5 Ways to Benefit from Independent Hotel Assessments During This Worldwide Crisis
By David Nuenemann Founder & Managing Partner, Shoreline Hospitality | October 18, 2020
This article was co-authored by Andreas Acker, Founder & Partner, Shoreline Hospitality
While every hotelier is very budget conscious during this trying times and might be hesitant spending extra cash on an independent audit, the upside has to be considered as well and also the fact that a good unconstrained assessment will amortize rather quickly.
An objective view is important in every business aspect, certainly not only applicable to the hospitality industry, but particular, as most hoteliers are very passionate and passion can unfortunately often be an enemy of objectivity.
While we might have thought that we have seen the worst of this worldwide pandemic, we need to admit that this crisis is not giving in easily. International travel might be affected for the next years to come and in some instances will look entirely different. Various countries have already suggested that international tourists will not even be allowed to enter their country till 2021 to contain the spread of the pandemic.
What can a professional consultant bring to the table at this point in order to assist hoteliers to retain their position in the market and ultimately secure their business?
While a generic answer is certainly not applicable here, there are a couple of steps and examples that can be worked on now, together with a third-party, in order to succeed:
1. Strong Focus on Guest Satisfaction and Guest Feedback
The whole topic has always formed the foundation of the hospitality industry, because that's why guests do return to your hotel, resort or restaurant. Today's social media and online platforms, where guests leave their feedback for the public to read, changed our industry as we all know. Everything is out in the open and makes it very transparent how well any business is doing.
Customers digest such information before making their choice of staying or dining with you or one of your competitors instead. Whilst some decades ago it was deeply rooted in the nature of every employee, hence they have chosen that industry to be courteous and charming with the guests, wanting to make everyone welcome and to enjoy their time. Nowadays it has become more complicated to find new ways to wow your guests, come up with yet another way to stand out and to be on the forefront with the ones who would reinvent the business. In many cases that has worked, but unfortunately in some it has not.
Sometimes we have forgotten what the industry used to be all about and while pursuing new hights and come up with the latest and greatest, simple things like guest recognition - calling your guests by name because we want to - not because it is part of a procedure, solid service skills across all departments, quality of products and services and to listen carefully to guest feedback before it becomes public knowledge on a website, were considered secondary.
To get back to the very means of providing great hospitality to our guests, an honest look at your business from the outside and from your guests point of view, but with the experience of having worked in the industry, will help any business to assure that your guests get yet again what they ultimately came for.
2. Have You Adjusted Your Sales & Marketing and Communication Efforts?
The pandemic disrupted schedules, customer priorities and affected budgeted revenues heavily, along with the 2020 sales & marketing plans.
Like in any recession, many organizations are likely experiencing corporate pressure to make up for commercial sales shortfalls while simultaneously cutting costs and heads.
Unfortunately, sales & marketing is among the first areas to face expense cuts during times of economic downturns. If sales teams struggle to achieve their set tasks, more team members will find their jobs at risk when their skills are most needed.
It is only logical that corporate group and incentive travel will take the longest time (if they will ever return to 2019 highs) to recover from this crisis. Leisure travel, while temporary affected, will certainly rebound much faster. Therefore, consumer dynamics are the number one priority for every property. If your sales efforts were not focusing on leisure travel, it better becomes a focal area now in order to remain competitive and sustainable for the upcoming months or even years.
It also has to be expected that leisure travel by automobile, train or shorter fights will be a much more preferred option in the foreseeable future. Europeans will predominantly travel within Europe, Americans will travel America. Your key markets will likely be more regional than previously.
If you haven't already been active on social media channels, now is the time to start. The properties that will come out on top post this pandemic will be the ones that have put together social communication and marketing campaigns and have chosen to proactively act rather than re-act.
With all the downtime on hand, be creative and use your expert team members to communicate with your audience; offering online yoga classes, wine tastings or create an interactive blog to remain constantly visible, just to mention a few examples.
All those measures will increase your chances drastically to be among the properties that will be selected for future travel once restrictions are lifted.
