Okay Covid, What’s Next?

We’ve all witnessed multiple waves of COVID-19. The effects on our businesses have been as expected, with last minute cancellations exacerbated by pandemic-related staff shortages. Corporate and group sales have not yet returned. It’s exhausting and disheartening to most every owner and operator.

But there is light at the end of this tunnel. The Spanish Flu of 1918 petered out after about two years, and this occurred without any vaccinations (and a truly globalized economy mind you). It just may be that the Omicron variant we are currently experiencing is the ‘flameout’ of this pandemic because, as epidemiologists have proposed, it’s greater contagiousness outcompetes other variants, replacing the higher hospitalization strains with this ‘lighter’ version.

Thus, in keeping with the need to stay ahead of the curve, it is now time to re-examine your core strategies and take a hard look at your plans for the long-term. Think revenge travel, a genuine resumption of international flights and more normalized labor.

We’ve been looking at our crystal ball, too. While not professing to have any magic formula, we see the following themes or guidelines for your consideration.

  1. Get back to real marketing. By this, we mean finding ways to engage customers, generate loyalty and initiate trial. Endlessly dumping hard-earned dollars into paid search to purchase your own name or improve placement ahead of the OTAs is wasteful. OTA customers are just that. Your best chance to convert is on any repeat stay. Instead, take that money and plow it back into making every guest an ambassador. Focus on your local community and opportunities to build a core following.
  2. The pandemic has not eliminated short-term rentals. These booking sources are now your core competitor for any guest under 40. Learn about what they offer in your market. Make sure your website delivers the similar expertise on your local sites and happenings. Consider loading some inventory into this new distribution channel.
  3. Make sure you’ve learned how to survive with lean teams. We’ve written several articles on how to get the most out of your management team through technology adaptation and plain old smarter work habits. Don’t fall into the trap of adding management as per past practices. Stay trim and reward those on your core team appropriately. Treat your line staff with the respect (and remuneration) they deserve. Reward loyalty with recognition.
  4. It’s all about profits not occupancy. While this goes in the face of classic revenue management, revenue per guest (TRevPAR) should be your focus rather than occupancy levels (RevPAR). Depending on your service offering, this may lead to big changes in your approach to building your segment pricing stack and promotional considerations.
  5. What has your brand done for you lately? While you’ve been struggling with survival through tough times, the hotel brands (as witnessed by their share price growth over the past 18-24 months) have not suffered. What support are they giving your franchise? Only when you ask shall you receive.

If the fundamentals of your business are strong, consider this to be a short-term blip. You will get over it; recovery will come, and those who prepare will reap the appropriate rewards.

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