The recent COVID-19 pandemic has brought chaos to the tourism and hospitality industry. Some Governments blocking both inbound and outbound travel, airlines grounding entire fleets of aircraft and international hotel chains furloughing tens of thousands of employees worldwide – this is not a happy state of affairs.
However, in true hospitality style, the show must go on. Our industry always puts on a good show. One of substance; a show of strength, a show of kindness, a show of true service. I was once running a dinner service for a packed restaurant on New Year’s Eve and a guest came up to me afterwards and told me:
“Watching your staff was like watching a swan swimming across a lake, so calm, peaceful, elegant, serene, and yet, I am sure, underneath everyone was paddling like mad to get through the very long day and night”.
It was true...hotel work is hard core. Long hours, the strange eating patterns, the hot kitchens and not to mention aching feet, but we always smile and pull through – we put on a show, we dance like a swan on a lake.
I see COVID-19 being like the swan. The knee-jerk reaction is to panic, is to feel like one is drowning and believe there is no way out. However, if we keep paddling, if we keep working hard, stay calm and be the beautiful swans our guests see when they come and stay with us, we will recover.
So, how do we survive during this time of COVID-19?
Keep it up – literally
The first response would be to drop rates. This may seem like a way to get more business through the doors but in reality, even if a price drop was appealing to some guests to make them travel, most probably would not be able to get to you anyway with the travel restrictions in place. The guests who can travel are not looking for cheaper rates, they need to travel anyway and want an amazing guest experience during this difficult time. Dropping prices will only be hurtful to the entire industry – it is not sustainable and will be difficult to bring it back up again.
Gin distilleries, beer producers and fashion outlets are all diversifying in this current climate, switching focus from drinks to sanitizers and handbags to face masks. For hotels, it is about turning your restaurants into take-away joints and converting packages for tourists into "quarantine havens" for locals. Offer options for prospective guests in your own city, and give focused, targeted promotions to these guests only and adapt to the market needs to continue to bring that cash-flow in.
Whether it is a robot to deliver items without human contact, or IPTV to order room service, technology in situations like these, help to ease the situation. By using a Service optimization platform, including Knowcross, even with reduced staffing levels guest service does not have to suffer.
Use a system that allows you to automate guest requests long before they check-in, prioritize room cleaning sequences so guests do not wait for rooms, eliminate phone calls and save paper – every little bit helps. Don’t forget this down-time is also the perfect period to train staff in a new system that will not only reduce costs, but raise the guest experience.
I am positive that with the steps above the hospitality industry will remain resilient and come back as strong as ever. You may be paddling underneath the water right now, but at least you look like a beautiful swan now and in times to come.