In the last blog (part 1) we looked at how hoteliers should be preparing for the recovery in Thailand, as countries around the world begin to relax restrictions and rules on who can travel.
It should come as no surprise that the two of the biggest challenges getting tourism back on track is figuring out when the majority of people will start traveling again and what new road blocks stand in the way. In fact, rather than a steady gradual rise in occupancy as one would expect, hoteliers may be in for a rollercoaster ride. Nobody likes uncertainty, so the best thing to do is make sure you don't burn through cash reserves faster when pinning your hopes on a volatile reopening than when you were closed”.
With so much uncertainty and volatility still haunting the return to normal, we suggested that hoteliers adopt a conservative mindset. A phased re-opening may be a better approach than opening up all hotel services at the same time. For this to work, hoteliers should look at their operations and consider providing only essential guest services, limit staffing numbers (to key personnel) and putting Best Practice Health and Safety standards in place to provide peace of mind to guests.
We introduced the concept of “key environment indicators” to watch for in order to identify the strength of market recovery. Hoteliers should look to these for clues and judge the pace of recovery so they can fine tune their re-opening strategy. Then, we also talked about why hoteliers should consider surveying what their competitors are doing in response to the changing market conditions. Taken together, both variables can be a useful indicator to help us move from the partial re-opening to becoming a full-service operation.
For this (the second and final) Blog, we’ll consider some of the projects to start in order to get your hotel ready in the Post Covid-19 environment.
Suggestions ahead of re-opening.
With plenty of down time and low occupancy, it’s the perfect time to take stock of your digital marketing portfolio and do a post-crisis plan. Some of the actions we recommend include the following:
1.1 Audit your Digital Assets (Website / Social Media) - Review copy, content, photos, videos, blogs, presentations, etc… Make sure that your social media news feed or website blogs are up-to-date and relevant to current affairs. Check your room rate(s) and be informative about where things have changed. For example: office hours, available hotel services, or even contact points.
Another consideration is that It might be necessary to take corrective action on things like providing forward rate plans; updating promotions; or even resolving “404” page error requests.
1.2 Re-visit Your Online “Reviews & Feedback” Strategy for Improvements – Online Reviews, whether its Agoda / Expedia / Trip Advisor or Booking dot Com - have always been important. Your hotel feedback score is one of the reasons you rank where you do inside the OTA’s own search results.
Now more than ever - acknowledge positive feedback but also act on any negative feedback (if it comes) and provide any rebuttals in a positive and timely fashion. Keeping up with guests’ comments, help reinforce guest expectations, and help you secure your search rank positioning within the OTA website. Most importantly it also shows that you are proactive and care about your hotel’s service performance.
Because everything has changed due to Covid - now is a good time to revisit the hotel’s on-line review(s) strategy and help provide that “feel good factor” for guests.
1.3 Review your Web Site Page Analytics – Take a deep dive into “First-Party” data. In today’s travel environment the dynamics have changed, so you need to be aware of guest expectations. Work on getting a better understanding to the following questions:
Perspective matters – in times of uncertainty people prefer to book directly and be in control of their booking as opposed to going through an agent or OTA. Hoteliers that act fast will make every opportunity count and try to convert more direct business.
level (than before) during their stay. Goes without saying that the prospective customer will likely base their decision to book your hotel, depending on whether you’ve been able to create an all-round risk-free environment for them. Here are 3 headline examples to work on:
2.1 In-Room Dining (Room Service) – Safe to say you can probably plan for more demand. Guests' behavior in the post COVID-19 world may still value the importance of social distancing. They may take some time to adjust to sitting in a restaurant close to other diners and decide to dine in the comfort of their room.
This represents an opportunity for Hoteliers in the F&B department to reinvent the In- Room Dining experience. Creating a good atmosphere for in- room “fine dining” can offer a unique experience that differentiates your hotel with others.
2.2 Social Distancing: (F&B outlets) – re-draw your F&B floor plan(s) so that there is a minimum of 1.5 – 2.0 meters (or more) between tables. Re-check local regulations on the details for compliance. Then, you can communicate this action to the rest of the F&B team for guests to be aware of.
