The COVID-19 pandemic has posed immense challenges to every single industry, but none have been hit as hard as the travel industry. While individual communities find ways to manage the curve and resume some level of normality, we haven’t seen any signs of travel reaching the levels it was at pre-COVID. However, this does not have to mean doom and gloom for the hospitality industry. While many hotels have closed their doors, others have found innovative and creative ways to re-ignite demand by adapting to the new climate. There are three main ideas that are essential to survival in this post-COVID market: cut cost, adapt, and think outside the box.
Cutting costs is the most immediate course of action for a hotel that has seen occupancy rates drop dramatically. This often means reducing staff but it’s also about improving operational costs overall.
Platform technology can be an excellent way to facilitate fast communication between your guests and employees to ensure that all of their needs are met immediately. It allows you to track your employees at all times to keep on top of cleaning, social distancing, and other essential duties. Most importantly, it allows you to respond to customer requests quickly so that you don’t have to go above and beyond trying to predict their needs. Having a chatbot, in-room-tablet, or application tells your guests that you want to hear from them and that they can ask you for anything at any time.
If you decide to conduct renovations, using an online platform like HotelFurniture.com (HF) rather than paying a contractor or trying to do it yourself can save you a lot of time and money. HF allows you to skip the design firm altogether, choose from brand-approved design schemes, customize your rooms, and get a quote all in one day. HF then takes care of brand-approval, item order, and shipment, cutting the project timeline in half or more.
Adaptability in the face of this crisis takes on many forms. You need to adapt the way you run, design, and clean your hotel. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you need your business to remain flexible as the situation changes because uncertainty is the only certainty at this point. For example, it’s important to divide up social spaces within your hotel, creating smaller gathering spaces a comfortable distance from each other. However, these spaces need to be flexible and mobile so that when restrictions are reduced they can be brought back together.
Peoples’ inability to get together safely indoors has created a massive increase in demand for year-round outdoor space. Investing in outdoor heaters, high-speed wifi outdoors, and possibly projection screens will allow you to offer outdoor meeting spaces for businesses and guests. Some hotels have even constructed heated outdoor domes for private dining. Invest in the technology that you can, and think of ways that these technologies can continue to support and benefit you after the pandemic. Creating comfortable and cozy outdoor spaces that are perfect for intimate gatherings or business meetings will increase your capacity for reservations even after all restrictions are gone.
Rather than allowing guests to cancel reservations, change your policy so that they can instead move the date of their stay. When people don’t have to fly to get to a hotel, this won’t feel as much of a nuisance.
The next focus needs to be looking for a new demographic. You are no longer appealing primarily to international guests who have come from far and wide to see your hotel and the community. Your new focus is the local customer. Hotels have adapted beautifully by enlisting work-from-hotel initiatives that provide a comfortable work environment for community members whose offices have shut down. High-speed-internet, comfortable office chairs, a decent-sized desk, and an in-room coffee machine can sound very attractive to somebody trying to work from home. You can also show your awareness of guests’ needs and consideration for their safety by including a hand-sanitizer and a basic face mask in the welcome package. This communicates right away that your hotel cares about cleanliness and sanitation.
People are tired of being locked up and crave a vacation, but they’re not comfortable traveling far yet. Brand yourself as a safe and comfortable place to ‘staycation’, where guests can relax and enjoy amenities that they don’t have at home. Amenities will likely no longer be enjoyed in shared spaces, so it’s important to bring them to the guest room. For example, exercise equipment ordered to the room, in-room gaming consoles available, or an in-room movie theatre experience provided, complete with classic movie treats. Focus your advertizements on the incredible beds, soft sheets, and gorgeous views that will make down-the-street feel like across the globe.
We all have to take it day-by-day and accept the constantly changing situation, but the hotels that manage to implement decisive and efficient innovations will be equipped to make it through this uncertainty. Cut costs, take advantage of new technologies, think local, and be creative. Monitor the COVID situation in your city, and communicate to your guests that you are keeping on top of threat levels, monitoring daily changes, and constantly adapting and increasing cleaning protocols.