Stephen Covey, bestselling author of 7 habits of Highly Effective people, said: “We develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity.” If he’s right, we must all have strong character muscles after this particularly difficult year.
Restaurant businesses have found new ways to bring their product to their guests via take out, drive through and drive in formats. But it’s nigh on impossible to provide a hotel room in a different way and demand has been slashed as business and leisure travellers alike have stayed home.
Yet hotels have found ways to keep going. So, have been the lessons learned?
- Cleanliness matters
Guests want to feel that they are safe. That starts with high standards of cleanliness that minimise the risks of COVID-19. COVID-19 specific cleaning guidelines that hotels tell guests about and higher frequency deep cleans, provide reassurance to guests.
New technologies have been adopted to complete the extra cleaning required as efficiently as possible. For example, some hotels are testing robot vacuum cleaners that deliver a consistently good clean to the whole room and back of house areas can use robot floor scrubbers like those used in warehouse type settings.
Nano technology has come to the fore. Application of an invisible film to surfaces and fabrics not only ensures high cleaning standards; it reduces the time to clean a room and eliminates the use of many chemicals too. Bathroom surfaces return to sparkling clean with a quick wipe over with a damp cloth when a nano technology film works its magic.
Cleaning takes up a significant portion of the wage bill during more normal times, so developments that speed up housekeeping in this period when extra cleaning is required are worth considering.
- Be flexible.
Hotels that have been understanding when guests need to change their plans are more likely to get return visits in the future. When the UK lockdown prevented my planned trips, one hotel group allowed me a full refund for my COVID-19 cancellation. A second booking with a different hotel group returned only half of my booking cost. Guess which hotel I will choose when I next need a hotel room in London?
Cashflow has been extraordinarily difficult to manage in 2020 and wanting to hang on to advance booking fees is understandable. However, it might be a short-term gain that affects future loyalty.
- Match resources to workload
Efficient hotels have reworked their operating model to reflect their revised offer and new customer expectations during these changed times. Many hotels have had to close their dining rooms, events in function rooms have been cancelled and occupancy rates have been slashed. Your tried and tested team rotas and schedules just won’t work now and as every team member hour costs money, it’s essential to right size your operating model for as long as COVID-19 continues to change our worlds.
Data is your friend when calculating how many hours you need within your revised operation. The best approach is to use a workload driven model that uses inputs like the number of rooms occupied and workstudy standards to plan the hours needed on reception, to service rooms and provide management cover. Applying the model outputs to create new rotas, whether via a workforce management system or a simpler approach will help you optimise your salary spend and deliver good guest experiences. Many workforce management solutions include a colleague engagement module, a useful route for organisations to keep in touch with their teams during a period when many are working fewer hours and the usual team huddles can’t happen.
Adversity also brings opportunity, and this is a key part for thriving in 2021. Hotels with the available cashflow have been able to complete decorating and maintenance jobs that are operationally challenging to complete when the hotel is nearing a hundred percent capacity. Disney resorts have delayed some new hotel builds that were due to start in 2020, but they continued with planned room refurbishments to get ready for their 50th anniversary in 2021. Making sure they are ready for when things are more normal should mean they are well set to cope with what could be huge pent up demand.
On a smaller scale, hotels can look to reviving some of their food and event revenues by using outside areas. Smaller hospitality outlets have started drive through shows and socially distanced open air and tented events, ideas that could be used by hotels with space.
As the business world comes back to life and people start to take leisure trips again, hotels that provide a warm and safe welcome will fill up one again. Mange your current situation carefully while keeping an eye on the future to ensure a successful 2021.