Hotel Moment podcast logo with headshot of Peter Ricci
Hotel Moment podcast logo with headshot of Peter Ricci
The Hotel Moment podcast — episode 41

Labor trends, flexible scheduling, and creative staffing solutions

Listen as Karen Stephens, Chief Revenue Officer at Revinate, and Peter Ricci, Clinical Associate Professor and Director, Hospitality & Tourism Management Program at Florida Atlantic University, identify strategies you can implement in your hotel to support your staff and foster guest loyalty.

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Headshot of Karen Stephens

Meet your host

As Chief Marketing Officer at Revinate, Karen Stephens is focused on driving long-term growth by building Revinate’s brand equity, product marketing, and customer acquisition strategies. Her deep connections with hospitality industry leaders play a key role in crafting strategic partnerships.

Karen is also the host of The Hotel Moment Podcast, where she interviews top players in the hospitality industry. Karen has been with Revinate for over 11 years, leading Revinate’s global GTM teams. Her most recent transition was from Chief Revenue Officer, where she led the team in their highest booking quarter to date in Q4 2023.

Karen has more than 25 years of expertise in global hospitality technology and online distribution — including managing global accounts in travel and hospitality organizations such as Travelocity and

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Karen Stephens: Hello and welcome everyone to the Hotel Moment podcast. I am your host Karren Stephens, and I am the Chief Revenue Officer at Revinate. In this podcast, we speak with industry heavy hitters in hospitality to get an understanding of what’s going on out there in the world of hotels. And today I am joined by definitely a heavy hitter that I’m very excited to have on the podcast.

So, we have Dr. Peter Ricci, who is the Clinical Associate Professor and Director of the Hospitality, Tourism and Management Program at Florida Atlantic University. Welcome Peter!

Peter Ricci: Hey, thank you! Welcome. I wouldn’t say heavy hitter, but unless you, unless you’re talking about that I had key lime pie last night.

Karen Stephens: Nice. That works.

Wonderful to see you as well. Uh, so I had a look at your LinkedIn profile, and you have vast experience in hospitality. I mean, I’m over 20 years myself and I understand you’ve had a variety of positions. Could you give us a little bit of an idea of your background?

Peter Ricci: Sure. I, um, I’ve been in tourism hospitality my whole life: food service banquets, a little bit of event planning, about a year with an airline, and a big chunk of it in lodging, and regional lodging, kind of opening hotels and fixing broken ones is kind of the biggest chunk of my experience.

And of course, teaching. I started teaching on the side part time when I was in my 20s and now I’ve been doing it full time for more than a decade. So a little bit, a little of everything, but I approach it as a big broad world.

Karen Stephens: Right. That’s fantastic. You know what? We have something in common. I was also an adjunct professor in my 20s. Yeah, I taught French.

Peter Ricci: Oh, very nice.

Karen Stephens: A little random. Doing something very different now, but I loved it. I love teaching. And so very jealous that you’re, that you’re doing that and get to work with all the young people coming into the industry.

Peter Ricci: Yeah. That’s the best part of it. You know, when you can take someone and kind of see where they want to go and then help them. And then they come back to you 5 years, 10 years later, or stay in touch. It’s just, it’s just such a rewarding feeling that you can’t really get too many places.

Karen Stephens: That’s really true. And I think the other cool thing about hospitality is that once you get into this industry, you never leave it. You might, you might move around in different positions. I’ve always been on the technology side, for example, but I feel like, you know, we all have a lot of longevity because it’s such a fun place to be.

Peter Ricci: I love that you say that because, um, just this morning, I heard on the news that a bunch of, well, I can’t say a bunch, it’s not very academic. But a nice percentage of people responded to a survey and said that it was something over 30%. — I have to catch the soundbite again —that were kind of dreading that they quit during the great resignation and something over 40% didn’t find their new career.

To be what they thought they would be. So, for me, I’m extra happy today because I know a lot of the hospitality types will come back. It’s always been in our blood and it’s really hard to leave. So, if you’re a hospitality junkie, I think COVID really disrupted everything. And a lot of them left because they were bitter in the short run.

But I think another big chunk is gonna come back in the next year or two. So, that was a really promising, um, sound bite. And it wasn’t hospitality specific, but I bet there’s a lot of, a lot of people in that group from hospitality.

