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Let’s face it, the countless 2020 industry predictions we read in December 2019 did not prepare us for this. Business school, quite frankly, couldn’t prepare us for this. Hoteliers, a few mere months ago, found themselves facing the year ahead with unbridled optimism. We relished in the promise of continued innovation, while hotels were poised to welcome an influx of eager travelers, and revenue projections boasted an upward trajectory. And now? We find ourselves in uncharted territory, facing — arguably — more uncertainty than we ever have before. 

Not to say COVID-19 is the first pandemic to impact the hospitality realm, far from it. However, COVID-19 has, in many ways, created the perfect storm, its economic impact spreading far and wide as borders are shut down, and emergency protocols are implemented. In many ways, the world has come to a grinding halt, and hospitality is no exception. Hotel occupancy and airline travel have, understandably, plummeted, and many casinos and hotels are shutting down entirely for an undetermined amount of time.

However, amidst these uncertain times, it’s crucial to remember that this crisis is temporary.

Some forward-thinking management companies are using this lull as an opportunity to get projects done that are easier to accomplish with low occupancy. Things like installing a beacon network for an employee safety solution or updating their other systems to future-proof their business against future disruptions.

In short, there does exist a silver lining. 

The Time You Never Had, You Have Now

Admittedly, we’ve all recently had a relative or friend suggest the productive use of this time, which many of us are dutifully spending in self-isolation. Common ideas include; finally starting the project you never otherwise had time for, reading a book, cleaning out the closet, reorganizing the house, or perhaps even learning a new language or adopting a new hobby. The logic is undeniably sound — we so often complain that there aren’t enough hours in the day, but now we suddenly have an influx of time. The only question that remains is, how can we best utilize it?

Now, shouldn’t the same reasoning apply to the hospitality realm? As industry leaders, are there ways we can leverage this period of low occupancy? The answer, undeniably, is yes. 

As hotels look to update their operational infrastructure and steadily shift many of their primary platforms from legacy technology to new-age solutions throughout the year, they often run into a dilemma of timing. The implementation of a new platform (or in some cases, a total technological overhaul) is often time-consuming, and the training of staff can pose a potential disruption to hotel operations. The same applies, of course, for physical renovations or updates to the property, which could impact the guest experience. Understandably, this means that ‘high-season’ typically isn’t the best time to approach any major renovations, whether technical or property-specific. 

And so, an opportunity presents itself. As hotel occupancy dwindles around the globe, properties can tackle projects that are easier to accomplish with low occupancy. This could include the temporary closure of low-traffic areas of hotels (such as F&B outlets), the reduction of costs and staff for non-essential projects and travel, or installing much-needed technology updates such as employee safety devices.

Planning for the Future

We may not have asked for this down period, but we have to play the cards that we’ve been dealt. More importantly, though, is the continued understanding that these circumstances are ultimately temporary. While the evolution and associated timelines of the COVID-19 pandemic are still unclear, there will come a time (whether in two months or six months) when we return to normalcy. Hotels will once again welcome an influx of guests, airports will be busy with travelers in transit, and businesses and consumers alike will once again embrace life as we’ve always known it. Those exciting predictions we had for 2020? Well, they might be paused temporarily, but they will once again be within our grasp. For now, we simply have to keep our eyes trained on that future and, subsequently, we have to find ways to ‘future-proof’ our business. 

 Hoteliers, ask yourself the following:

  1. Can you use this time to go over your operational structure in granular detail?
  2. Can you determine any holes in your service offering and, better yet, formulate a plan to mitigate those service gaps once occupancy increases proactively? 
  3. Can you improve staff training, update staff, and guest resources, develop new offerings, and perform deep cleans and maintenance tasks that have otherwise been neglected? 
  4. Can you offer support and value to your staff and guests? 
  5. Can you perform competitor research?
  6. How can you ensure you hit the ground running when this is all said and done?


Moreover, use this time to get creative, laying the foundation for the marketing initiatives which will guide your property to success once the pandemic has passed. Right now, we are all enduring the same challenges on a global scale. And although travel might currently be off the table, your audience is still there, listening. If anything, they are paying closer attention than ever before. Ultimately, those brands which utilize this time to proactively improve upon their offering, support their community, and emerge a market leader, are sure to make a swift recovery.

 
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28th April 2020

 

The tourism sector needs to be prepared for considerable changes in consumer demands when restrictions are lifted and demand for travel returns. In particular, the lodging industry needs to be prepared for guests now demanding the highest levels of hygiene and sanitation, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Ralph Hollister, Travel & Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Post-COVID-19, consumers will be likely to place as much importance on hotel hygiene standards as they will on price and location. Fears over contracting the virus will live on far after the pandemic is over. Due to the large scale of many hotels, they naturally encourage gatherings of large amounts of people in relatively confined spaces. Guests will be hyper aware of this fact when hotels re-open.”

According to GlobalData’s COVID-19 consumer survey, 85% of global respondents are either ‘extremely’ or ‘quite’ concerned about the global outbreak of COVID-19.

Hollister continues: “Hotels need to determine a plan of action for deep-cleaning hotel guest rooms, meeting spaces, front desks, restaurants, fitness centers and other public areas. Good hotel hygiene policies need to be implemented across the board such as implementing hand sanitizer stations in convenient locations and ensuring the frequent cleaning of high-touch areas.

