Category: Campbell Black

Key challenge for hotels and resorts in 2022: Staffing and Touchless Tech

Staffing and mobile ordering/ payments solutions vital in 2022, says global hotel expert


Campbell Black is a 40-year international hotelier, working across USA, Europe and the Middle East in individual and multi-unit locations as a General Manager. He has also held operational roles as Regional VP and Regional Director roles in Europe and the USA.

He has a strong track record as a results- driven leader identifying and implementing key growth opportunities and improved performance. 


Campbell Black, longtime IHG General Manager across Americas, MIddle East and Europe


Campbell, you’ve had an illustrious and remarkably loyal career, starting with IHG and you never looked back. Tell us how it all began? 

I am Australian and graduated from the Ryde School of Hotel Administration in Sydney (now TAFE). I decided to travel upon graduation and landed in New York City, USA. I was able to work and joined InterContinental Hotels Corporation in NYC and over time, hard work, great mentors and various operational promotions moved to Muscat InterContinental, Sultanate of Oman. I then was promoted and transferred to London to the Britannia InterContinental, then the MayFair InterContinental and then my first General Manager role at the Portman InterContinental London. I was then transferred to Edinburgh, Scotland to the George InterContinental. After three years I was then transferred and promoted to Regional Vice President Eastern Mediterranean at the Athenaeum InterContinental Athens, Greece. This role included GM of the hotel as well as regional operations oversight of IHG managed hotels in Italy, Malta, Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Kazakstan. I then moved to Los Angeles to oversee managed InterContinental Hotels and Crowne Plaza Hotels for the Western USA which included San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Irvine, Pleasanton, Palo Alto, LAX, Houston,
Dallas and New Orleans. During this assignment I moved to San Francisco and oversaw the Mark Hopkins InterContiental San Francisco and the Western USA region. I then moved to Cleveland Ohio and was Regional Director for Mid West and Canada with operations oversight for three hotels at the world famous Cleveland Clinic campus, Chicago, Toronto and Montreal across multi IHG brands.


What would you say were your biggest highlights and toughest periods managing key hotels at such a high level?

Highlights and toughest periods are commingled. The Covid-19 pandemic was a dramatic accelerator of a very tough period for the hospitality and travel sector and that dark period has opened the need for different ways to operate, serve and run the business.

Travel globally and living in many interesting, diverse and developing locations I think has been a highlight. Seeing young, energetic and eager colleagues grow and achieve great success both in their own country and internationally is very gratifying and supportive to me. I still keep in contact no matter where they are on the planet and what they are doing.

 What are some challenges you overcame and what made the difference in your eyes?

I could not have done all the things I have if it were not for mentors around me (both close and distant in location). Equally so I tend to look at many things as a team effort and to ensure you surround yourself with great talent. Having local knowledge and local history (understanding) always helped to forge a path forward as it is important to understand how you got to the current situation and moment.

And now after 40 years later, you are returning your knowledge and insight to the industry as an Advisor to the Board of RoomOrders. What drew you to RoomOrders?

I am always looking for new innovations that create a win for operators; a win for customers; and a win for ownership and RoomOrders filled that criteria. Technology in the hospitality sector must be utilized to provide a seamless experience for each stakeholder. Our industry is always in some kind of change process and over the past few years there has been much upheaval in serving the customer in an efficient (cost and service efficiency), safe, functional, accurate and sustainable manner. New doors are being opened for long term change and RoomOrders deliver that opportunity.


It’s impossible to talk about hospitality without special attention to the pandemic. What do you think is the toughest part about Covid for the sector?

Clearly the worst part of Covid pandemic is to see our industry initially collapse under the weight of lockdowns, restrictions and an immediate crisis with no clear end. To see so many colleagues at all levels go through shortened work weeks and hours, layoffs and business closure was horrible.

The other thing I notice, and many have seen, has been the change in some customers unforgiving,  rude and threatening. No place for this kind of behavior that is shown and in some cases now being shown by children who see this from adults.

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel, some see bright signs of recovery already this year?

Yes, Yes, Yes!!! There is light as we move forward, no matter at what speed. This crisis has bred new innovation and ways to operate at all levels. We must embrace these new ways of working, ideas, technology and processes and not go back to previous ways.

What do you think will be the key to a revival?

The move from pandemic crisis, likely, to an endemic existence is a pathway to something close to normalcy.

Listen to the science; use common sense; and keep informed as to what is going on.

As a result I encourage embracing change in the ways of working, use technology to help the process and think of ensuring a win for operators, a win for customers, and a win for owners.

How important is technology to the recovery and in general to the future of hospitality?

I believe technology is the cornerstone and the enabler for the future of hospitality. We are doing things differently now and will not go back to old ways. RoomOrders is a smart way to view the Food and Beverage business in hospitality-hotels, restaurants, clubs, resorts, conferences, exhibitions and trade fairs and more. It addresses the severe shortage of staffing numbers in hospitality and creates an efficient, easy, user friendly process to review menus and offerings, place orders, receive and pay for product and service. It is efficient and easy to install, train staff and operate and is extremely cost effective.

