Transguard expert on how hotel owners can optimise investments

Director of manpower and hospitality, Alex MacDonald, explains how staff accommodation improvements can go a long way

A view of Dubai's skyline.
Visit Dubai / Representational
A view of Dubai's skyline.

Alex MacDonald, director of the manpower, hospitality, and workforce division at Emirates group company Transguard, explains how hotel asset owners can drive cost savings and optimise their investment. MacDonald is an MBA graduate from the University of Leicester, and has been in the region more than 14 years, with a decade's experince in the outsourcing industry. The following is an excerpt from MacDonald's article, which was published in full by Construction Week's sister title Hotelier Middle East.

Dubai prides itself on its beautiful properties and five-star service (as well it should!), but from a profit perspective, I’ve often wondered if there are even bigger wins that could be gained from lifting up the corner of the duvet, so to speak, to examine each aspect of the behind-the-scenes business. 

The region is in a time of transition, with costs on the rise and revenue per available room (Revpar) on the decline, so I think it’s time to take a different approach. Let’s start by looking at your staff; specifically, their housing, transportation, and training.

Staff accommodations are notoriously difficult to bring into a state of financial efficiency, because unless they’re operating at full capacity you’re spending money on empty beds and empty rooms. As an alternative, many of our clients have reported that they’re seeing great returns when they lease per person.

When compared against renting a massive block of rooms and averaged out over a year to account for seasonal periods, they’re discovering that this non-traditional approach is actually more cost effective.

Another as-yet unexplored opportunity for cost savings is with transportation. I always shake my head when I see half-full shuttles for hotel staff stuck in traffic on their way to properties on the other side of town – and sometimes they’ll be one lane over from another half-full shuttle for a neighbouring hotel!

Alex MacDonald, Transguard [Hotelier ME].

Imagine the cost savings if these hotels (even if they’re competitors!) looked at their respective shift patterns and staffing needs and actually worked together or with a third party to provide a collaborative transportation solution that got everyone to work on time with a single vehicle. Even with the recent mergers and acquisitions in the industry, properties are still to some extent "doing their own thing", which I think is a missed opportunity.

We’re all aware of the changing market realities, but there are ways to get ahead of the trend. Start by looking at what you need and then work backwards to make the right adjustments. Who knows? 

Staff accommodations [and] shared transport [...] may just be the start. What’s certain, however, is that those hoteliers who move the quickest will no doubt lead the way.

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