Karen Stephens: Well, and that’s great news. I know for all the hoteliers out there, because certainly, we’ve struggled and that’s actually, you know, you’re leading us right into the topic we wanted to talk about today, which is staffing shortages. So. I know that you ran a survey kind of mid-pandemic and really got a pulse on what was happening there.

So we’re gonna come onto that in just a minute though, because first, I have a couple getting to know you questions. So these are questions we ask everybody on the podcast. Yeah. So, these are very easy. But the first one is when did you start working in the hospitality industry? And do you remember your first day on the job?

Peter Ricci: I was 14. I was a dishwasher at a restaurant and I don’t remember my first day, but I vividly remember my manager, Lucy. She made a very good impression on me as a person, and I can still see her face vividly.

Karen Stephens: Oh, great.

Peter Ricci: Yeah, and I can remember the dish-washing machine. That’s what I remember.

Karen Stephens: Fantastic. All right. Second question. What was the most uplifting moment so far in your career?

Peter Ricci: I’ve been in hospitality for probably, I don’t know, 40 years or more. So that’s a tough one, but the uplifting was, oh, there’s been one or two. The, um, the day of 9/11, I was living in Orlando. And, um, it was just such a sad, shocking, heart-wrenching day that no one really could get their arms around. But all the hotel staff that I had at the Crowne Plaza and the Quality Suites that I was managing —I had actually just moved into academia — but all of those hotels that I had just managed, all the associates rallied around the other associates and did a big get together of love. And I think they even called it something silly, like Love Fest, but it was just for those two days when nobody could fly and nobody knew it was going on.

They went door-to-door and brought them all together and brought them to the hotel so that we would have some way to be happy together. So, it’s like, it wasn’t the best day in the world, by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, but it was so heartwarming with what they did that it really lifted me up.

And I guess the other one that comes to mind was I had, um, a boss when I was in high school, who many, many years later when he was in his 80s, reached out to me and said, “I always knew you’d be in hospitality for life. You told me, no. You told me you wanted to be a lawyer. And, and here I see you on LinkedIn and I see you on social media and I just get so touched when I can know who in my restaurants is really in it for the right reasons.”

And that just totally made me, you know, this business just re-energizes me a lot. But when John called me after all those years, I mean, I worked for him from the ages of maybe 15 to 18. So here I was in my 50s. So, it really, that really lifted me up and had a big impact. And I am in it for the right reasons. And I love, I love, working with people.

Karen Stephens: That’s amazing. And I love the 9/11 story because I think, you know, for those of us who are around for that, including me, that was such a powerful, crazy time. And to be able to offer that connection, that’s really wonderful.

Peter Ricci: Yeah. And it was their immediate response, which lifted me up. It was just their nature being in hospitality. That’s why I remember being so uplifted in a time that was just so bad, you know?

Karen Stephens: Yeah. Yeah, that’s fantastic. Very cool. Okay. Number 3. What is the most striking experience so far in terms of a holiday, or a food experience, or a stay for you personally?

Peter Ricci: The most striking thing to me is always about guest service because I’m a guest service junkie. It’s just in my nature to constantly, every day, all the time be evaluating service. It drives my spouse nuts, but it is what it is. It’s in my blood. And so, the best one for me is a restaurant in Hollywood Beach, Florida called Billy’s Stone Crab

Short version is that I went there for the first time. Um, when I drove home, I noticed my key fob was kind of damaged. I called back and the restaurant was closed. I left a message, but I still got a call that evening around midnight from the owner. He had found the key fob. They sent it to me. It didn’t work. They went out and bought me a brand new one from Chevy and FedExed it to me and wouldn’t accept a dime.

And the best part of the whole story is that their valet was subcontracted. It wasn’t even theirs, but they believed in guest service so much. That is an example I just never forget because it was just their culture that said we take care of guests. Never question.

You know, it was like $200 or something, which is ridiculous for the price of a key fob, but that’s a whole other issue. But you know, they took it under their wing. And they’re in the business of being in the restaurant, selling seafood. Their focus on guest service just pushed me over that.

And I still teach that in my guest service class. I have multiple examples like that, but that struck me to the heart that they went so far above and beyond. And to me, it’s kind of what you’re supposed to do, but it just never happens.

Karen Stephens: Right. And that’s really true loyalty, right? I mean, that’s what, that’s what brings loyalty for a guest is, “You’re taking care of me.”

Peter Ricci: Yeah, I’ve gone back probably every other month now since that happened. That was 2013. And I had never been there before, but that struck a chord, and now I pay it forward to them and I tell others. I think that’s what our business is supposed to do, but it’s got to be, uh, organic.

So that one struck me.

Karen Stephens: Fantastic. Okay. Number 4. Have you met any celebrities in your time in the trenches working in hotels?

Peter Ricci: Yeah. When I was in hotels, many, many of them, um, who come to mind that I really enjoyed, are Billy Joel, Oprah, Tony Bennett. Yeah, but we dealt with many of them in my collection of hotels.

And we’ve had some difficult ones, um, like, like they all do. But I remember one in particular. She purchased the floor above her and the floor below her because she didn’t want any noise, and it was so demanding. And then you’ve got others who would come to the desk and sing. Billy Joel actually sang to the front desk just to give him a taste of his song.

I mean, so yeah, that’s part of the business. That’s kind of fun and crazy and, um, exciting. I mean, you have to change colors in the room. You have to change food items. Um, even in college, I had one who wanted the temperature at exactly 79 degrees throughout the day constantly. So, we had to walk around with a thermometer.

So, some of the addendums are a little outrageous, but most of them mean well. That one happened to be a singer and the voice was perfect in their mind at 79 degrees.

Karen Stephens: It’s 79 degrees. All right.

Peter Ricci: yeah. Yeah,

Karen Stephens: Hilarious. That’s great. Okay. Last question. So, who are the women at work that you have been most inspired by? You already mentioned Lucy.

Peter Ricci: Yeah, Lucy inspired me in a very simple way. I was 14 years old, you know, I didn’t drive yet. My dad would come to pick me up, from my 3 shifts a week as a dishwasher. And there wasn’t one time that Lucy would not offer him something to eat a drink at the bar. He didn’t drink. So he would just patiently wait for me.

But warm nature. Just set a tone in me so early on. And, um, when she promoted me from dishwasher to busboy, it was only about 2 months in, but it was the most beautiful promotion. She pulled me aside. She told me how I loved to work with people. I never forgot that lady.

And there have been many, many female role models I’ve had, Estella Boni, may she rest in peace, at the Convention and Visitors Bureau. A lady named Joe Cling that I still happen to talk to today that I worked with when I was 22 or 23, who ran a cruise meetings company. And my current boss is amazing. She just stepped down as department chair, but you know, all of my best bosses have been women.

So I proudly say that all the time. A home too — my mom.

Karen Stephens: That’s great.

Peter Ricci: The best bosses have always been women, boss are not.

Karen Stephens: Yeah, that’s wonderful. Very cool. All right. Well, shout out to Lucy and all the other powerful women you’ve worked with. Fantastic. Okay. Great. Well, thanks, Peter. That’s been awesome.

Um, let’s get onto the topic at hand. So I mentioned at the top of the podcast, you did a survey, at the beginning of COVID.

So you want to tell us a little bit about that survey and what you’re seeing now? Because certainly, you know, staff shortage is very obvious now, but it maybe wasn’t so much when you conducted the survey.

Peter Ricci: Sure. There’s many prongs of the way the story goes, but we offered a certificate during COVID for free. A lot of people are aware of it. The feedback from the out-of-work employees is what drove us to do research because it was the first wave. People unemployed were very happy to be on vacation, so to speak.

The second wave, they were starting to run out of PTO and getting a little angry that their companies weren’t telling them what was going on ahead. And then the third wave: the end of 2020 into 2021, they were losing their jobs and were just very bitter and angry at the hospitality business. And the research kind of identified that as a trend that they were mad. They felt, um, I guess, angry because for their entire lives, they had been guest-oriented. The guest’s first, and here, as an internal guest, they were just kind of kicked to the curb.

But there was nothing else an employer could do. So, I never really understood it. I understood the feeling, but I never understood the rationale. And the research showed that a lot of them were going to leave the industry.

Well, sure enough, as we move further and further toward, uh, I never say we got away from COVID, but toward lesser COVID, controllable COVID, now I’m posting, I would have to say 4 to 5 times the number of jobs for my alumni and students than I did going into COVID. And we used to have 600 or 700 active employers.

