The COVID-19 crisis has fundamentally changed the hospitality industry. To help hotels prepare for recovery we launched a three-part webcast series looking at how things have changed and how we can move forward from both the hotelier and the meeting planner perspectives. In part one we asked our industry experts Kristin House, Senior Vice President at ConferenceDirect and Allison Ahrens, President of Hospitality Revenue Solutions LLC. to share their thoughts on the actions hotels can take today to stabilize and protect their businesses. Read on for Kristin’s and Allison’s top recommendations for hotels.
5 Takeaways from a Meeting Planner
- Touch base — No hard selling, please. This is not the time to do full-court press, especially with someone you don’t know. Any communication, for now, should be a quick check-in with no expectation of reciprocity.
- Over communicate — Especially to all on upcoming business. Meeting Planners need to know what is going on at your hotels and if their contact has changed.
- Respond — Leads are still coming and if you don’t respond, not only will you not get that business, chances are you will be judged on your lack of response.
- Rate integrity — Don’t let my attendees find a cheaper rate. It makes me look bad and it makes you look bad.
- Embrace flexibility — Work for mutually beneficial outcomes. Contract terms will need to change because none of us know what’s going to happen. Flexibility now will reflect well later.
Hear Kristin House and Allison Ahrens discuss the state of the events and hospitality industries with Knowland’s Kristi White.
5 Takeaways from a Hotelier
- Don’t cut all staff — Even if you are closed some staff is necessary. And make sure the people you retain are good utility players. If they can’t work your sales & catering platform, they can’t help meeting planners when they call. If you have cut staff, there needs to be a communication to all customers about who their new point of contact is.
- Duty of care and communication — First, you need to update (or create) a Duty of Care document. Second, your entire staff needs to be trained on all aspects of the document so they can speak to it easily. Assume at some point, all staff members will be questioned by a curious guest. Finally, build these into a communication plan for customers. Have fun with it, show pictures of the team training, it makes for a great social campaign.
- Pivot revenue pricing — Separate what’s happening today from pricing tomorrow. You need to protect your group rates further out to maintain rate integrity.
- Redefine success — Big groups won’t be back for a while. Goals and how you measure your team will need to be rewritten and possibly rewritten again. Don’t hold your teams accountable for unattainable goals.
- Train now for tomorrow — This is necessary across all departments. Sales needs to know how to develop relationships. Banquet staffs will need to know how to set rooms with potential new social distancing standards. Food & Beverage teams will likely need to create new menus or heavily revise existing menus. Housekeeping will need to understand and execute consistently what the new standards for health and safety will be. All of this should be completed and ready to go when things return to normal. It should also be part of your communication to customers.