Every article we write tends to start with a sentence or two pleading with the gods for the pandemic to end. But second waves, third waves, Delta, Omicron and whatever else the virus has up its sleeve has thus far gotten in the way. Now, though, there are the early signs that this summer will witness a proper easing of travel restrictions, combined with the increasingly popular sentiment to just be done with it.
How do senior hotel executives prepare the end the pandemic? What will travel demand look like as restrictions are lifted? Where do owners invest their capital, especially now that holding cash doesn’t bear fruit in an inflationary world? These are some of the questions we’ve helped address for our clients, and while each property is facing different challenges we have five general tips for you to consider out of the gates.
First, though, is the hard pill. Corporate and group sales won’t be coming back online in healthy quantities for 2022. Groups will be smaller and more last-minute while companies have pivoted to a more permanent usage of videoconferencing because the cost savings are too great to ignore.
With this in mind, the immediate post-pandemic is largely still a leisure game. Nevertheless, it’s now time to re-examine your core strategies and take a hard look at your plans for the long-term. Think revenge travel, a genuine resumption of international flights and more normalized labor. While not professing to have any magic formula, we see the following themes or guidelines for your consideration.
1. Get back to real marketing
By this, we mean finding ways to engage customers, generate loyalty and initiate trial. Endlessly dumping hard-earned dollars into paid search to purchase your own name or improve placement ahead of the OTAs is wasteful. OTA customers are just that. Your best chance to convert is on any repeat stay. Instead, take that money and plow it back into making every guest an ambassador. Focus on your local community and opportunities to build a core following.
2. The pandemic has not eliminated short-term rentals
These booking sources are now your core competitor for any guest under 40. Learn about what they offer in your market. Make sure your website delivers the similar expertise on your local sites and happenings. Consider loading some inventory into this new distribution channel.
3. Make sure you’ve learned how to survive with lean teams
We’ve written several articles on how to get the most out of your management team through technology adaptation and plain old smarter work habits. Don’t fall into the trap of adding management as per past practices. Stay trim and reward those on your core team appropriately. Treat your line staff with the respect (and remuneration) they deserve. Reward loyalty with recognition.
4. It’s all about profits not occupancy
While this goes in the face of classic revenue management, revenue per guest (TRevPAR) should be your focus rather than occupancy levels (RevPAR). Depending on your service offering, this may lead to big changes in your approach to building your segment pricing stack and promotional considerations.
5. What has your brand done for you lately?
While you’ve been struggling with survival through tough times, the hotel brands (as witnessed by their share price growth over the past 18-24 months) have not suffered. What support are they giving your franchise? Only when you ask shall you receive.
If the fundamentals of your business are strong, you will do wonders this summer as customer confidence surges. Real recovery is coming, and those who prepare will reap the appropriate rewards, so start planning for the end of the pandemic right now and feel free to reach out to us for help.
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