2.3 Social Distancing (Common Areas) – like we mentioned above, consider the common area floor plan of your hotel and redraw the public space to account for social distancing requirements especially in the Lobby, Restaurant / Lounge / Bar, Fitness, Swimming Pool and Reception (front desk) areas …
To do this properly, you may want to “simulate” (trial and error) the common areas and distancing scenario’s for furniture distribution, as well as for public toilets and change rooms etc.. Upload the information (and floor plans) to your website and social media pages to get the best PR.
During the re-opening phase, we should not be thinking about cutting room rates to attract guests back to the hotel. We know that this can hurt ADR over the long term. It’s better to be creative and reinforce the customer service experience.
Engage with existing (loyal) customers and corporate clients, using direct sales and marketing communication tools (for example – sales canvassing, email newsletter, Social Media news feed). Be consistent and employ the methodologies you’ve used before? Do not let personal relationships wane and be proactive and “data-mine” the guest portfolio, looking for segmentation and demographic opportunities to harvest new bookings - either with an incentivized rate or special re-opening package.
During the post pandemic re-opening, it’s pretty certain that most travelers may prefer to make a direct booking with the hotel simply because it’s easier to contact reservations to amend or change bookings – should anything untoward happen. Hoteliers should be prepared for this and make sure your reservation teams are trained - not only to answer, but up-sell on new booking inquiries and opportunities whether it’s by email, tele-sales, phone solicitation, reviews or by social media etc.
Finally, let’s not forget that this is a great time for Sales Teams’ to reach out to Channel (and Distribution) Partners – whether it’s your B-to-B or B-to-C agency and OTA’s to re-establish old partnerships and cultivate new ones. Since the country has been closed to International Travel for a while your contact(s) database may have become stale and some may no longer exist - so it’s time to kick start and warm up the relationship cycle once more.
Based on a phased approach to re-opening, which we discussed in our first blog, we recommend the possibility of creating a staff roster that’s able to deliver the minimum services and amenities that guests require while staying within a phased reopening.
Although it's not ideal to operate with limited staffing, it’s an absolutely essential model that eliminates all non-essential positions at the start, and applies to all departments in the hotel - from the front desk to the executive committee to the back of the house.
This model eliminates any and all positions that are deemed non-essential and leaves only the team(s) required to fulfill guest needs in a “limited services” scenario.
The limited staffing model – like this -- should be “priced out” to achieve a daily and weekly cost of labor (for the hotel) in order to be cost efficient and tackle the subtle changes in demand as it changes over time.
Once your team has established the minimum daily labor cost for the hotel, the next step is to plug that labor cost into an overall break-even analysis for the hotel. This model should include the daily labor costs plus your fixed and variable expenses to determine a minimum daily operating cost for the hotel.
This simple analysis will provide your team with the room count and top-line revenue needed to achieve a positive cash flow. This will also give the hotel a clear understanding of the room count required to add new services and bring back staff to the operation.
It may also be helpful to calculate a break-even analysis per room and calculate the cost at which the hotel starts making money off rooms. Knowing this may allow you to be more flexible with your pricing for some potential alternative uses for the room, such as day rates for using rooms as work spaces or the cost of converting a room into interim storage for extra furniture from the hotel’s public spaces.
Clearly understanding the specific point at which the hotel makes money and the carrying costs for each room will help you make smarter financial and operational decisions.
The hotel that prepares for recovery will build strong foundations for future growth. Recover planning takes time, insights, creativity, and business-wide commitment. Start early and include a variety of business functions when brainstorming ideas to revive your business. As the market rejuvenates, remember to celebrate with your teams, your stakeholders, and your customers. We got through this together ...
Hotel’s thinking about getting ready for the reopening may like to consider Hoteliers Guru suite of Digital Marketing Services. We offer monthly subscriptions for standalone or packaged services including: Hotel Website / Direct Booking Engine / Channel Manager and Property Management System.