Now, I’m almost at 2,000. and there’s not a day that goes by that someone is not looking for somebody. So, I thought immediately, everybody would come back because I’ve never left hospitality. But that did not happen. So, now here we are in 2022. There’s still a lot of positions.

The labor market is better now. We’ve created a lot of jobs, but most employers tell me they’re closer to being fully staffed than they were a year ago by a mile. But now the problem is something new. And I want to start researching this in 2022 and beyond. What we found is that the industry kind of knee-jerked to get people back by raising wages.

Which was a great thing, because for years, we’ve always been bashed for not paying well. So, they immediately raised wages by a good 15% to 25%, which made a difference. And they brought in people who had never worked in hospitality before. And I’m talking big picture as an aggregate. So, now what I’m hearing, I try to keep track, but it’s probably, well over a100 employers is that the newer hires are not staying as long because they jumped in probably for the money.

And probably because it sounded fun, but they weren’t innate hospitality types. So, as soon as they get beat up, as soon as they see we’re open nights and weekends, they’re like, “No, no. This wasn’t the right thing for me.” So the turnover, the short-term rate seems to be higher to me right now, but I haven’t done research on it.

That’s what I want to study next. The good news, like I mentioned earlier, is that I’m starting to hear that people who were bitter, who were angry, they’re coming back. And there’s not a day that goes by on LinkedIn where you can see 5 or 10 saying, “Hey, I’m starting a new job at Disney,” or “I’m back at Hyatt,” or “I’m back at JetBlue.” And that’s, that really warms my heart because I don’t think you can stay away from this business for long if it’s really in your blood,

Karen Stephens: Right. Absolutely. I think you really hit on something important there because you know, people who work in hospitality, we do innately have that guest experience at the heart of why we do it. You know it’s a big motivator. And, you know, Revinate only sells into hotels.

So, it’s interesting when we think about our marketing messaging or how we approach it. It’s like the way that you would sell into other industries is very different from the way you sell into hospitality. Because you have to understand the core motivation there is to make sure that the customer journey, the guest life cycle, that it all points to you taking care of the customer, and the center of their whole experience is the customer.

So, I think that really resonates for me. People are in it because they have that, and it’s really good to hear that, you know, people are coming back.

Peter Ricci: And I, you know, something along those lines, which really intrigues me, is that along with that mass resignation, there was a drop globally in interest in studying hospitality, whether it’s at the community college or the university. Certificates have become almost more popular than degrees.

So, globally there’s been a downturn in hospitality enrollments, and a lot of that comes from the immediate relationship to family and friends who lost their jobs during COVID. And they probably heard it at home. So, I’m guessing that negativity will start to go down over time as people return. And we will see enrollments return again in about 2025 and beyond. But in the short run, that means nationally and pretty much globally that we’re producing fewer workers when we need them.

And you know, a lot of the people who have not been in the workplace yet, the 15- to 18-year-olds, they see more and more remote opportunities. So hospitality doesn’t appeal to them coming into the hotel to be a front desk agent or into the hotel to be a bartender, or a room attendant.  It doesn’t appeal as much. So, I expect like a good 3- to 5-year shaking down of, “What do I wanna do? I’m gonna try this. I’m gonna try that. Well, I’m really destined for hospitality.” And then people will come back. So, I think the short run is our biggest struggle. But I think hospitality-loving associates will always gravitate back. I’ve talked to many people who left. They’re trying real estate. They’re trying insurance sales. They’re trying retail stores, which is highly related, but different. But a lot of them just say there’s nothing like working in a hotel.

Karen Stephens: Right.

Peter Ricci: You feel like it’s a big house that you’re welcoming people into.

You have your family in the building. You have guests that become your friends and family. There’s kind of nothing like it. So, I expect people to come back over time. We’re just kind of healing the wound, so to speak.

Karen Stephens: OK. Yeah, that makes sense. And what are you seeing now? Because we’re, as you mentioned, we’re kind of still in the limbo zone, right? We’re still seeing staffing shortages. I mean, the US had, you know, one of the best months ever in terms of employment in July. But we’re still feeling that pain at the hotel level.

So what are you seeing hotels do to kind of make up for that shortfall to ensure that the guest experience stays consistent?

