38]
And suddenly they’re being poached basically by companies like mine, software businesses or tech businesses that want that industry experience and bring that in to their technology business. So, I mean, I’ve done it myself. You know, I’ve hired existing customers and my UK sales manager. She used to be a banqueting manager in a hotel and now she works in WeddingDates and she’s now selling software. So she has a completely different skill set now than she did when she was working in the hotel.

[00:11:09]
But she’s still using a lot of those core skills, which are people skills. It really is probably the biggest one, but also the depth of industry knowledge. And then it also brings, I suppose, a level of credibility. So if you are selling into an industry, you damn well better understand that industry. Right. So you need to know the ins and outs. You need to know their terminology. You need to know the buzzwords. You need to know who are the heavy hitters in the industry.

[00:11:39]
And that comes, you know, you can get that easily if you’ve worked in the industry. You know, for me, I had to learn that the slow and hard way, you know, through the years. But if you worked in the industry hands on, you would have a lot of that knowledge at your fingertips. So it makes sense then for companies like mine who are, as I said, industry adjacent to hire indirectly.

[00:12:05]
And then, as you said Claire, it opens up this whole new career path for people that might have worked in quite traditional hospitality roles, but now can flip and use their hospitality industry experience, but in a completely different company and sector.

[00:12:20] – Claire Haidar
Do you mind just taking a step out of the day to day minutiae of the hospitality industry and just giving us a big high level view of what are all the typical jobs that exist in the industry and what are the major buckets or categories that you could put them in.

[00:12:36] – Ciara Crossan
The two kind of big buckets, if you will, would be like front of house and operations and then back office.

[00:12:43]
So that’s kind of the easy way almost to classify them. So there’s the kitchen and the kitchen staff and chefs. You know, that’s obviously the bread and butter of the of the industry. And then you have front of house staff, you know, waiters, bartenders, etc. The whole in the industry is, you know, FNB food and beverage, you know, the servers and the people who prepare the food and drinks.

[00:13:05]
And then also you’d have guest experience people. So people involved in check-in and, you know, concierge and those type of people. And then in the back office, you would have functions like sales and marketing and the reservation’s office, you know, taking bookings over the phone. It still happens, believe it or not. And housekeeping of course, which can’t be overlooked, which is a huge thing for for hotels and particularly, you know, some of those massive large hotels with hundreds and hundreds of bedrooms.

[00:13:34]
You know, they would have laundries in the basement, full, big professional, you know, industrial sized laundries. So obviously, it ranges depending on the size of the property. And whether it’s a hotel that has bedrooms or whether it’s a bar and restaurant. But they would be the kind of general buckets, operations, front of house and then back office. And then within that, I suppose, their departments.

[00:13:55] – Claire Haidar
So like the marketing department that we spoke about, which bucket would they fall into there?

[00:14:01] – Ciara Crossan
They would definitely be back office, tucked away in an office, in a lot of cases, it’s a small room in the basement with no windows, that they can’t sell as a bedroom. So they often end up there, God love them, but they would be there. They’re doing, you know, all of the marketing activities, and the sales team as well. I mean, obviously, certain sales people, the corporate sales, they would be out on the road.

[00:14:25]
They would be meeting their corporate clients, trying to drum up business. But a lot of them would be office based as well. And similarly, with reservations, you know, they’re taking online bookings, responding to queries about reservations and answering the phone. So they would all be back office, they’re not necessarily customer facing.

[00:14:42] – Claire Haidar
That’s the interesting thing. And that’s why I asked the question because this is where you can see these things start merging and becoming very different when we start looking at the role of AI in this whole game that we are playing here. What is traditionally a back office role, all of a sudden when you look at a marketing role through the lens of customer experience and how do I meet my customer along their journey, whether it’s them finding me online and then eventually coming to stay here, that actually very much blends into the guest experience.

[00:15:19] – Ciara Crossan
There certainly can be a real disconnect there. And there’d be, no disrespect to marketing people I would consider myself a marketer and love that sector. But there’s a plethora of marketing degrees and courses out there and it almost feels like, you know, the universities in the world are just churning out more and more and more marketing people. And, you know, they will get snapped up and they’ll get jobs, but, you know, in hotels and hospitality, but they might actually not have walked that journey, you know.

