Everyone agrees that 2020 has been the "annus horribilis" for the world and in particular the hotel industry. However, despite having to tackle unprecedented challenges, many companies grasped that the crisis also presented a unique opportunity to re-invent and re-imagine their business. In the long run, therefore, the pandemic may have some positive consequences as well as negative ones.
In response to the challenges of 2020, what is the single most important change that you implemented that you believe not only helped you get through the past year but that you also expect to maintain as part of your post-pandemic "new normal”?
This was certainly the year I wish our industry never had to go through. Though personally, I believe living through September 11 in New York City was a scarier time, the COVID-19 pandemic had a far worse financial impact on our industry. At the time, I assumed the September 11 attacks were the worst event I would ever navigate through, but I was wrong.
We implemented a lot of changes to help us get through the pandemic, and most of them I hope we never have to do again! Like closing almost all our hotels, laying off 95% of our work force, cutting salaries as much as 50% for employees who were still working, negotiating payment plans with vendors who were owed money for goods delivered, and many other extreme measures to help us make it to the other side. Fortunately, we are starting to see some glimpses of that other side, and our plan to make it through a reality.
One area we really accelerated due to the pandemic was technology and innovation, specifically the introduction of contactless technologies and solutions on multiple fronts, including remote check-in, QR codes for restaurant menus, and, my all-time favourite, the introduction of Alfred the Robot at Dream Hollywood! The robot technology of delivering items to guest rooms really works and saves on labor expense. These are innovations we were eager to explore pre-pandemic, and they are all here to stay at Dream Hotel Group.