Working and living in New York City means I am at the heart of the coronavirus crisis, and my heart goes out to everyone who is impacted by this global pandemic. Together as an industry, I’m absolutely confident we’ll come out of this stronger and able to overcome future crises with greater ease.
At Dragonfly, we’ve spent a good part of the past six weeks learning – listening, understanding and attending as many webinars as we could. Recently, though, we’re mixing in as much “doing” as possible. For hoteliers, there are several things that can be done right now to help immediate and future business. Here are three areas to consider:
Prepare Now for the Future
It is rare for a hotel, especially in busy markets, to have the luxury of downtime. If you reframe this sudden loss in demand into an opportunity of available time, you and your team can accomplish some monumental things that normally would cause disruption. System changeovers and technology integrations are much easier right now. We are helping some clients implement new technologies and others revise their market segmentation, recoding room types like ADA, for example. These tasks are much easier now than when running at peak occupancy.
Hotels usually only get the chance to completely relaunch and reopen when they have a major renovation or are part of an acquisition. The crisis has brought a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reinvent your brand when you reopen. Use this opportunity to realign your brand promises, your team structure and communicate who you want to be after the recovery.
Some questions to consider when building your reopening plan:
- What will your hotel services and processes look like when you reopen?
- How will you create an environment where your staff and guests feel safe?
- How will you communicate that you are back in business?
- Will you be offering contactless check-in and keyless entry?
- Will you be checking the temperature of your team and/or guests?
- What are your new, revised sanitation processes?
- Are you partnering with any company to certify your sanitation?
- Are there systems that need to be audited or certified to go live again?
- Are future transient and group rates positioned appropriately for revised demand?
RM as Part of Recovery
Just because we are in a crisis doesn’t mean the fundamentals of revenue management or hospitality disappear. More than ever, it’s important to make sure you have the right rates showing on the right channels to capture what business is out there. However, we also need to ensure our policies are guest friendly and that we manage with the heart of hospitality.
Some specific recommendations that have worked for us:
- Ensure you have all government and military rates loaded for sale, as these rates are being booked. Many hotels have never loaded them as per diem was too low; but today, they make sense in most markets.
- If you are offering special rates for first responders in your area, explore what websites and networks they are using to find lodging. (Hint: Hotelengine.com is one of them).
- Respond to leads and group RFPs – some hotels are not, and it is bad for business.
- Be more generous with groups – group ceilings and MARS may be out the window for a while. These are private rates that can be supplemented when transient business returns, but we need the base now more than ever.
- We are walking into RFP season right now – don’t forget that. There still will be corporate and consortia RFPs for 2021. Someone needs to manage this.
- Adjust policies for the time we are in – flexible cancellation policies, less restrictive attrition policies, policies regarding cleaning and occupancy in meeting rooms … there is plenty to review and modify for our current environment.
- Don’t tank rate – it doesn’t result in demand and it will make recovery harder for everyone. Instead, look for negotiated and group opportunities to drive additional demand.
- Use creative marketing and good PR to rebuild business. Enable people to dream about traveling again.
Pre-COVID, it was not uncommon for hoteliers to work 60-plus hours each week. For some of us, this slowdown has given us the amazing gift of time. There are several opportunities to enhance your skills to be better positioned as a professional in the future. Here are a few courses we recommend taking advantage of:
- Google Skillshop has many courses and certifications available for free. Amp up your skills in Google Analytics, Google Ads, Google My Business, Google Marketing Platform and more.
- The Project Management Institute has several free and paid classes online.
- HSMAI offers several certifications: Certified Hospitality Revenue Management Executive (CRME), Certified in Hospitality Business Acumen (CBHA), Certified Hospitality Digital Marketer (CHDM), Certified Revenue Management Analyst (CRMA).
Lastly, living in the center of the pandemic, I have been uplifted by the flowers and notes we see left for first responders along Central Park. I find that taking action to do something positive truly lifts my spirit. You can send encouraging words to healthcare workers, have check-in calls to your team members even if they are furloughed, and reach out to clients and people you haven’t connected with in a while.
To say this is difficult is an understatement. Very few in hospitality haven’t been dramatically impacted by reduced revenue, reduced hours, furloughs, closures, sickness, etc. Taking care of ourselves and our greater community is what hospitality is all about, and I am confident that we will overcome and recover together.