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Managing a hospitality business during COVID-19

Here are some tips for maintaining and adapting your hospitality business during the pandemic.
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The past has shown us that hospitality and tourism are resilient industries, and they’re already innovating to ride out the curve. Here are some tips for maintaining and adapting your hospitality business during the pandemic.   

Despite the profound uncertainty we all are facing, we can reliably predict that in the post-lockdown world of hospitality, demand for hygiene and safety will eclipse luxury, amenities, or location. In general, brand trust and customer confidence will become the most important factors in attracting repeat bookings.

Managing your hospitality business during lockdown

Double down on online presence

Building trust and being proactive about communication with the public has never been more vital. This means considering every aspect of your business’s digital storefront experience – website functionality and optimisation; response time on social; different marketing channels; external booking platforms (with further reach); and creating useful content for maximum impact. 

Tips

Why not make how-to videos for insider tips on folding fitted sheets, or making the perfect hotel bed? If you have a spa, offer wellness advice or schedule couples’ massage tutorials. Share with followers how to use lockdown to deep-clean, with helpful tips and hacks for those struggling at home.  

Think STAYcation

The idea is to take your hospitality into the guest’s home! Get creative about how to bring your style and ambience into someone else’s space. Use your contacts to throw in extras wherever you can, and focus on spoiling them  – everyone is so stressed out, and they’ll remember the little things when this is all over. 

  • Virtual guided tours and online experiences are the new way to travel without leaving the house – help create an intimate adventure at home with fun, (often interactive) digital events, courses, tutorials, tours and more.   
  • Sell Pamper Kits online, with hotel merchandise like gowns and slippers; maybe a box of treats with romantic classics like choc-coated strawberries and champagne; or spa basics for at-home therapy; finished off with some mini-bar nostalgia, and a turn-down chocolate for bedtime.
     
  • Room Service in a Box: If you have a kitchen in your establishment,  try focusing on another aspect of the hospitality experience, like breakfast or room service. For example, offer ‘hotel breakfast’ kits with homemade muesli, different locally sourced delicacies, hand squeezed juice, freshly ground coffee, a pretty tea cloth and infusions. (Deliver through third parties, or your own vehicles).

Use your assets

Brainstorm with your team how you could use empty spaces and idol equipment to generate income, and really push the business towards flexibility going forward. Also, look at what maintenance (or makeover) you and your staff could tackle together. When disaster strikes, regrouping, reimagining and reviving the enthusiasm and passion for what you do, is the only way to survive.

  • Update your website and marketing material – take new photos and refresh your imagery to reflect the future of your establishment. Do the same for any external listings, like AirBnb, Bookings.com etc. 

  • If you have premises with a kitchen, think about pivoting towards food delivery or frozen meal preparation.

  • Or, instead focus on one or two things you know well and love to make – for example, baking artisan bread, preserving your own fresh produce, or making your gran’s signature hot sauce. 

  • Market your space to artists or photographers, (to rent per hour) – For example, a beautiful ballroom could be used as a backdrop for a virtual gallery or a fashion shoot. Promote your most photogenic views and corners on instagram, along with your diligent hygiene practices and special offers.

  • If you have vehicles, could they help provide employment for some of your staff in the meantime, while you make the adjustments to pivot? Is there anything you could offer to be delivered, that could extend your reach?

Connect with broader conversations

Market everything you are able to offer, while focusing on ways to keep engagement fresh and active. Now is the time to take advantage of every channel available, so people know how they can support your business, and why they should stay connected. Get in on the right conversations online by joining broader tourism initiatives. Most official tourism authorities have official campaigns and hashtags that you can join in on. 

Just keep swimming 

Do whatever you can to rally and keep fighting, even if this means asking for compassion and understanding from your network of employees and connections. 

  • Sell vouchers for future stays/ experiences, with special deals and a full refund cancellation policy: It’s important to remove any fear that if people can’t come in the end, they’ll have lost their money. So reassure, and stretch yourself to come up with ideas to amp up the value of the special deal.

     

  • Sell merchandise online: Include items that you wouldn’t normally think of selling, but could easily arrange supply of with existing contacts-  like plush monogrammed towels, gowns, slippers, fancy hotel vanity kits, or anything you may be able to produce on site.

     

  • Donations: It can feel unprofessional to ask for help from past guests, but everyone knows how especially difficult this time is for the hospitality industry – many would like to help  secure the future of their beloved getaways. Create a donations page or list on the Yoco small business support page.

     

  • Apply for Relief: You can read more about possible funding opportunities for hospitality here and tourism here, or learn about how to apply for the COVID-19 TERS benefit for your employees here.
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Preparing your hospitality business for better days

Look ahead

Experts say that parts of the industry most likely to bounce back stronger after lockdown are eco-friendly, authentic local experiences; smaller ‘group’ activities; resorts that have been rewilded; or remote retreats deep in nature. In terms of destinations and tourism trends, flights will be more expensive and less convenient globally, so local travel will become even more prized. 

Whatever happens, cleanliness and meticulous hygiene will determine whether people feel safe enough to leave their homes. Spare no detail when it comes to creating a more easily sanitizable environment (flat wipeable surfaces, digital over paper, online check-in and communicating), show extreme care in high touch zones (like door knobs, handles, taps, and surface edges), and plan for regularly scheduled decontamination with a reputable protocol

Think DAYcation 

Focus on the markets that will become accessible first: interprovincial business travellers, and local tourists from within the area (like burned out professionals and frazzled families). Analyse what they will need most, as different restrictions are lifted. Most people won’t be able to take a vacation for a while, and are struggling to balance working from home while juggling family and household responsibilities. 

  • Think along the lines of “escape for a day” to allow locals to work on a deadline, with some desperately needed tranquility. Rearrange rooms to maximise productive deskspace; or offer extras to help guests focus, like a sanitized yoga mat, indoor plants and zen music; promote special repeat day-rates with strong wifi and even stronger coffee.

  • With interprovincial travel allowed for work during Level 3, now is the time to extend and deepen your business-friendly reputation. This will mean a commitment to environmental safety and facing the COVID risk head-on: invest in clever ways (and ideas) to safely and hygienically make working and relaxing feel comfortable. Make provision for dual-purpose spaces – think fold-away desks or tables, sleeper-couches, extra chargers and extensions, good lighting, and minimal clutter for easy sanitizing. Boost specials and business-oriented amenities online, by using phrases like “essential business travel” in your content.

  • Why not focus instead, on short getaways for couples and families that literally just need a change of scenery for a weekend? Offer specials on rooms close together or family packages, and give them a (safe) mini adventure amidst the madness. Add plenty (sanitized) games and creative fun playtime options for indoors, with the extra bonus of full cleaning services after check-out.

Health & safety preparations for your hospitality business

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE and regular training will become our new way of life, and hopefully help ensure that hospitality businesses are not as vulnerable to similar outbreaks in future. It’s also likely that there will be ongoing updates in the regulations around hygiene – plan for more stringent rules to come, and build that flexibility into your plan of action. We’re already seeing the widespread adoption of infrared thermometers for fever screening, and the need for a quarantine and emergency decontamination plan. Staff will need to be trained constantly to keep up with innovations, and to offer more contactless operating without compromising on quality of service.

Maintain a human touch 

With so much push for automation and strict social distancing, it’s even tougher to be truly hospitable. Warm and personalised messages, regular friendly digital check-ins, and 24 hour virtual assistance with a real human behind it, can all help soften the effects. There’s no faking a passion for sincere hospitality, so keep caring and it will show. 

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