‘Overreact’ advised for contingency planning

Decisions made today to protect your team, guests and bottom line should be done quickly, and overreaction can be used as a rule of thumb, according to one veteran hotelier.

Here is what hoteliers told us last week about what they are doing to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. And if you missed what hoteliers said the want to change when it is time for an industry reset, click here.

HOTELS: What is the most effective contingency plan you have enacted to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19?

Leland Pillsbury, chairman TenX Healthcare; director, Thayer Ventures Fort Lauderdale, Florida

“Having been through several other dislocations…the first Gulf War, 9/11, 2008, et al, my first comment is, ‘You can’t move too quickly and you can’t overreact.’ What seems drastic today may well be inadequate in a short period of time as the situation deteriorates further. That forces deeper, more painful cuts in a second round.

“Do everything possible to reduce uncertainty by putting the business on a ‘war footing’ that can withstand prolonged loss of revenues. In addition to reducing the operating costs to the maximum extent possible, raise capital early. Draw down unused credit lines, borrow where feasible, extend accounts payable terms, accelerate A/R efforts, and take any and all steps to horde cash.

“Be fully transparent with your partners, lenders, suppliers and customers. Disclosure is your friend. No one wants to see your business fail, and most people will do whatever they can to support you if you are up front with them.

“Going forward after the crisis has past, become more transparent and build ‘slack’ into your business model to be able to absorb shocks to the system.”

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Spokesperson, Radisson Hotel Group, Minnetonka, Minnesota

“We are committed to our owner-centric philosophy… We are very mindful of the cost and burdens this has placed on our hotel owners and operators. We have announced several measures to ease the economic strain on our hotels.

“For our Americas franchised hotels, this includes allowing complete or partial closure of food and beverage outlets, fitness centers and pools. At this time, we are providing a 12-month extension on both brand standard compliance and all PIP items due or overdue in the 2020 calendar year. We have waived administrative and initial franchise fees for renewal of license agreements expiring through December 31, 2021, and we have waived our monthly revenue optimization consultant fees for all participating hotels for the months of March and April 2020. We have also postponed all QPR inspections.”

Puneet Chhatwal, managing director, CEO, The Indian Hotels Co. Ltd., Mumbai

“Clear systems and processes have been deployed across the organization with well-defined ownership and escalation matrix to immediately identify and respond to any potential incident at any of our hotels.”

Brad Walker, vice president, GM, The Brown Hotel, Louisville, Kentucky

“During a crisis, it is easy to rush into a decision and regret later. Our management team came up with a plan to help ease the concerns of our customers and staff. In both situations, honest and immediate communication has been key.

“We created an employee newsletter to keep our staff continually aware of the hotel’s decision-making and latest updates to stabilize the situation. Through this newsletter, we answered their questions about employment and new upgrades to safety procedures while also reassuring them that we are all here for each other during this difficult time.”

Geoff Ballotti, president, CEO, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Parsippany, New Jersey

“Continuing to demonstrate an unwavering support for our franchisees by waiving finance charges, eliminating certain fees and easing requirements to help them keep costs down while continuing to prioritize the health and safety of their guests and employees.”

Ivan Hu, communication, New Century Hotels & Resorts, Hangzhou, China

“Kaiyuan Hotel Group launched a special cancel policy; reduced management fee for owners all over the country; strengthened disinfection and cleaning; established a real-time epidemic notification mechanism; made full use of the existing self-service check-in system, self-service supermarket and robot to promote contactless services.” 

Nakul Anand, executive director, ITC Hotels, Kolkata, India

“Prevention is better than cure. That serves as the guiding mantra to all of us in this hour. ITC Green Centre—ITC Hotels corporate office continues to monitor the situation very closely. The recommended procedures and protocols by the World Health Organization are being followed at our hotels.

“At the corporate level, a cross functional senior management group comprising of operations head, area managers, chief microbiologist, technical services head and doctors among other key members along with hygiene experts, are engaged 24/7 with the operations team to provide guidance and specific solutions to the situation at hand, for both associates and guests.

“The corporate team is in consistent touch with the hotel team pan India, through regular briefings and sharing updates on enhanced operating protocol.”

Steve Kirby, managing principal, Mumford Co., Buford, Georgia

“Staggered staffing to limit unneeded interaction.”