The headlines are full of uncertainty from a potentially economic softening to on-going terrorist threat and even disruptors such as airbnb, make it difficult for hoteliers to forecast let alone begin budget discussions for 2017. As we become more globally connected, world events might have an impact on your customers’ travel plans, regardless how far away.
The very nature of unexpected events means that you never know when or where they are going to happen. From a business point of view, developing a plan to be prepared if something does happen, will remove the worry and keep leaders level-headed in the event something does happen. The following are five things to do now to be prepared:
- Focus on local customers
It was hotels with a more local account base that weathered the post 9/11 slump in 2001 and 2002, whether it was corporate transient, group or even weekend leisure business. It is these local accounts and customers that are more resilient to global catastrophic events. Now is the time to assess the potential from accounts surrounding the hotel. While business is strong, create a list of potential accounts and as much information that you can. Start to nurture the relationship now.
- Stay nimble
Being nimble involves; being aware of world events and their global effect, determining the potential impact on your business and then prepare a plan that can easily be implemented should it occur.
Even with less catastrophic events such as the increase in the US dollar, ask yourself how it will affect your business, in the short term and in the long term. Is there an aspirational customer who might be enticed to stay at your property?
And don’t forget to consider marketing opportunities. Digital advertising can be very effective to quickly impact a geographic market for short-term business. Have a digital ad with a tactical offer in your back pocket with as many of the details pre-determined as possible.
- Reinforce relationships with existing customers
Never lose sight of the top accounts by market segment. This includes the booking channel, the actual guest, and senior executives of the organization.
It is also important to reinforce relationships with repeat customers who may not be affiliated with a company or organization. Whether it is measured by the number of stays, by revenue, or both, recognize and thank them for their loyalty.
- Create a healthy mix of each market segment: group, leisure & individual corporate
Those properties that have the physical plant and suitable geography to have a healthy mix of business from each of the three key market segments are the properties most likely to weather uncertain times. It also requires the skill and finesse of the sales and marketing department to find the right business for the specific time of year that fits into the ideal market mix. Brainstorm to identify accounts or markets that could be targeted if one market segment started to decline.
- Relentless focus on customer service
The operational side of the hotel has a part to play too. Whether it is the banqueting department responding to a set-up change for a meeting room, housekeeping having guest rooms ready for early corporate arrivals, or the concierge to maintaining ‘special relationships’ with hard-to-get-in-to restaurants, every department needs to understand their role and the importance to outshine the competition.
Regardless of uncertainty, the basics of hospitality service delivery must remain the number one focus of the hotel at all times.
We are living in uncertain times, but with advance preparation, a hotel will no longer waste energy worrying about the ‘what ifs’ and instead will be able to confidentially navigate toward the future, whatever it may bring.
Brief Bio of Jo-Anne Hill
Founded by industry expert Jo-Anne Hill, JH Hospitality leads hotels to dramatically improve revenue and profitability in creative ways. Her strategic thinking, skill, and practical approach to problem-solving come from hands-on experience at companies such as The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Mandarin-Oriental Hotel Group, Dorchester Collection and Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts.