Work Hard, Play Harder

It seems just a few years ago, at the dawn of the computer revolution, the media was abuzz with predictions from so-called experts that computerization would eventually lead to such gains in worker productivity that the four-day work week would become the norm of U.S. life. What a crock! We all know those forecasts never materialized and, in fact, most Americans work harder and longer than ever before. The computer has only served to allow corporate masters to expect even more productivity from workers who are equipped with fewer resources.

The promise of more leisure time was supposed to be a boon for the hospitality industry. The notion of American families and singles leaving every Thursday afternoon for three-day mini-vacations (plus one-week vacations every summer) had hotel owners salivating.

Of course, it never happened quite that way. Americans are traveling more than ever, and weekend hotel occupancy far outstrips weekdays, even as business travel and meetings business rebounds to near pre-9/11 levels.

But new research points to an inescapable conclusion that, for better or worse, Americans are stuck in a cycle of work hard and play hard, often at the same time. Hoteliers need to recognize this trend and offer the facilities, amenities and personal services that accommodate the slightly schizophrenic lifestyle of many of their customers.

Despite rising-and-falling (but mostly rising) gasoline prices, the summer travel season started with a bang and seems poised to remain that way. In late spring, the Travel Industry Association of America and AAA issued a forecast that calls for total travel expenditures to be up 5.6 percent during the summer months. The forecast was based on predictions that summer leisure travel will rise by 2.3 percent, business and convention travel will increase by 3.6 percent and the important international travel to the U.S. will climb a robust 6.0 percent.

The strong travel forecast is a result of a rebounding economy, lower airfares, the weak U.S. dollar and most importantly, Americans' fascination with adventure, the pursuit of leisure and a simple love of travel. Or, as travel marketing guru Peter Yesawich says, Americans feel travel is their birthright.

But these same fun-loving travelers can't or won't leave work behind. A survey by staffing company Hudson says while 82 percent of workers will take time off this summer, nearly one in four plan to check in with the office via phone or e-mail most or all days they're on vacation. The number increases to 38 percent for managers and 40 percent for entrepreneurs. Not surprisingly, since these so-called vacationers are still plugged into the workplace, 34 percent of those surveyed said they'll probably return to the office more stressed or just as stressed as when they left.

This news gives all hoteliers a mandate to both accommodate visitors who need or must combine pleasure with work and do what they can to reduce stress in their guests.

It can be as simple as providing high-speed Internet connections and well-equipped business centers or as demanding as ensuring swift and reliable service at all guest touch points. Nothing will annoy a guest more than a 20-minute wait for a plate of eggs at breakfast or an Internet connection that's difficult to establish or drops in the middle of a session.

It's no wonder that hotels are scrambling to add amenities that pamper their guests. Things like spas, luxury guest bathrooms and poolside concierges can work wonders to soothe the tensions of a high-strung clientele.

These are common-sense ideas you should all follow, but they're even more critical to today's demanding, highly stressed and time-poor leisure guest.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.


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