Considerations for a Successful COVID-19 Recovery
You’re likely one of many hoteliers looking to make improvements to successfully emerge from the crisis and ace your recovery. You may be asking yourself where the greatest opportunity for improvement and success lies. Should you focus on the technique (processes, strategy, and tactics) you utilize in targeting, capturing, and converting shoppers into loyal guests? Or should you spend more time looking at the technology you use to support your technique?
With reduced staff and everyone wearing several more hats than they wore 18 months ago, these are valid and important questions. And while both areas are vital to the future success of your property, we asked a few industry insiders where they think the best path to improvement and recovery lies, and in the process discovered some additional considerations.
In Crisis Lies Opportunity
Many hoteliers – from the world’s largest brands to small independent properties – are looking at the crisis as a “once in a blue moon” opportunity to assess and improve their operations. With low demand and closures in many markets, the time is right to make modifications and improvements that would otherwise be difficult if demand and occupancy were at pre-crisis levels. Hoteliers and their staff can and should capitalize on increased bandwidth for upskilling or training.
“History is full of examples of crisis-driven innovation, and the impact of COVID-19 will be no exception,” says John Burns, President of Hospitality Technology Consulting. “We’re being presented with a unique opportunity to significantly evolve hospitality in a way that may not have been possible without what is likely a once-in-a-lifetime crisis.”
To answer the question of which area hoteliers should focus on for the greatest impact (technique or technology), Burns says hoteliers need to evaluate and execute improvements in both areas. “You can’t be successful without the technique – understanding the many different dynamics that go into distribution and conversion optimization – and you can’t be effective in applying that strategy without the right tools. So unfortunately, there is no linear process to follow here. You have to factor in all elements of the equation – and those are just the beginning.”
Which still leaves us wrestling with the old “chicken or the egg” conundrum. If I need to examine and improve both my technique and technology, should I first look at the technique and then find the right technology, or should I look at technological capabilities first and let that inform my technique?
Partners and Education
Peter Waters, EVP Hospitality Enterprise Platform, Amadeus, says that the right partner can simultaneously deliver both the technique and the technology improvements needed to help hoteliers succeed in recovering from the COVID-19 crisis. However, there is a crucial first step that precedes strategy development and technology selection. “As partners we can deliver the greatest value by first demonstrating how things are evolving and how the market will likely change as a result. That education and context is crucial.” Waters adds, “Only then can you have an effective discussion about the right strategies, techniques, and tools to drive demand and increase revenue.”
Burns agrees that the industry needs to redefine what the word ‘partnership’ means. “Lots of vendors gave lip service to partnership, but it took what is probably a once in a century set of events to prove that a partnership needs to be deeper and more extensive than ever before,” he says. “Instead of saying ‘let me show you what our solution can do, and why you need it’, a true partner will say ‘Let me first learn how you like to operate and do business, educate you on some important dynamics and requirements in this new era, show you how to execute key strategies and tactics accordingly, and then we can look at the most appropriate tools to support your needs.’ That’s a very different conversation that delivers much more comprehensive value – all through a partnership centered around education and understanding.”
In a perfect scenario, hoteliers would enjoy a truly beneficial working relationship with their preferred technology partners. First, the partner can educate them on the changing hospitality landscape. What are the new trends? Where is demand coming from? Where should I place my focus? What are the new best practices? Ideally, that partner will have proof points and validation in each area to demonstrate a clear understanding of the current state of the industry while anticipating what is on the horizon. Next, the partner can help assess current technique and technology application to determine what strategies, tactics, and tools need to change to meet the new marketplace dynamics.
That’s it, right? Dust off your hands and watch your recovery go perfectly. Well, not so fast. There’s still one missing element.
Closing the Loop with “Free” Data
Much of the current hospitality technology landscape is severely fragmented and disjointed. Multiple solutions, numerous vendors, and a distinct lack of integrated data is the unfortunate reality for many hoteliers. This makes it difficult (if not impossible) to assess the impact of current techniques and technology – let alone define new ones to address the rapidly changing hospitality landscape.
“Data residing in separate siloes is one of the biggest challenges in our industry and has often caused hoteliers to take action blindly,” says Jebi Mathew, VP Reservations and Guest Management Solutions, Hospitality, Amadeus. “But the days of making complex strategic decisions on gut instincts or ‘a hunch’ are gone. Your competitors are increasingly using data and you need to have the right insights to keep up and differentiate your property or brand. You need free-flowing data across systems to navigate the coming marketplace.”
Waters agrees that data will play an even more important role in the industry moving forward. “The market is starting to understand the value of integrated, single-vendor solutions, new tech stacks with centralized databases, and other recent advancements. Hospitality is taking a massive leap forward from a data standpoint, and recovery from the crisis will only accelerate what would have been a natural evolution anyways.”
And according to Burns, adding data to the mix is what will truly close the loop on improvement and optimization. “The organizations that mix the right recipe of market awareness, data application, technique, and technology and teach hoteliers how to cook it will be the most successful in the coming era,” he says. “But delivering on that promise is no small feat.”
Gearing Up for Battle
Mathew provides some closing perspective on acing recovery by comparing the coming hospitality marketplace to a battle. “To win a battle you need four main elements: the right knowledge, the right strategy and tactics, the right weapons and tools, and the right allies,” he comments. “Make no doubt about it. As demand returns, the competition for those bookings will be a battleground. And the hoteliers with the right data, technique, technology, and partnerships will be the victors.”
For more guidance and best practices to chart your hotel’s path forward from COVID-19, download our eBook series “Planning for Hospitality Recovery.”