[00:15:51]
So it’s really, really important that they try to understand exactly what you said, the guest experience. And I think that is where there can be a big disconnect with, you know, something like AI, you know, you get all these marketing wizards, they put everything together, they’ve done the remarketing, they funneled the people, they’re getting the most personalised experience. And then they walk through the door and the person at the front desk doesn’t have a clue who they are.

[00:16:16]
And they’re still saying, hi, how are you? Will you fill out this guest registration card? And it’s like, oh my God, what a waste. So it can be quite frustrating. And I think that will absolutely shift. That change has to happen and it will happen, undoubtedly. It just takes time because that kind of handoff from the back office to the front of house and the guest experience, it needs to be a lot more seamless for the guest.

[00:16:43]
Front of house guest experience people, they are amazing and their whole ethos is service and they can give you the most warm welcome and a great smile and be really, really helpful. But then if you ask them to go and build a marketing campaign or go and respond to 20 emails, like a lot of those people, they want to be out front, shaking hands, helping people, looking into the whites of people’s eyes. They don’t want to be sitting in a back office figuring out a campaign or doing anything, admin or technical.

[00:17:13]
So, again, some people have a skill set with, you know, Excel spreadsheets and some people, you know, love being on their feet, meeting, greeting guests. And I think both of those people need to try, or both those roles, need to understand the other.

[00:17:28]
And that’s why in a lot of hospitality schools, so in Ireland, we have the Shannon Hotel School, which is one of the top in the world. They will do rotations. So once you come through the program, you and you will have to do a placement in a hotel or whatever. They will rotate you around the various departments. So you might do six months in the sales and marketing department, you might do six months in housekeeping, you’ll do six months reservations, six months front of house, etc.

[00:17:56]
So they’re getting to literally walk in the shoes of their colleagues and team members. And for me, I think fundamentally that’s the best way to do it. You don’t know how difficult it is to work in housekeeping until you’ve changed 20 beds in a day or in an hour, it can be, you know, hugely valuable to aid team building, camaraderie and just get that empathy and understanding in the organisation. And culture is so, so important for all organisations and certainty in hospitality, because the general public are walking through the door every single day.

[00:18:32]
If the staff aren’t happy, the guests aren’t going to be happy. You really do have to make sure that the team is happy and well gelled and blended so that they can provide the best experience to guests, because that’s what it comes down to at the end of the day, and that’s what they’re going to be measured on. You know, when it comes time for the guest loyalty, for them to leave their review and for future business.

[00:18:53] – Doug Foulkes
This podcast is all about the future of work, so I’m going to talk about the elephant in the room, how many of these jobs, because these are labour intensive jobs, are still going to be around in two to five years. What is automation going to take out of the equation?

[00:19:08] – Ciara Crossan
Automation is definitely going to take out some jobs for sure. And we’re already starting to see it. A lot of these things kind of start maybe in Asia and filter their way over to us. But, you know, we’ve already seen robots delivering room service. That’s definitely going to become way more prevalent. It’s going to become the norm in the next 5 to 10 years. We’re also starting to see some kind of budget type properties offer this already, where you can use these kind of check in kiosks, you know, similar to like a check in, you know, when you can do it digitally without going up to the desk.

[00:19:37]
They’re starting to pop up in hotels now, check-in in advance online and get a QR code on your phone and then just walk into the hotel, walk to room 123 and scan your phone up against the door and walk into the bedroom without speaking to a single person. And you know that technology is here, it exists, It just hasn’t been widely adopted yet, but it certainly is coming. Another example would be like a digital concierge, and then again, there’s a lot of that kind of in-room technology now.

[00:20:05]
So in a hotel in London where they give you a smartphone basically in your room and you can take it out of the room and bring it around London with you. And it has maps and guides and, you know, it’s your kind of digital concierge. So definitely the people that do those roles, you know, certainly there will be less of a requirement of them, I think, in the future. But I also think it depends, I suppose, on the type of property and I’m sorry if I’m focussing a lot on hotels, but that’s I suppose where I know it the best.

[00:20:38]
But customers want a different experience, whether they’re on leisure or whether it’s for business. If they’re a corporate traveller, their expectations and their demands will definitely be different, depending on which category they fall into. So you might want less touch points with human beings. Maybe if you’re just on a corporate trip, you know, you just get into the hotel at 10:00 at night, you’ve had a full on day.