Peter Ricci: Well, you know, they’re trying anything and everything. Um, you know, you’re in the business. You know that technology is a big part of it. How much can we infuse technology for the guest experience and for efficiency without taking away from the guest experience? And how far will the guest go to accept it?

Based on your type of hotel, your geographic location, your brand, you know, some guests are very tech savvy and gravitate to. Others don’t. So, it’s a work in progress. So, they’re trying infusion of, you know, artificial intelligence, robotics technology, where they can. They’re trying higher wages.

Some very creative ones are trying flexible work schedules. And for me, I, you know, say hallelujah, because we should have done that all along. What’s very interesting to me is some of the 24-hour operations, casinos in particular, haven’t rushed to do flexible work arrangements. And to me, they’re the most logical because they’re open 24 hours. But our historical hotel has been 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. And casinos have that same built-in historical structure in shifts.

So, it’s an awakening for CEOs and leaders. They have to let go of. “We’ve always done it this way, and this is how it is, and they will return.” No, they will not return. You know, they’re looking at flexible work, whether it’s a 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. shift so you can take the kids to school. Whether it’s a 3-day workweek of 12-hour days, that burn you out incredibly, but then you have 4 days to yourself. They’re trying anything and everything.

One of the most creative ones that I like is hotels that will bucket benefits instead of having them chosen for you. So, if your property spends $1,000 per employee on benefits per month, instead of giving them an option of medical dental and life, how about giving them a bigger bucket of choices that they pick?

Maybe they want transportation. Maybe they want rent offset. Maybe they want tuition. Maybe they want doggy daycare. It’s very hard to implement, from an HR perspective, but I’ve seen smaller creative properties doing it. And then you can switch once every six months. I would be a lifer at a place that took care of me the way I wanted to be taken care of.

You know, I don’t think I’ve ever bought short-term disability, but it’s paraded out there.

Karen Stephens: Right.

Peter Ricci: Not everybody needs life insurance. Not everybody needs health insurance because possibly they have a spouse that has it or a significant other. So, we have made assumptions that, “Oh, we’re gonna be the better employer on the block because we give benefits. But we’ve never really asked what they want.”

And so my HR friends say, “Oh my God. You’re talking too much about this. It’s an HR nightmare to administrate.” But look what a differentiator it would be if you were the first one to do it in your neighborhood, you know? And you could say, “Here at our hotel, you get to pick. Do you want this? Do you want that? Do you want that?”

So flexible work arrangements, better pay, creative answers. You know, the stuff that’s kind of normal that the good leaders did anyway before. I think if you’re not doing it now and you have your head in the sand, you’re really at a loss. And I, I would like to say that no one has their head in their sand post COVID, but I have had a good 20% of my 2,000 or so employers that refuse to change. I’ve had some of them say, “Raising wages is ridiculous. This is not what that job should pay.” Granted it’s a tiny minority, but if you’re gonna sing down that road, you’re definitely gonna be hurting for staff. And you’ll never move forward.

So, creativity, to me, is the biggie, whatever it means in your specific property or city or brand.

Karen Stephens: So, we acquired a company called NAVIS last year. Uh, it’s been about a year, actually, and NAVIS has call center software. So, for reservation staff, either on-property or within a large central reservation office. And one thing that was a huge boon that, you know, they hadn’t ever expected was that, you know, because it’s a software, people can be home-based.

So, whereas before, reservation agents would be on property or in the call center, now you have the flexibility, at least for that segment of hotel staff, to have them be at home. And I think I saw a stat on “60 Minutes” that you’re 2 times more likely to employ someone at this time it’s home-based.

And like you said, I think that that’ll kind of smooth out over time because people are gonna get fatigued about being at home all the time. I certainly am. I would love to go into an office. You know, at some point you wanna connect with people and have the division of home and work.

So, I think we’ll get there. But I love your comment about whatever your situation is at your property, you need to figure out where you can make those concessions, and that’s gonna bring people in.

Peter Ricci: You know, because if you think about it, it’s one thing. I mean, I think hybrid. It’s really the best because you see your colleagues. Sometimes you work at home and you can get more done without disruptions. Other times, people prove that they could work remote because we, our companies, remained alive and vibrant, if not more successful, than before.

