While I don’t know how long the COVID-19 lockdown will last, it will mean that your hotel will experience big ripples for quite some time as customer behavior has already changed in some rather peculiar ways. Beyond having a brutally effective cleaning and employee hygiene program in place, you can use this downtime to expand how your property utilizes technologies in order to ensure a smooth transition back to normal operations.
Most of the immediate adaptions pertain to how you can maximize productivity from a leaner team during this low-occupancy period as well as guarantee proper service delivery during the inevitable ramp-up.
Below are several significant opportunities identified where technology can help:
- Management software for various operations can be deployed to optimize service delivery even during minimal staffing periods
- Many systems now have offsite access capabilities so that managers can work remotely if there is a concern about coming into the office
- Hotel-oriented call centers can link into your PMS so guests can speak with a reservationist at any hour, rather than getting voicemail because a barebones front desk team has other fires to put out
- CRMs must be effectively utilized by your sales team to reassure groups with incentives to prevent attrition of contracts as they opt to postpone or find better deals elsewhere, as well as to maintain the relationship during these trying times
- Business intelligence platforms will enable your revenue managers to see any forthcoming rate gouging in real time and make better decisions as to how to adjust appropriately
- Videoconferencing solutions allow remote team members to join a group session and are worth promoting for small-scale offsite corporate retreats
While this drop can be seen as a time to scramble for business, it may also counterintuitively give you a breather to finally set up those software integrations that will take your operational efficiency to the next level. After all, most hotels have fewer guests in-house, so you have time to work out all the kinks that come along with a new platform or a significant update to a current system.
But even with great operational support, you still need to find new customers to make up for the revenue shortfalls that may linger even after lockdowns and business restrictions are lifted. And it may even require a renewed focus on your local constituency, with your restaurant and spa acting as bright spots over the next few months. Staycations are de rigueur for now until fall when hopefully we are back up to speed.
With a nimble focus on local and the short-term, the prudent course for this summer is to utilize digital marketing channels like Facebook, Google AdWords and Instagram (for the younger demographics) to see what you can stir up, in addition to any internal paid advertising vectors for TripAdvisor or the OTAs where you have a presence.
Hotels have ridden a pretty strong growth curve over the past decade, but all parties have to end sometime. With the same solutions that have worked in the past less effective in the next few months, owners will be looking to you for frank appraisals of the situation and suitable plans to mitigate losses. This means a steady hand and staying optimistic about how new processes, technologies or innovation can help your hotel stay afloat.
Ultimately, COVID-19 is hardly the death of our industry, but it is a wakeup call, just as the 2008 recession was as well. This too shall pass!