[00:21:01]
You don’t want to talk to anyone. Just get me to my room, get me my room service. Just keep it simple. There’s definitely more of a leaning towards that tech removing those human jobs on those type of corporate hotels that do a lot of business travellers compared to maybe the leisure properties.

[00:21:21] – Doug Foulkes
Sure I mean, you say that’s already available at the moment, but say as a typical hospitality experience looking forward, what do you think that would look like? Is there something that’s going to cross over into all of those types of clients?

[00:21:35]- Ciara Crossan
In the short term, like in the next one to two years, I think the big thing is going to be, the thing that is going to kind of define the hospitality experience, allot will be around cleanliness, around reassuring guests that, you know, it’s COVID safe. I’m already hearing a lot of my clients talking about making their cleaning procedures visible. So in the past, they might have hidden away a roll of blue tissue paper that you see in factories or hotels for cleaning.

[00:22:05]
They might have hidden that away before. Now they’re kind of displaying it and be visibly seen to be cleaning and sanitising very, very regularly. And I think that is going to be really important for consumer confidence. You know, as we get back out into the world, as we get back to travelling, you know, in the last six to eight months, I’m sure we’ve all experienced places that we’ve walked into and we’ve just felt I don’t like the vibe here.

[00:22:31]
I’m not feeling safe. This doesn’t seem clean. They do don’t seem to be taking the right precautions. I was only in a, yesterday evening actually, and I saw somebody wearing one of those visors. But she had it kind of pushed up on her head, almost like a headband. So it was just sticking out straight in front of her like a visor, like a sun visor nearly.

[00:22:53]
And I was like, oh my God you’re doing it wrong. But of course, you can’t say that. And then into the next five years, I suppose, the typical hospitality experience, you know, I think, again, sorry if I’m repeating myself, but I do think it’ll depend on if you’re a leisure guest or if you’re a corporate guest. So I think it’ll look and feel a lot more. And for corporate guests, there’ll be a lot more tech, you know, so it’ll be low touch in terms of human, human interaction and more of those, kind of as I said earlier, check-in kiosks, you know, robots delivering the room service, that kind of thing.

[00:23:30]
For leisure guests. I think the typical hospitality experience is going to be a lot more experiential. So people want, they don’t just want to go and stay overnight in a hotel. They want it to be totally Instagramable. They want to have this, well, memorable, experience. And people are celebrating more kind of mini life moments nowadays.

[00:23:54]
I think definitely coming out of covid as well, there’s going to be that more of a treat yourself mentality. I think we feel like we’ve been in prisons nearly for the last, you know, year, it feels like two years. But I think that now people are like, oh, you know, I deserve it. I’m going to say, I’m going to upgrade because I deserve it. I’m going to book a suite because I deserve it.

[00:24:19]
I’m going to go to the fancy restaurant or get the expensive steak off the menu, I deserve it. So I do think people want more kind of luxury experiences. And I definitely envisage a boom in that sector in the next five years.

[00:24:32] – Claire Haidar
Am I hearing you correct in that you’re saying that within the hospitality industry it’s not so much a question of jobs being displaced and replaced by AI, but rather changing?

[00:24:45] – Ciara Crossan
Yes, yes, I mean, I do think jobs will evolve in this industry as they will in other industries for sure. This industry is very guest led. You know, the consumer drives the demand and their expectations and I suppose expectations around the booking process. You know, as I said, 20 years ago, you phoned up a hotel, you made a booking, then you went on to their website, you made a booking. Now you go on booking.com or the next step is going and sending them an Instagram DM to book your next hotel break.

[00:25:18]
It has evolved. And that is totally based on the consumer demand. It’s the way they want to operate, the way they want to book. The rules will shift and evolve in the industry. And there certainly will be a certain amount of displacement. But hospitality is quite a high touch industry and ultimately it’s about service. You know, people need to be there to serve the food, to serve the drinks, to give that experience, to answer questions to, you know, turn around the hotel bedroom, etc.

[00:25:51]
So probably not as many jobs will be displaced compared to other industries I would say.

[00:25:57] – Doug Foulkes
When we always talk about the future of work and automation and people remaining relevant.

[00:26:04]
We talk about different skill sets that are going to be required, specifically in the hospitality industry. What skill sets you think are currently lacking?