3. Are Your Concepts Still Suitable?
COVID-19 has affected nearly every business around the globe and the hospitality industry is among the hardest hit. Predictions show that it could take until 2022 / 2023 to show signs of full recovery.
Therefore, all concepts of your property be it rooms, f&b or spa need to be questioned and potentially adjusted for the long run, not just temporary fixed.
Take the traditional hotel restaurant as an example; what was working previously might not work any longer. The breakfast buffet used to be the norm for 90% of the hotels, as everyone was under the impression that this is what the customer wants. In a sustainable and conscious society this hasn't been the best solution in any case and mindful consumers have started questioning the waste and hygiene aspect for a long time.
Think quality over quantity and regional, seasonal over international and permanently available. With reduced occupancy numbers an a la carte breakfast experience will in most cases be more profitable, allows for better control of hygiene measures and, if executed properly, will ultimately offer customers a more personalized experience.
Another focus area could be room service as the last months have shown a drastic increase for the delivery and takeout segment. Despite all efforts of implementing strict hygiene protocols, a lot of customers find it safer to dine in the privacy of their room than eating out in a restaurant. Offerings need to be adjusted to grasp a portion of that market share instead of having your customers simply placing an order with a competitor.
Astronomical delivery charges, a rather mediocre selection and quality need to be replaced with a proper concept in line with your target audience. Gone are the days that room service is just an add on, but has to be treated like an extension of your restaurant and bar.
4. Are Your Facilities Performing in Line With Your Occupancy?
Sometimes you see hotels or resorts that do particularly well with their room product, but then their restaurant, bar or spa facilities are not and guests get their meals or drinks elsewhere or the spa is booked with a competitor.
With reduced occupancy numbers and lower RevPAR, capture ratio becomes even more critical.
To understand why there is a problem, a very deep look into each aspect of the relevant departments is needed. Service, product, selection and quality are key but also being priced sensitive according to your guest mix and competition, which should also include your local competition of freestanding restaurants, bars and spas.
Most guests look at value for money and nowadays the discerning traveller knows what services and products ultimately cost. Hotels and resorts cannot simply charge high prices anymore just because they are rated 5 stars. If properties cannot retain their guests how can they expect to attract even local guests, which are now essential to fill up facilities year around. A good look at how food and beverages are priced is important, guests compare everything today and menus need to be in line with the competition.
Does your food menu even fit the market and is it what your guests are looking for? Does your beverage menu complement the food? The same applies to the spa menu. Quality over quantity and that at the right price is key in nowadays market.
The revenue of your facilities can and should count for a large portion of your total revenue. Facilities cannot be seen as a necessity but need to be, like the room product, a destination in itself. Getting this right is imperative and needs constant adjusting, without necessarily following every trend, but more importantly to make sure that you have a well rounded product offering across your property.
5. An Objective Look from all Angles Will Give You a Better Idea of Your Property
Why get an outside consultant to tell you everything you should already know about your property?
Owner and management teams do in general know and understand their properties well. In some instance this might not be the case, particular when a property has seen larger than usual turnover of key managers or the other extreme, the team has been on property for a very long time. Another scenario is also a complete change of management team or even management company.
In all above cases, but not limited to, a full property audit by an outside consultant is greatly beneficial.
You might have financial audits periodically already, but what about the rest of your operation? Wrong or unnecessary work processes can cost you money in other cases expired licence or insurances can even cost you much more than that. Is your restaurant and spa performing as well as it could be or are you leaving money on the table? Do you always have your full room inventory available and is it turned around in a timely matter? An independent audit will tell you how the property is performing and the input of fresh ideas usually helps the team to relook at their departments in a more critical manner, as a positive side effect.
An audit shall not just point out shortcomings, but also highlight what works well. At the same time any professional third-party assessment should come with a set of suggestions and an implementation process of what can be done to assure that your property is performing at its very best.
Getting a hotel consultant on board, particularly during times of uncertainty, changes the dynamics in your favour. With a team of seasoned hospitality consultants, with significant experience in operations, marketing and financing, a hotel consulting firm can improve work performance, identify operational needs, refine organizational communications and ultimately enhance your financial results!
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