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How Not To Be Lunch
By Ian Wilson, Senior Vice President of Non-Gaming Operations, Marina Bay Sands
The hotel industry is poised to go through a period of significant disruption. Over the months ahead, here on LinkedIn, I will discuss how Marina Bay Sands is navigating these turbulent times. The hope of this article series is that you will be able to apply our learnings to your own business or journey.
Standing nearly 200 meters high Marina Bay Sands is arguably one of the most successful Integrated Resorts in the world.
Built at an investment of US$5.6 billion, we boast beautiful, iconic architecture and we’ve become a metaphor for Singapore. Our IR runs at an average of 96 percent occupancy, hosts many of the best chefs in the world, welcomes about 45 million people per year, and accounts for more than 1 percent of GDP for the country.
However, many forces are coming to play that will radically change how we work.
Despite our success, Marina Bay Sands is not immune to these significant forces that are changing the operating environment for hotels everywhere. Geopolitical forces are limiting the supply of workers, demographics mean that we have an aging and shrinking workforce, education levels have increased making many positions seem undesirable to young people. Technology is working its way into everything we do, and the pace of change is accelerating.
The Luxury Hotel industry is steeped in tradition. There are many norms, standards, and dare I say sacred cows about how a hotel must operate. However, as we go through this period of very significant disruption, we now need to question everything we do.
So how do we (and you) thrive on this chaos? Can we surf the approaching wave and ride it out?
Our challenge is not just to adapt to these changes, but to build organizations that can thrive on them while always keeping the guest central to all that we do. One thing is for certain - we cannot be complacent. The world has never changed as quickly as today, and it will never change as slowly again.
Now we are in a phase of “if you don’t think you have a problem, that’s a problem” or in other words, if you don’t see areas for improvement and act on them, your organization will not adapt effectively
At Marina Bay Sands, the foundation of all our actions is a culture focused on the guest and rooted in strong values, but which emphasizes learning and constant improvement.
Building on this, we have a strong focus on data and measurement. Certainly, organizations are coming to understand the power and value of data, yet few hotels are leveraging it effectively for anything other than marketing. For hotel operations, data has been an incredible enabler, and when combined with culture, it has allowed us to focus on three key areas to move our operation forward:
1) Data Analytics is unlocking opportunities for better forecasting and optimizing supply with demand as it relates to everything from labor to limousines. It is also allowing us to make better real-time decisions in pursuit of service and productivity and where we should focus our efforts.
2) Robotics, Automation, and Technology are allowing us to remove low-value work to increase productivity or to free up time for employees to focus on the guest. Our pursuits in this area also include rethinking the conventional tools and technology that we use each day.
3) Team Member Engagement. This area will be the most familiar to most hoteliers as it is absolutely the core of our business. Our focus is on choosing the best, learning constantly, catching our TMs doing things right, building an outstanding work environment and retaining staff.
Our desired outcomes from all these efforts are to create unforgettable memories for our guests, while increasing productivity, profitability, and team member engagement. These aspirations can be a tall order in an increasingly challenging work environment, but we all know that expectations and competition only go up. From a hotel operations perspective, we feel that we need a relentless focus on all these areas including design, guest technology and more if we are to remain competitive.
There can be no complacency. I believe that will be the same for your journey in your industry too.
Perhaps this mindset can be best summarized by a bumper sticker which I once saw in the Silicon Valley which simply said: “If you stop for lunch, you are lunch.”
Do share your feedback with me. And stay tuned for next month, when I’ll share more future proofing strategies you can apply in your business. Together, we can all avoid being lunch!