Now that the world is just days away from the official start of a new season, the hotel market is evaluating its post-summer state of affairs and trying to figure out how best to get back to business this fall. This is also the time to start getting a feel for next year’s budgets. Six months on, we have a better grasp on the unfortunate reality that this is truly a long-term crisis. To help us look back at where we have been and understand where we go from here, HFTP Global President and citizenM CEO Michael Levie, CHTP led the return of the HFTP Europe Hangouts on Wednesday, September 16.
Being an association focused on finance and technology, we see that the majority of members have been stretched quite thin. Financial professionals have found their workloads intensified as they must constantly revise models and budgets based on little information, modify cash flows to sustain properties during an extended time of drastically reduced revenue, and maintain the flow of communication with ownership, banks and shareholders.
On the technology side, IT professionals must implement solutions to accommodate new guest expectations. Guests that do travel during this time would like as much of a touchless experience as possible, so apps and technology must be introduced into play. Efficiency is now a top priority, with less people doing more work with fewer resources on hand, and technology plays a major role in this aspect, as well.
All hospitality professionals, from finance to technology and every vertical in between, remain unified in the ultimate goal of coming out of this pandemic successfully on the other side. According to Levie, what it will take to make that happen is adaptation and innovation.
ADAPT = INNOVATE
As the saying goes, do not let a good crisis go to waste. Innovation takes place in times of scarcity and uncertainty, Levie reminds us all, not in times of plenty. We have been squeezed into a situation where we must be innovative and also focus on available resources. This is the time to try new things, get creative and reshape your organization to be more relevant in a post-pandemic world.
THE FINANCE SIDE
The hotel industry has a traditional way of doing business, and now might be the time to try out a new financial business model. One idea that is being tried and tested is a monthly subscription – a base fee per month for unlimited hotel stays. This could be especially appealing to the frequent business traveler, who may also want to take advantage of various amenities at hotels such as meeting space. It still remains to be seen if this is a viable alternative to rates based on occupancy or per stay. If it is successful, it could become a normal way of doing business. Sometimes, success is all about breaking free from the traditional way of doing business and trying out a new idea that has never been done before. That is precisely how Airbnb began.
THE TECHNOLOGY SIDE
Now more than ever, data is key to success. Hotels should be doing what they can to temporarily shelve costs and restrict cash flow to stay afloat, but it is also the time to implement solutions that meet the evolution of the guest experience. During this time, citizenM has been continuously working to strengthen their business intelligence team and maximize their efficient use of data. They have a business intelligence director that is responsible for all the data within the company, as well as data intelligence managers that participate in the various verticals of the organization, including development and investment and operations. Hotels should be making decisions based on data, and that requires investment in the technology systems that allow you to effectively collect it, collate it and analyze it – including middleware.
The year 2020 is coming to a close, but the pandemic and its effects are far from over. Full recovery to peak occupancy levels will require renewed confidence in travel. Until then, hotels must do what they can in both finance and technology to adapt, innovate and accommodate the new reality. Coming together, sharing ideas and having conversations can help drive creative thinking and generate new solutions for overcoming today’s challenges.
One of the ways to do this is by attending the HFTP virtual Hangout series with other like-minded industry professionals. View Michael Levie’s full presentation online and plan to attend the next Hangout on “Social Distancing Technologies: What Are Our Guests Telling Us” with University of Houston Associate Professor Cristian Morosan, Ph.D., MSc, CHTP. It will take place on Wednesday, September 30 at 15:00 UK (9:00 a.m. CST in the U.S.).