Industry Update
Opinion Article 8 June 2020

Boldly Getting Back To Business

By Larry Mogelonsky, Managing Director Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited

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Like most of you, I am chomping at the bit to get back to work. Ever the optimist, I want to see all of my clients' properties start to churn their respective wheels of operation. But before we all flip the sign from closed to open, let's stop for a minute and ask what this closure has taught us.

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There are great lessons here for every senior manager. I trust that you have spent some time reflecting upon what you would like to see, and less time rewriting your revenue forecasts endlessly without any meaningful purpose.

There are numerous scenarios that have been written on how to reopen, what steps to take, how to reorient your team and, importantly, how to reassure your guests for their health and safety. Fact is, the world has changed and it may never go back to the way it was prior to the shutdown. So, the ball is in your court. How are you going to serve your hotel to the public?

Now more than ever, everyone should be reminded of the saying, 'audaces fortuna iuvat', translated from Latin as 'fortune favours the bold'. It is time for you to consider those steps that you can take to build your property, reinforcing its key benefits and perhaps adding some new ones.

Here is your chance to take some real risk. And compared to previous month, chances are you're going to look like a hero if you do.

I imagine that Zoom or other videoconferencing platforms are already in use for communications amongst your executive committee and perhaps even amongst your departmental staff. Don't be surprised if you continue this approach as a precautionary measure. You might even find this to be an efficient way moving forward for all group discussions. The next and real step would be to boldly reduce total meeting time and start delegating responsibilities.

Next, contactless communication is now a very important part of your tech stack. Chart your guests' journeys through your property and find ways to improve efficacy while allowing the guest to choose the level of interpersonal contact they are comfortable with. Be bold and make those operational technology improvements you have put into your capex plans. If need be, fund the investment through the savings realized by lower ad spends, which will probably be less demanding in the post-COVID marketing landscape.

For individual travelers, be resistive to rate reductions as driving occupancy is of lesser importance in the near-term. Your costs are going to be higher (increased sanitization isn't cheap), and social distancing in public areas might also be required. It makes little sense to push rates down when you have volume restrictions.

Thus, the marketing term 'value-added' have never meant more. The lesson here is to be bold with leisure rates, but make sure that you give your customers experiences and not just rooms.

Group business is going to be a particular challenge. Think about impact of social distancing on your facilities. Your boardroom's capacity may have to be adjusted. Consider reworking your configuration charts for your conference center to reflect the six-foot distance requirement. Review your conference room audiovisual program and design spaces that encourage meetings that provide videoconferencing. Change your meeting room set up to include bottled water (not pitchers), PPE and, of course, that quintessential pad and pen. Redo your group F&B programs to have plated selections in lieu of any buffets. I challenge your sales team to be bold and come up with a coronavirus meeting program. And once you have it, promote it.

Many weddings have been put on hold. This is frustrating for the brides, grooms and their families. It is difficult to say when the restrictions on larger gatherings will be relaxed. Don't count on it happening in 2020, although there may be more shotgun weddings this fall as well as more elopements to sun destinations come winter. Still, don't give up on this segment just yet. Look at selling 'intimate nuptials' and consider pre-honeymoon packages. For this, be bold and create a new way to retrofit this market segment to the current trends.

I'm interested in hearing how you will make COVID the steppingstone to a better property with meaningful financial results. It's an incredible time to be a senior executive in hospitality because all ideas are on the table.

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