June 22, 2020

Letter from the HFTP Global President: A Look at the Past Six Months

President Update
Written by Michael Levie, CHTP — Contributor

Dear HFTP colleagues,

In just a few short months, our world has changed from a strong and steady economy, solid revenues and overall happiness to great concerns for our health and well-being, a deep recession and overall nervousness.

Most of us were first in disbelief and shock, but quickly realized we needed to confront the new reality. I believe that each of us has had to go through the following stages:

  • CRISIS. Safety for our employees, team and guests is a responsibility that has had to be taken very seriously. There were so many unknowns, and yet immediate action was required. Our instincts kicked in, and as we learned more about Covid-19, we were able to put measures in place to counter it.

  • FINANCIAL REALITY. A drop to single-digit occupancy at best or closing all together — while still carrying the weight of our financial responsibilities — is a disastrous recipe for business. We have had to balance a show of loyalty to our beloved, trained employees while also dealing with payables without receivables, mortgage payments and financial contracts... all while planning for the months to come. Cash flow has all of a sudden become our biggest preoccupation.

  • RECOVERY. As we approached the easing of lock-down restrictions, we had to ask ourselves: how do we need to prepare our operations for a new six-foot (1.5-meter) economy? Our check-in/check-out and routing processes would need adjustment. Buffets would need to be eliminated. Our F&B revenues would go down simply due to space restrictions, the necessity for individualized portions, and the general mood to avoid crowds. Housekeeping would need to start with the sanitation of the streets into both the front and back of the house, with a concentrated focus on high-touch surfaces, buttons and touch screens — and, of course, the rooms. What can we digitize, and how do we also stay close to our guests? Services would need to be limited simply because of cost. And, the prevailing question: what will be the new expectancy of the traveling public?

  • FROM MARGIN FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT TO COST CONTROL. Break-even is a must. But, how do we get there? What are the fixed and variable costs, and can we switch fixed costs to become variable? How do we innovate and change our business processes to save money?

These four steps present themselves, not in order or sequence, but all at the same time, relentlessly. We now long for the problems from just a few months ago as this "new normal" becomes our new reality.

It does feel lonely at times. This is where your membership and participation in HFTP brings many of your solutions.

Yes; we are financial and technology professionals, but first and foremost, we are friends. We represent different industry segments (clubs, hotels, a loyal supplier base) but we are all in this together. In times of trouble, you need to be able to turn to your friends to share the good, bad and the ugly....Having a trusted circle to share solutions and make suggestions — that is what it is all about. Being able to make that friendly email, quick text message or call, and sincerely caring about one another — that is also what it is all about. We should make that extra effort to reach out and give unconditionally.

HFTP is an educational association, but it is also a serious business. Having to cancel or postpone events and control costs — going through those four steps I described above — is no different for Frank Wolfe and his incredible team. They have had to operate under the same difficult circumstances we all live every day.

Edited to reflect a change in HFTP's 2020 event schedule: Though we are not able to be under the same roof for HITEC this year, we will still all be together — virtually connected for the world's first "Cyber HITEC." This online conference will become available on October 25, 2020 and run through November 25. Let us make it a success together and support our association collectively. Together, we are able to achieve more.

That is the silver lining: We do have each other. We all face hard times. There are others under more difficult circumstances fighting the same battles we are, and there is always someone in a worse situation than us.

When we approach what is happening with facts instead of emotion, we start to see new possibilities and a brighter future. HFTP envisioned and enacted new possibilities to help our members grow professionally and meet that brighter future: including a new USALI online subscription service, new certificate programs and new virtual online meetups designed to bring industry experts and invaluable networking to your home office.

As a part of the HFTP Global executive committee, we get a close-up view of everything that is happening at HFTP, with the membership, and with the incredible support we receive from our suppliers.

There is still much to be extremely grateful for. A big hug to you all.

Michael Levie, CHTP
HFTP Global President (2019-2020)

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