So, that’s not really the issue. If the individual employee’s not pulling their weight, then that employee needs to go or get reprimanded or disciplined. That shouldn’t take down the whole world of remote from home or remote from anywhere. But to me, the hourly associates, and since we’re talking hotels, the room attendants, the night auditors, the chief engineer, the engineering staff, all of those people don’t have the option. They need to be in the building doing something at the desk, running the audit, unless there’s a way to do it remote.

But for those jobs that require you to be physically in the building, having guest service, we need to be creative to give them some sort of flexibility. And that’s where I see the stumbling block.

Why are you hesitant to try a 3-day week or a 4-day week? If that gives them flexibility, why are you hesitant to change your benefits if that gives them flexibility? Those roles will most likely never be able to be remote. So, we have to be smart enough to build some kind of flexibility in for them, or people just won’t take those jobs.

They’ll just go take other ones. And that’s where I have a hard time with the leaders that are stagnate, stagnant to change. I mean, I won’t mention names of course, but I had a strong argument2 or 3 times with a major casino operator because they believe in having face time in the building, and they don’t want to change at the same time.

They had over 1,500 positions open at any one time and couldn’t understand why they can’t attract. So, I’m like, “Well, at some point you gotta break down the barriers and listen. Or do a focus group or something.”

You know, would I like to see all of my faculty together in a room once a month with me? Absolutely. Do we need to be together all the time? Absolutely not. We’re more productive when we do our stuff. So it’s hard with a room attendant, a front desk agent, a valet parking attendant. There’s some roles you can’t be out of the building and I get it gotta be there, but we need to give them some kind of flexibility so they can say, “Well, you work from home, but I only work a 3-day workweek.” I’d love for them to brag and be happy about it, because then that means people would want those jobs because of that feeling or that privilege that they have. Um, so it’s just a matter of getting there. It takes a while.

Karen Stephens: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Okay. So shifting gears a little bit. We’ve had a fantastic summer so far. We’re still in it in terms of, at least in terms of, ADR. What are you seeing for hotels coming into the fall? I’ve heard, you know, there’s a lot of compression because all the group businesses are moving in, but what are, what is kind of the beat on the street for what we’ve got coming for the fall and heading into 2023?

Peter Ricci: It’s interesting. In South Florida, well, all areas of Florida, for the most part, except Orlando, there was a decrease in June that everybody was a little startled about. But then came right back and the fall looks good. There were so many groups pushed out of 2020 and 2021, that those groups, their rescheduled patterns, along with the groups that are still booking now and wanting to come, will keep group business and corporate coming back for the next year without a doubt, recession or no recession.

Some of these are on the books that they need to happen. You can’t cancel for the 5th time, etc. So, I think that’s in there where I see lessening demand. Might be on the leisure side because of inflation and other factors. “We’ve spent all our money that we saved during COVID. We traveled 3 times already. Our credit card’s up.” But I don’t think it will be a bad year by any means.

I think we’re still gonna have a great 2022 and probably a good 2023 beyond that. I think we’re great going into the end of this year. Now we have, you know, terms like Monkeypox on the horizon, hopefully that stays small. I can tell you anecdotally, I’ve had more friends with COVID that never had it before for the first time in the past 90 days. They all seem to heal up rather well.

So, I think in our collective mind, it will become like a flu. People will still travel and not have the fear and apprehension they had. Hopefully, they should, you know, be able to travel and feel comfortable. But there’s a lot, there’s so many variables and, um, one of the variables is, uh, the economy.

I mean  gas prices are coming down. Everybody talks, gas prices, gas prices. I have never, once in my life, changed a weekend road trip, whether it’s $40 for my tank or $60 for my tank. But when we talk gas prices, it’s really everything going up. There’s not a dinner that I have had in the past 6 months that isn’t considerably higher than it was the prior 6 months.

There are restaurants now with, um, credit card surcharge fees, and there are restaurants with minimum charges and a per-head minimum inflation fee, and things I’ve never seen before. So those discourage you. Or discourage a traveler or visitor from going there. So, it’s this whole ball of wax. We’ve all wanted to travel so bad, but that, you know, whatever people call a revenge travel or pent-up travel, that’s coming to an end. And the meetings shifting is saving us. And we’re good through early 2023. Uh, I mean, there’s no doubt in my mind that will work beyond that. It’s really anybody forecasting. I won’t believe them no matter how accurate they pretend to be, because we could never predict what’s happened this year.

