Whether hotels are closed, on skeletal operations, or planning for recovery, here are the practical steps they should be implementing now.
Three leading hoteliers gave crisis recovery advice to hospitality industry leaders in the inaugural I Meet Hotel industry webinar, 8 April, organised by Bidroom. The three gave tips on how to endure the business impact of the virus – and come out the other side ready for recovery.
The hoteliers told webinar moderator, Bidroom Director of Operations, Marcin Wesolowski, and the webinar audience of 125 hospitality professionals, that decisive action taken in hotel branding, operations, guest relations, communications, finance and HR will help owners, managers, staff and guests pull through the current crisis together.
Dharmendra Sharma, Director of Sales & Marketing at Oberoi Hotels & Resorts, Dubai, Sara Abdel Masih, President A.D.A Lombardia & General Manager at Hotel Dei Cavalieri & The Square – Milano Duomo, and Konstantinos Santikos, Managing Director at the Santikos Collection, said there we no easy solutions. However decisive action and due diligence in six areas would pay dividends, namely:
Your brand should be selling, when sales can’t. You should reach out with empathy and practical tips. For example, hotel departments can give advice on subjects such as house cleaning and sanitising for home, yoga stretches to keep fit in confined spaces, and recipes to eat well on less. Serve first, then sell later, said Sharma.
If your hotel is still open, or will reopen in a stepped way, you must keep standards up. If you have three restaurants, open just one first. Shut or reduce the number of outlets that don’t impact operations. For example, spa, pool and kids’ clubs can open another day. To boost cash flow and optimise the one restaurant that is open, maybe think about delivering F&B to the local community.
In a time of partial or full hotel shut down, by all means, call your clients, but do not discuss business, said Sharma. The emphasis should be on empathy. Be supportive. Use positive language. Listen a lot and emphasise that #WeAreAllInThisTogether. Under no circumstances have your sales team resort to cold call emails to drum up business. The approach should be supportive, not exploitative. Again, serve first, sell later.
Santikos addressed ‘hotel branding in an age of Covid-19’. He said the hotel’s story must be relatable in a time of crisis. When guests come back they will want to see housekeeping making an extra effort with hygiene. All staff should practice social distancing. Anticipate the differing needs of your guests – business people, families, couples. If you're going to open, don’t do it half-heartedly. Be confident in your processes. For example, follow up with guests after they have left. Add value after they check out by sharing fitness, hygiene or cooking tips.
It’s vital to reduce costs. But cut in the back office to protect your brand. Improve energy efficiency by closing hotel floors. Reduce waste to keep F&B costs down. Eliminate investment plans, where necessary, said Masih. If you can, negotiate a reduction in rental costs, or a suspension of leasing. However, on room rates, there should be no slash and burn “carpet bombing,” said Sharma, as this will only lead to credibility problems when you try to reinstate ‘normal’ rates later.
Set an example here, said Masih. Take care of your workforce, especially their mental health and social-psychological needs. On the upside, help employees serve customers from anywhere – on property, online, or in the community. If staff are working from home, make sure they have full virtual access. She said invest in software and training keep in contact. Communicate clearly on a regular basis. However, never compromise on security — on property or online. A good leader will redefine their job and become the Chief Recovery Officer.
All three speakers emphasised that there was no perfect answers for hoteliers. All of us have to show resilience and endurance.
Sharma noted that a Charles Darwin quote was applicable to the current crisis. “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive, but those who can best manage change.”
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She holds a Bachelor's degree in Communication & Mass Media from Panteion University of Political & Social Studies of Athens and she has been editor and editor-in-chief in various economic magazines and newspapers.