“Problems may occur for multinational hotel companies that franchise a high number of their hotels. If ongoing support and training to franchisees is not regular and concise to help them fully grasp new hygiene protocols and operations, standards may fluctuate between hotels, which will create a negative impact on a company’s image.”

 
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – (April 27, 2020) – The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) today launched “Safe Stay,” an initiative focused on enhanced hotel cleaning practices, social interactions, and workplace protocols to meet the new health and safety challenges and expectations presented by COVID-19. Safe Stay will seek to change hotel industry norms, behaviors and standards to ensure both hotel guests and employees are confident in the cleanliness and safety of hotels once travel resumes.

“Every hotel guest and employee should know that their health and safety are our top priority,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA. “Safe Stay represents a new level of focus for an industry already built on cleanliness. Hotels have always had rigorous standards for cleaning and safety. With Safe Stay we are enhancing these standards to help create peace of mind. When travel resumes, hotels will be ready to safely welcome back the traveling public.”

AHLA has convened the Safe Stay Advisory Council of industry leaders representing all segments of the hotel industry, who will work in conjunction with public health experts, scientists, and medical leaders to develop a series of best practices for the industry, including the following:

*             Enhanced cleaning standards throughout the hotel, including guest rooms, meeting spaces, common areas, and back-of-house spaces

*             Superior cleaning products with a greater concentration of bacteria-killing ingredients, in accordance with CDC guidelines

*             Social distancing practices and reducing person-to-person contact

*             Increased transparency throughout the guest journey

The Safe Stay Advisory Council enhanced guidelines will soon be released at www.ahla.com/SafeStay <http://www.ahla.com/SafeStay> .

Council members include representatives from the world’s largest hotel companies:

*             Accor

*             Aimbridge Hospitality

*             Best Western Hotels & Resorts

*             Choice Hotels International

*             G6 Hospitality LLC

*             Hilton

*             Hyatt Hotels Corporation

*             InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)

*             Loews Hotels & Co.

*             Marriott International

*             My Place Hotels

*             Noble Investment Group, LLC

*             Omni Hotels & Resorts

*             Radisson Hotel Group

*             Red Lion Hotels Corporation

*             Red Roof

*             Wyndham Hotels & Resorts

 
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ATLANTA — April 24, 2020 — Atlanta-based Hotel Equities(HE), hotel ownership, management and development firm, announced the establishment of their HElp Fund as part of its internal relief and support initiatives created to assist its associates and communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund is dispersed based on Hotel Equities associate needs in the U.S. and Canada. “This is an unprecedented time which requires an unprecedented response to support our associates and the communities we serve,” said Brad Rahinsky, president and CEO of Hotel Equities.

For more information on the HElp Fund, visit www.hotelequities.com.

 
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Washington D.C. (April 23, 2020)— As COVID-19 continues to devastate the hotel industry, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) released new data today showing that 70 percent of hotel employees have been laid off or furloughed as eight in 10 hotel rooms across the nation remain empty.

 

As this crisis progresses beyond what anyone could have projected, the impact to the travel industry is nine times worse than 9/11, with forecasted occupancy rates for 2020 hitting record lows worse than rates in 1933 during the Great Depression.

 

“With the impact to the travel industry nine times worse than September 11, the human toll of this public health crisis has been absolutely devastating for the hotel industry. For the hotel industry our priority is rehiring and retaining our hardworking employees who power our vibrant industry,” said Chip Rogers, President and CEO of AHLA. “Hotels were one of the first industries affected by the pandemic and will be one of the last to recover. The CARES Act was an important first step with a lot of supportive measures for the hotel industry, but we need Congress to make important changes to the program to reflect the current economic reality and help the employees in the industries that have been impacted the most.”

 

Due to the dramatic downturn in travel, properties that remain open are operating with minimal staffing. On average, full-service hotels are using 14 employees, down from 50 before the crisis. Resort hotels, which often operate seasonally based on the area’s peak tourism months, averaged about 90 employees per location as recently as March 13, are down to an average of five employees per resort today.

 

The key findings of the report include:Impact to travel industry 9x worse than 9/11. (Tourism Economics)

  • 50% revenue decline (projected) for entirety of 2020 (Oxford Economics)
  • Eight in 10 hotel rooms are empty. (STR)
  • 2020 is projected to be the worst year on record for hotel occupancy. (CBRE)
  • Forecasted occupancy rate for 2020 worse than 1933 during the Great Depression. (CBRE)
  • 70% of hotel employees laid off or furloughed. (Oxford Economics and Hotel Effectiveness)
  • $2.4 billion in weekly lost wages due to the crisis (Oxford Economics and Hotel Effectiveness)
  • Nearly 3.9 million total hotel-supported jobs lost since the crisis began (Oxford Economics)

 

As travel halted in late February, the hotel industry took immediate action to work with the White House and Congress to help hotel industry employees and small business operators, which represent 61 percent of hotel properties in the U.S.

 

“The hotel industry is at a critical juncture. We need more resources to survive this unprecedented time,” said Rogers. “Additional funding is vital for small business owners across America, including tens of thousands of small business hoteliers, to help them keep their doors open and rehire and retain millions of employees.”

Click here to AHLA’s most recent industry impact report.

 

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