Um, you know, it is what it is, But in Florida, we opened early. So we definitely see a tougher time getting people to come strongly through 2023, because most people came already as their first or second visit. And so for me, I applaud organizations like Visit Florida because they are trying to be super creative to keep that momentum going.

But now you can go to Europe, you can go take a cruise, you can do all these things you couldn’t do when Florida was open. So, if you’re adventurous, you’ll wanna go somewhere different this time. And I get that.

Karen Stephens: Right. Right. So, you know, it sounds like we’ve relied on leisure travel for most of the pandemic is the kind of the first thing that came. And now it sounds like we’re seeing that shift. Everybody’s taken that vacation that they had to do. And luckily, as you said, groups and business travel, I’m traveling again for business, you know, which I hadn’t done in a long time.

So hopefully we can steady the boat and then we’ll see what happens. I agree with you. Anybody trying to forecast much beyond kind of Q1, we’re gonna have . . .

Peter Ricci: It’s very difficult. And we’re in August, which is, you know, the hotels are usually going into budgeting season.

Karen Stephens: I was just going to ask you about that.

Peter Ricci: Yeah. And so rolling the dice is like the best you’ve got. And there’s gonna be a point, my hotel friends probably won’t like this, but we had such high prices for all leisure travel the past year and a half, because that’s really all we had. But at some point we talked, you know, pent-up demand and revenge travel. I think the leisure travelers are going to have revenge on the prices we charge. At some point, they’re gonna wait for us to balance out. Well, inflation has made them stay high. So, I don’t know if they’ll ever have revenge, but there’s resentment.

I know it because people who used to pay $189 that now pay $389 for the same product are probably like, “What the heck happened?” We all know there was COVID, we all know there was supply chain shortages, but that doesn’t mean we like it.

Karen Stephens: Yes, 100%. And I, think this goes back to what we were talking about a few minutes ago, guest experience, because if you are paying that high of a rate, you know, as you said, that might not cover all of the pain. But you have to make sure that your guest experience on-property is on-point and also that you’re public-facing, you know, your reviews, looking at all your channels, making sure that you’re solid.

Because people are gonna say, “What am I paying this much money for?” And, I think if you have high rates and you are not covering yourself for any staffing shortages, you’re gonna get into real issues, not only with a guest on property, but also if they write a review. That could be real trouble.

Peter Ricci: And I, you know, I call that, the forgiving factor. It was at an all-time high when we first started traveling after COVID, but I don’t even as a long term hospitality person, I don’t have much forgiveness right now when you’re charging me 3 times what I used to pay at your restaurant or hotel. I’m patient. I expect supply chain shortages. But I’m just gonna go somewhere else or not give you too much of a chance. Whereas before I would’ve been a lot more forgiving, you know?

Karen Stephens: Right. Absolutely. All right, Peter. Well, this has been amazing. Any final thoughts for our viewers as we head into budget season and go, go through the rest of the year?

Peter Ricci: You know, I’d like to, especially for hoteliers, some, a trend that I’ve seen lately is there, there is a movement for people to wanna do certificates in every possible thing they can do versus going for a full-fledged degree, whether it’s, uh, Excel, whether it’s a short course in hospitality, whether it’s revenue.

So, I’ve now seen hotels coming to us using our certificate, which is rather inexpensive as a way to engage these new hires, at least for the 3 months they’re doing the certificate. So, try creative ways to keep the new and returning people engaged. That’s what we need is a way to keep them pumped up and engaged.

Thanks to the positive outcome of COVID, we have so many donations toward our certificate. We have scholarships for everybody that wants one. It offsets like one-third of the cost and the engagement. I think it is helping people decide where they want to go next.

So, you know, “No, I don’t wanna work at the airline anymore. I want to try real estate.” Well, do you really? How about doing a certificate in real estate first? Check out someone who does it day-to-day, talk to them on LinkedIn, talk to them on Instagram, and then kind of make a better decision.

So, I found certificates very well-used to explore, and I hope that kind of continues because I’m all about lifelong learning. So I think that’s kind of useful for the world, but anybody can reach me anytime. Um, is my email, But um, thank you so much. It’s been really great to spend time with you.

Karen Stephens: And thank you, Peter. It’s been wonderful!

Peter Ricci: Come to Florida!

Karen Stephens: I will. Thank you.

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