By Bharat (Bruce) Patel, AAHOA Chairman (2016-2017)
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree,” said Abraham Lincoln, “and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
The world has changed dramatically in the century and a half since our 16th president held office, but the inestimable value of thorough preparation remains. In less than two years, hoteliers have weathered a veritable storm of regulatory overreach, from last August’s joint-employer mandate to the impending overtime-rule change. Despite AAHOA members’ best efforts, our industry has taken a battering from many – including those implicitly entrusted with its protection.
We are fully engaged in Washington D.C. in effort to protect the interests of hoteliers. Yet even with these efforts, it is important to remember we cannot always control or influence what happens, but we certainly have the power, and even the duty, to “sharpen the axe” in our own properties and communities. We can take steps now to minimize the effect of an increasingly litigious populace, reduce data security threats, and look beyond our own industry to detect and decrease investment risks.
Data Security. Industry headlines have been filled this year with reports of data breaches at major brands including Kimpton, Omni and Marriott. While the breaches have since been repaired and security measures strengthened, guests’ confidence in a hotel’s ability to protect their information has no doubt been shaken. Prioritize informational security by performing thorough pre-employment background checks, mandating end-user training on software and tech protocol, and carrying cyber-liability insurance.
Liability. With hundreds of guests inside and around your hotel every day, it’s not a question of whether your liability will be called into question, but when. Accidental injury, property loss, and often-overlooked liabilities like hotel employee-operated vehicles can cause major legal and financial complications if adequate insurance and safety precautions (including video surveillance, where appropriate) are not in place.
New Rules and Legislation. The AAHOA Government Affairs team works hard to keep members apprised of the latest local, state and federal regulatory developments, but it’s up to individual business owners to ensure their full understanding and compliance. In light of the recent spate of ADA (“drive-by”) lawsuits, for example, retaining the services of an accessibility compliance specialist can help eliminate your property’s risk of being targeted.
The Next Downturn. In the last 15 years, experts agree, the hospitality industry has experienced two major downturns (2001 and 2008), and the next could be just months away. The key to surviving is using periods of good cash flow to prepare for leaner times. Make renovations and upgrades, review operations data and lock in low-interest rates when there is financial room to breathe. Take an interest in global events and economic patterns before industry experts tell you to, and your bottom line will reap the benefits.
The tendency to prioritize the urgent over the truly important is understandable, but in business, it can also be fatal. Thoughtful preparation (and full utilization of the vast array of educational offerings included in AAHOA membership) can mean the difference between struggle and success when tough times invariably arrive.