Today, nearly every hotel around the globe faces the same question: how do we start again?
As governments announce plans for lifting lockdown and steps toward resuming daily life start to take shape, hotels face the shared challenge of designing and executing rebound strategies in a moment when the details remain unknown. We don’t know when, but we trust brighter days lie ahead and that now is the time to prepare. A thoughtful plan, one that includes shared goals, nuanced strategy and flexibility within its framework, could make all the difference.
As I push myself to remain optimistic and reflect on past experience to draw from, I see parallels between the questions our industry faces today and the stressful moments of a hotel’s pre-opening. I recall moments when the number of questions grew faster than the number of answers. When the to-do list was miles long but the team felt too small to make it happen. When the details our lives seemed to teeter on (construction timelines, system configuration dates, TCO paperwork) remained out of direct control despite decision deadlines coming and going.
Of the many lessons I learned in the depths of pre-opening, five points ring true today.
5 Tips for Revenue Managing the Rebound:
- Draft a plan. Outline a toolbox of levers you can pull at each phase of recovery. Identify checkpoints and thresholds that trigger your next action. That could mean dates, levels of website activity, bands of occupancy, or other indicators that matter for your business. Play out a handful of potential scenarios to avoid being thrown off by setbacks to come. Allow for flexibility within your plan’s framework so the team can quickly adjust based on new developments that impact your timeline.
- Layer the base. It’s clear that every country, region, city, and hotel will have its own timeline for recovery so it would be counterproductive to suggest a one-size-fits-all approach. That said, base business, if layered wisely, is sure to provide a necessary foundation. While the timeline for capturing base will differ, a few simple rules should be considered. Use your data to guide you. Study your geographical source markets. Target those with a higher likelihood of travel to your location, factoring in both domestic and international restrictions. Review your distribution strategy line by line. Channel by channel. Rate plan by rate plan. Consider your cancellation terms. Consider additional fees.
- Price smart. Take this opportunity to revisit your pricing strategy. Review both public and fenced rate plan pricing. Review your room type pricing strategy. Ensure your setup is as dynamic as possible. Price to sell, but be sure to avoid devaluing your product.
- Think outside the walls of your role. Cross-functional information and idea sharing is as important now as ever before. Find time for shared brainstorming. From challenge comes innovation. Create an environment where your team is empowered to think creatively. An environment where no new idea is a bad idea. Discuss potential paths forward. Weigh options. Consider costs. Put ego aside enough to say “I don’t know, but let’s think through it together.”
- Communicate. Communication, both internally with your team and externally with your guests, matters.
Internal communication is critical to a healthy and productive working environment. Understanding the plan and the role they play in it will provide team members with a boost of purpose, direction, and motivation.
External communication will also be critical to a robust recovery strategy. Think about what your guests want to know. What will give them confidence to book? What will make them feel safe once they’ve arrived? Update information across all distribution channels to include additional detail about cancellation policy, deep cleaning, social distancing measures on property. Review every stage of the booking journey to ensure the right information is served at the logical time. Revisit email strategy, including marketing communications, transactional emails, pre-stay messages, and so on. Personalize everywhere possible.
While these five points may sound overly simple for such an unprecedented and complex situation, they’ve served for me as the foundation of commercial strategies, decision-making processes and action plans that result in shared goals and team-wide preparedness. I hope they serve for you as a reminder that when faced with difficulty, sometimes simple is better. And while planning for the new world order, thoughtful strategy and open communication can help you emerge stronger than before.