Industry Update
Opinion Article28 April 2020

Ten Step Rx for the Hotel Pandemic

By Larry Mogelonsky, Managing Director Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited

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COVID-19 dominates the airwaves, newspapers, internet and our lives. It's time for us to start strategizing and planning for reopening, even though the timetable is uncertain at this point.

The reality is that it is not business as usual and it may not be for the next few years. There will be challenges ahead. For this, it is almost equivalent of a completely new hotel launch insofar as growing product awareness and staffing. Best to under-promise and over-deliver.

I've put together this basic rubric for your approach. The task is daunting and naturally will vary based upon the type of property you own or manage.

  1. Define your primary product.
    Be laser focused. You no longer can appeal to everyone as it will not work or will be too expensive for you to execute, at least for your initial start-up phase.
  2. Define your asset and staffing requirements to execute this primary focus.
    Zero-base your staff. For example, you may not open your conference center in the first year after opening. Alternately, your spa or one of your dining establishments may stay closed.
  3. Add your cleaning and disinfecting expenses.
    Your base plan will probably include double the cleaning resources you were accustomed to. Figure at a minimum a 50% increase in housekeeping labour and a 100% increase in supplies. Remember to add appropriate signage and take advantage of 'cleanliness theater'.
  4. Add technology that minimizes guest-staff interactions and improves efficiency.
    Anyone who is not yet using automated concierge, guest messaging and housekeeping management software should immediately investigate solutions. The demand for these programs will outstrip their ability to turn around installations quickly. Don't forget financial software that can help to reduce paperwork for a faster and leaner accounting team.
  5. Retrain your team about keeping their distance with guests.
    This runs counter to the traditional 'close to customer' mantra. Understand PCSD (Post-Coronavirus Stress Disorder) and the implications for servicing guests. Chances are many will want to keep their distance.
  6. Manage opening slowly, starting with your local market.
    Engage your nearby community first, then move out to the rubber tire market. Leisure will typically start with staycations and weekend getaways with a short booking window. Reinforce your in-room dining experience. Lever social media and manage your communications geographically. Understand your guests' fear. Be generous with your cancellation policies.
  7. Evaluate corporate opportunities to gain preferred customers.
    Don't be afraid to secure business through packaging such amenities as breakfast and parking as required. This allows you to protect rate. Remember that cleanliness and quality now many outrank price in terms of property selection.
  8. Bring back the white glove treatment.
    Remember those old 1940s photos of waiters with white gloves? Fits perfectly with the times, especially in your restaurant where there many be lingering fears of strangers touching one's food. Fill every second table or reduce their number to increase the spacing.
  9. Probe group business gently.
    Chances are smaller group - targeted on a local basis - might still work. Coincidentally, invest in large screens and sound systems for meeting rooms so that videoconferencing can be enabled.
  10. Once one segment is on track, add more.
    Follow this same approach for every successive segment that you undertake. Test continuously. For example, you may wish to reconsider your approach to weddings or citywide events.

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