[00:26:13] – Ciara Crossan
I think, you know, we’ve talked about this in terms of the, you know, the big area would be, I think, around digital marketing and hospitality is quite a traditional industry, as you said at the top of the podcast. And it can be slow to change. I think people within the industry would acknowledge that, but they’re getting better all the time at adapting and Covid, in particular, has really forced a lot of hospitality businesses to pivot, you know, suddenly they’re doing takeaway service and they’re doing all sorts of different things that they might never have considered before.

[00:26:45]
So we have seen massive disruption in the industry. And, you know, as I’ve outlined, you know, the internet, the OTAs, now AI personalising the experience. And really, I think the big skill set that is lacking is that, lacking probably sounds too harsh. You know, that, I suppose, needs to be enhanced would be making that connect between the back office, the marketing, all of that amazing technology that can bring the customers to the door and then transitioning them to have a great experience once they get there, because I think they’re both really strong at what they do.

[00:27:21] it’s the integration of those two, if you will, and that’s not necessarily a tech integration. It’s, you know, getting the front of house staff, I suppose, to understand the background process and vice versa. So it’s bridging that gap, I think is probably where there is, an opportunity for growth, shall we say, instead of saying it is currently lacking.

[00:27:46] – Claire Haidar
Is there at any point right now in the industry like a large set of research that’s being conducted around what guests actually want, do they really want a contactless experience?

[00:28:00]
Or are they still, on the whole, seeking that more high touch human experience? And then the other thing which you pointed out, which is very valid, is how do those numbers and what does that data look like for the corporate sector versus the leisure sector?

[00:28:17] – Ciara Crossan
Yeah, that’s a great great question, and I think there has been industry research done on that, now I don’t have it at hand to know the stats off the top of my head.

[00:28:26]
But I do know from attending industry events that by and large, you know, when customers are surveyed, they will say, yes, we do want contactless. You know, it comes out time and time again that the guests actually do want that. And that’s all well and good until something goes wrong, because then they want a person and they want to talk to a person. And, you know, I think it’s sometimes our perception of what we want and then how it actually manifests itself, you know, can be different.

[00:28:53]
So I would say it is becoming more sought after, the contactless experience. But, you know, I think to your point, it definitely leans far more on the corporate side than the leisure side. If you’re going on a hotel break or something for leisure, then, you know, you probably want a little bit more of an experience. Now again, Covid, throws something into the mix here, because we’re not supposed to be touching so many things.

[00:29:18]
So now instead of handing you a menu that has maybe, you know, a leather bound menu that’s been touched by hundreds of people in the day, you know, now they’re giving you the option to download an app on your phone and place your orders through the app instead of having a server come to your table with a physical menu and stand over you and take your order. So Covid has accelerated this for sure. And some of it undoubtedly will stay.

[00:29:46]
And I think some of it then, particularly at the high end leisure, I think it will fade away because when you get to high end, you know, four and five star leisure, you want to be treated like a king and queen. You want to be really minded and looked after. And ultimately, you’re not getting that from an app. You’re getting that from somebody who makes you feel special, who goes over and above, who, you know, takes the time to recommend a really nice wine that would go with the meal that you chose.

[00:30:17]
So there are subtleties and nuances, I suppose, within that. But also, I think, you know, the contactless thing, it’s worth saying that in a hotel, the general manager there is responsible for not only the guest safety, but also the staff safety, right across the board. And we know things can and have happened in hotels all over the world. You know, we’ve seen hotels have terrorist bombs.

[00:30:43]
We’ve seen, you know, people commit suicide, unfortunately, in hotels. And, you know, ultimately, the hotel general manager is responsible for their, as I say, guest and staff safety. So, you know, you can’t blame them for resisting this contactless thing a little bit. You know, they want to know their guests who’s coming through the door. Let me look them in the eye. You can really understand that.

[00:31:03]
You know, if somebody can just walk in off the street, walk straight up to a hotel room, buzz a phone against the door and walk in and God knows what’s going on. And look, you never know what’s going on in a hotel room anyway, right? But, you know, I think there is just something about that. You know, there’s a little bit of control. So I think the industry does resist the contactless thing a little bit, even though we do see from surveys that guests are seeking it.