Lastly, what is your forecast for the 2022 season?

2022 will be better than ’21 and better than ’20 as the variants and spikes from variants become more understood and treated.

Hospitality in general will continue to improve in demand for all segment over time. It will take longer for meetings, conferences and trade shows to come back. Individual and leisure will continue to improve and business travel will come back slowly and with reduced frequency and numbers.

The biggest challenge will be in staffing and availability of staff.

The will to serve and delight the customer is there and will result in changes in technology, processes and thinking by operators, customers and owners. RoomOrders support these changes in an efficient and cost effective manner.

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Can undaunted, splurging guests revive hotels and resorts?

Pent-up desires have created a new breed of guest that is bent on splurging in the post-corona recovery, all hotels and resorts have to do is provide good reason for them to part with cash they have piled up during hibernating lockdowns.

So there I was, on a deckchair, perched on a slab of rock overlooking the pristine Adriatic Sea in front of me, and sparkling cliff- edge hotel pools to the right and left. Smack in the middle, was my belly, and it was rumbling.

And the scorching Mediterranean sun was making me thirsty.

Royal Hotels and Resort, Dubrovnik

I was on a brief, but well-deserved holiday in Kings Landing, Westeros – otherwise known as Dubrovnik, and I was experiencing what every single tourist at a summer hotel or resort would be feeling at least three times a day. Or in my case, all day, every day.

I was peckish, and my throat was dry. But as I was on a holiday, I was also lazy. I didn’t want to get up and find the bar or hail a waiter. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

I was also still in trauma from all the COVID-19 drama. Maybe this is just a respite, a cease-fire and the war is still on. I need to feel alive, and what better way to rejuvenate than to spend like a drunken gambler in a casino. I need to live more voraciously, spend more freely.

I had my spiel ready for the owner of the Royal Hotel and Resort chain, Canadian born Tom Zovko, when I catch him. Sure, the hotel is breathtaking and all that, and he’s got five stars from me, no problem. Only a man can’t go around in wet trunks and sweaty armpits foraging for nourishment.

I want my beer. And I want it now!

However, I could tell Tom was a shrewd businessman, who oversees every nook and cranny of this 600-room oasis on the scraggly coast of Croatia like clockwork. He didn’t look like he had time to just shoot the breeze with a chatty Aussie bloke.

So, I said: “Tom, mate (I’m Australian, remember?), your resort is beautiful beyond words, but when I’m hungry, or thirsty, I get hangry, and thangry, and foosty, bla, bla, grrr!”

Tom Zovko GM of Royal Hotels and Resort

 “Your point is, Mr Salesman?” he quipped.

“My point is Tom, Dubrovnik is a tourist Mecca and it’s half empty now. Corona has devastated the industry and everyone is wondering how to bring about recovery. While you cannot influence borders and flights and travel, I have just come out of corona prison I am desperate to find the closest bar and brothel…” Sorry, wrong movie. 

“What I’m saying is, I have post corona blues Tom, and I have money, lots of money (government’s are subsidising almost everyone, including me) and I want to give it to you. I want to eat and drink, and be merry. All you have to do is give me a reason to fork over my extra dollar.”

What do you say we start the post-covid hospitality recovery by enabling the few brave guests to spend cash they have saved during quarantine?” I ended my Eddie Murphy-esque rant.

Tom was thinking:

Could this be the answer to my staffing headaches?

Could convenience be the key to a memorable guest experience?

Then I calmly explained to Tom in rational terms how RoomOrders could digitalise his entire resort and allow ordering and payment from any corner of his resort. Seamlessly!

“Just like clicking your fingers, anywhere, anytime,” I said. “And voila, your beer or finger-food would arrive before your feet.”

Tom’s eyebrow arched, I could tell he was becoming more intrigued when I told him how much extra revenue per room he could earn. It’s all about RevPAR for these hotel types, tap, tap, tap, they calculate it in their heads in a flash.

It’s a no-brainer. No CAPEX, no training. No risks or lock-in agreements.

RoomOrders creates a digital poolside or beach for hotels and resorts, like when your spouse discovers a walk-in-wardrobe in the room. Oh my God! Where did this come from? How did they do it? Amaaaazing!

I was like a stranded whale through most of my stay, and getting me to go and fetch supplies must have felt like rolling an orca back into the ocean for my wife and two daughters, 6 and 7. Understandably, it was a bit of a hike, plus I don’t think the other guests really wanted to see my behemoth gut manoeuvring clumsily up to the bar. Plus it was hot. Really, really hot.

Had I been able to order on my phone, by just scanning a QR code on my deckchair, I would have been filling my stomach with beer on tap – a fancy brand of course, I was after all at a 5-star resort.

Tom and I shook hands right then.

Luckily for my kids, Tom could not introduce RoomOrders right that moment – even though we have really fast implementation – so I spent the extra cash riding jet skis with the tikes.

Snooze, you lose.

Special thanks to Tom Zovko, we really loved the Hotel Princess and will definitely come again. I can’t wait to test RoomOrders from my favourite cliff nest above the cobalt blue sea next time.

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