Now more than ever, everyone should be reminded of the Latin saying, ‘audaces fortuna iuvat,’ translating to ‘fortune favours the bold.’ With everyone fighting for a piece of the local, drive and domestic markets prior to the reopening of international borders, it is time for you to consider those steps that you can truly differentiate your property beyond mere price discounts.
Ever the optimist, I want to see all properties thrive as they adapt to this new normal. 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 as there are great lessons here for every senior manager. I trust that you have spent some time reflecting on this 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. These you should already have ‘in the bag’ as they will be the expectation for all incoming guests.
Once you have those handled and properly ingrained into your new SOPs for all teams, what comes next? How do you stand out? As for the opening phase, this is your chance to take some real risk. And compared to previous months, 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…or have to return to it in autumn for the ‘second wave.’ The next and real step, though, would be to boldly reduce total meeting time and start delegating responsibilities.
Secondly, 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. Make those operational technology improvements part of your CapEx plans, but then go a step beyond and ask how you can deliver service with a smile in a contactless world. What bold steps will you take to make guests feel truly special while abiding by social distancing rules?
For individual travelers, be resistive to rate reductions as driving occupancy is of lesser importance in the near-term. All guests understand that costs are mounting from new COVID procedures. As well, it makes little sense to push rates down when you have volume restrictions. Thus, the marketing term ‘value-added’ has never meant more. The lesson here is to give your customers experiences that bring out all that you can do during this transitionary period and not just rooms.
Group business is going to be a particular challenge. Think about the impact of physical 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 and not having different groups encounter each other when they are in-house together.
Review your conference room audio/visual 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 stepping stone 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.