[00:31:26]
There is a slight resistance there. You know, when you dig a bit deeper, I think you kind of understand that a little bit more. If you think of a restaurant, OK, we need food. Food is fuel. We’re human beings. We need fuel in our bodies. We need food to eat. So we have a choice. Do we go to, you know, the Michelin Star Restaurant or do we go to the drive thru McDonalds?

[00:31:44]
You know, they’re both fuel, it’s feeding our bodies, right. But it’s a totally different experience. So I think it’s not fair to kind of brandish the whole industry as one because there are so many nuances. And I think the reason why people are choosing is very relevant. So is it leisure? Is it, you know, an experience they want? Are they celebrating something big and meaningful or is this just, I’m a salesperson on the road and I spend four out of every seven nights in a hotel room, get me in and get me out.

[00:32:12]
I don’t want to deal with anything. I’ve spent all day talking to people. So there are different modalities there that need to be considered.

[00:32:20] – Doug Foulkes
Yeah, I mean, my thought on it was while you were talking was around that difference between budget hotels and premium hotels.

[00:32:28]
And it almost sounds that the more contactless you become, the chances are you’re going to becoming more budget because that’s easier to replicate. And the more you want the human touch, you would be almost forced or pushed towards the premium end of the hotel industry.

[00:32:43] – Ciara Crossan
Exactly and you know, I suppose it makes sense, obviously, when you replace humans with tech, you know, for example, not having a person checking you in and there’s just a kiosk there. There’s a salary saving there. And so, you know, that model lends itself more to the budget, the budget operators, than, you know, when you go to a five star hotel, you’re not just paying for gorgeous, you know, linens or beautiful bath products.

[00:33:09]
You know, you’re paying for the whole experience. It’s the really highly trained people that are there. They’re taking care of you. It’s the, you know, organic food that they’re serving, it’s everything, so it definitely comes down to cost. For the budget operators, they are opting more for that kind of contactless tech compared to the high end, particularly, you know, as I said on the leisure side.

[00:33:37] – Doug Foulkes
Ciara, we are moving through our time together very quickly.

[00:33:40]
So we’ve got time maybe just for a couple more questions. I’m just not going to change tact completely. I’m going to ask you what excites you about the hospitality industry at the moment?

[00:33:49] – Ciara Crossan
Well, that’s an easy one Doug, it’s the people. Every single day of the week, it’s the people for me. I’ve worked in this industry for 13 years and why I continue to do what I do. And why I love what I do is the people that I meet and the relationships that I build, that I’ve built over the years. And many many clients that have become friends, through the pandemic we’ve been Whatsapping each other and sharing different funny memes to keep us going during the day.

[00:34:18]
And, you know, that’s that’s a really lovely feeling when you can, you know, service your client. But also have a personal relationship there and a friendship there. And it becomes easier to service them when you have that as well. You want to do more for them. We joke in WeddingDates, we have our pets, our little pet plants that we love. And we’ll always, you know, it’s human nature, right?

[00:34:42]
You know, you’re going to lean towards calling them a little bit more often or sending them on a helpful email or something that you saw that might be useful to them because, you know, they’re front and centre of your mind because you have a friendship with them. So that’s definitely the exciting thing for me and something that I’ve massively missed during covid and the lockdown’s, is the fact that I’m not doing any business travel anymore. I really, really miss it.

[00:35:09]
I can’t wait to get back into a room, some black tie function, and somebody hands me a glass of champagne.

[00:35:16]
I mean, I just can’t wait.

[00:35:19] – Claire Haidar
Ciara I’m going to wrap up with the last two questions, totally unrelated questions. So I’ll kick off with the first one, which is one thing that we haven’t touched on at all in this conversation is government legislation and how that’s impacting the hospitality industry right now. Are there any areas where you feel a spotlight really needs to be placed on government legislation to bring about change and to stimulate new growth in the hospitality industry?

[00:35:49] – Ciara Crossan
Well, I think there’s one area that is massively impacted, where the hospitality industry is massively impacted is VAT. So there is within industry bodies they would always be lobbying the government to get a reduction in VAT. So we have a reduction in VAT in Ireland now, down to five percent, which is really massively helping the industry and particularly get through this really difficult time. There’s going to be a point in the future where they try to jack that back up and they’re going to be lobbying them again to keep it down.

[00:36:20]
So I think, you know, that’s a really sensitive, sensitive one and has a direct impact on their bottom line. So that would be hugely important for the sector. And then I think all the legislation around travel, you know, and I suppose not legislation specifically, but I’m thinking kind of almost around covid restrictions and that around travel and safe countries and safe lists. And we need people to be travelling again. We need people to, you know, planes to be in the air.

[00:36:49]
And we need that to happen to get the industry back to 2019 levels. You know, it’s going to take a number of years for the consumer confidence, but the restrictions and regulations need to assist with that I suppose, again, obviously it goes without saying that it’s safe to do so. But I think it’s quite unfortunate that countries are kind of doing their own thing in a lot of cases when it comes to covid regulations. And I think it would be really good if there was a lot more cohesion on that.

[00:37:18]
If there was just worldwide, like rapid testing in airports, you know, that would just massively stimulate growth. If we were able to implement that and people knew that they could travel with safety and with confidence, you know. I think that would be would be phenomenal to really just drive the growth and trying to get us back to where we were before the pandemic.

[00:37:39] – Claire Haidar
Ciara my last question for you, my offbeat question, share some of the crazy things you’ve been up to recently. I know you have a cuckoo streak in you and I want to close with a story.

[00:37:52] – Ciara Crossan
Oh, OK. This is kind of a bit random, yeah. So I was very fortunate to be part of a female entrepreneur programme a little while back. And it was for female entrepreneurs from all over the world. And one of the ladies on the programme is a DJ based in Los Angeles. And every year she DJs the after party at the Grammys.

[00:38:20]
So of course, I got to know her. I got to know all the women on the programme. And a few months after we had been together, we spent a week on this programme together, really intensive. And a few months later, she sent us all an email and said, Guys, I’m DJing the Grammys after party again. I can get some tickets. Who wants in? And in a split second decision, I was like, I don’t care what is happening, but I’m going to the Grammys.

[00:38:47]
I’m a single mom of twin boys, I’m a business owner, you know, I’ve got a lot of responsibilities, a lot of things holding me down. You know, I have a mortgage. everything. But I was like, I’m going to move heaven and earth to get to these Grammys.

[00:39:01]
And it was it was only a few weeks afterwards, after she had emailed us, you know, and this is in Los Angeles and I’m in Cork in Ireland. So anyway literally within, I would say within an hour of her email I had the flights booked. And I was like, I booked the flights and then I’ll figure everything out there. So I got to go to the Grammys and Alicia Keys was hosting. She was absolutely amazing. I got to see so many life performances, of course, because we booked it so last minute, the tickets that we got for the Grammys were in the nosebleeds, like right up there.

[00:39:35]
So like the stage with the people were tiny, but we didn’t care. It was just so exciting. A couple of the other women from the programme came as well, but we were absolutely buzzing with excitement. Halfway through the show, our friend who wasn’t sitting with us, she had obviously primo seats like in, you know, the eighth row or something. She texted me and said, I have to go now to get ready for the for the afterparty.

[00:39:59]
So do you want to come down and take my seat? I was like, do I?! So I ran downstairs and met her. I got her seat and then we were like right up close and personal. I mean you could see the teleprompter telling people, you know, to wrap up their acceptance speeches and stuff. So it was great fun. And then we went to the afterparty, so one of those once in a lifetime kind of pinch me moments.

[00:40:20] – Claire Haidar
Well, Ciara, get your ass on to a plane to Dallas. I want to get you into one of the most awesome cities in the US, and we need to have a good time.

[00:40:28] – Ciara Crossan
Absolutely. I’ll take you up on that once covid is over I’m there.

[00:40:32] – Claire Haidar
Good. I’m looking forward to it. Doug thank you so much for today as well.

[00:40:37] – Doug Foulkes
Thank you Ciara it’s been great to meet you.

[00:40:40] – Ciara Crossan
Thank you so much.

[00:40:42] – Doug Foulkes
Ciara Crossan, certainly enthusiastic and infectious. We hope you’ve enjoyed this podcast. If you have, we look forward to inviting you back sometime soon.

[00:40:52]
Just remember, for more information about WNDYR and the integration services that they supply, you can visit their website, that’s WNDYR dot com. And so from me, Doug Foulkes, as always and Chaos and Rocketfuel. Stay safe and we’ll see you soon.

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