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Dear hoteliers,

We recently decided to interview hoteliers about their feelings and their advice on how to get through this painful period. The results were very interesting, so we are sharing them with you today.

Happy reading!

Information on this survey

The intention was to let hoteliers express themselves as they wished. So our survey did not include any boxes to check. We simply wrote open-ended questions to which each hotelier was free to respond in as many words as he or she deemed necessary.

A total of 24,792 words spread across 2,070 responses from 345 hotels in Europe were processed, translated, and analyzed one by one.

Here are the questions we asked:

  • What are the 3 things that have hurt your business the most since the start of this crisis?
  • What are the 3 things that helped you or are helping you now?
  • What are you missing for your establishment to function properly?
  • What would you do if you had more technical or financial resources?
  • According to your observations, are there any mistakes that should be avoided at this time?
  • In your opinion, what are the key assets that a hotel should have to survive 2020?

For each pair, we will share with you the topics discussed in the answers, as well as our personal conclusions.

The 3 things that harm/help?

What are the 3 things that have hurt your business the most since the start of this crisis?

  • No customers
  • Border closures
  • Confinement
  • Fear
  • Financial problems

What are the 3 things that helped you or are helping you now?

  • Support from the government
  • Loyal customers
  • Positivity
  • Geographical location
  • Local travelers

An interesting parallel can be drawn here. The hoteliers all suffered from the harsh lack of guests due to COVID-19 safety measures. This is why their already loyal customers and local customers have been a solution and a great help.

These two markets are not very costly in terms of customer acquisition. So, despite their financial problems, hoteliers were able to invest a minimum in this simple strategy and thus salvage their businesses.

The fact that their geographic location helped them falls into the same category as reaching local customers. With closed borders, it is obvious that customers close by will be the most frequent visitors.

The last point is very interesting because it deals with the subjective: fear and positivity.

Creating fear or annihilating it with positivity is actually about communication. You could even say that it was frightening communications that hurt the hotels, and that it was comforting communications that helped them.

In the end, this analysis could lead to the following lesson:

Conclusion: the hoteliers who fared best were those who communicated positively with their existing and future local customers.

What they lack/what they would like to do

What are you missing for your establishment to function properly?

  • Customers
  • Money
  • Support from the government
  • Technological tools, marketing, and communications
  • Employees

What would you do if you had more technical or financial resources?

  • Renovations
  • Technological tools, marketing, and communications
  • Financial reserves
  • More employees
  • Better customer experience

This is a good example of the serpent biting its own tail! Hoteliers lack marketing; they would like to do more to attract customers. But they don’t have any money to spend…

They also complain of a critical shortage of employees. With the number of people on partial unemployment, I can understand that the problem is very present and very difficult for the few people who have to manage a whole hotel alone.

The feeling of lacking employees is also very often linked to a lack of technological tools dedicated to simplifying and automating certain procedures. This is not always the case, but it is sufficiently so for us to highlight it in this analysis. How many employees would you need if you didn’t have OTAs, websites, PMSes, channel managers, CRMs, RMSes, etc.? ?

In view of the responses received, it seems that many hoteliers are convinced that the number one way to bring in guests is to renovate their hotels. Permit me to remain perplexed, though this is probably just professional confusion due to my job. Perhaps you will disagree with me; but I find it hard to believe that renovating walls and decorating is a priority over marketing to encourage client reservations. Especially at a time when the number one deficiency is precisely that: not enough customers.

A very good friend of mine told me a few years ago that when it comes to profitability, it’s better to have a lousy sandwich shop on a busy avenue than a beautiful restaurant lost in the middle of nowhere.

Applied to the hotel industry, this means better to have an average hotel that is overflowing with customers thanks to very good marketing than a beautiful hotel that is empty due to a lack of communication.

Of course, the ideal is still a beautiful hotel with perfect marketing!

Conclusion: without spending too much, it is imperative to have ways to communicate more to attract customers. This may seem obvious, but the responses we received show that such is not always the case. Why invest thousands of euros to redo a bathroom right now when you could invest a little bit to communicate with your customer base or to climb a few positions on TripAdvisor or Google?

Advice from hoteliers

According to your observations, are there any mistakes that should be avoided at this time?

  • Ignoring the current crisis
  • Lowering prices
  • Not investing in hygiene measures
  • Spending money
  • Succumbing to fear and thinking there’s no future

In your opinion, what are the key assets that a hotel should have to survive 2020?

  • Set up a hygiene protocol
  • Use government assistance
  • Have flexible conditions
  • Marketing and communication
  • Build financial reserves

Clearly, whether it appears in the mistakes not to be made or the measures to be put in place, what stands out as number one is not ignoring the current situation and adapting one’s hotel and protocols to COVID-19.

Also, forget about NCNR rates and favor flexibility in your bookings. Try to receive as much government aid as possible to replenish your coffers so as to avoid lowering your prices too much.

And finally, don’t spend your money just any old way. Save as soon as you can and invest in technology and marketing.

Conclusion: be moderate in your spending. Favor investments that allow you to adapt your hotel to the new COVID-19 standards and do marketing to bring in guests.

Conclusion

Finally, several of the responses given overlap. Here is what 345 hotels around the world recommend to help you get through this crisis successfully:

  1. Manage your expenses intelligently. Only invest where it will pay off immediately.
  2. Do not neglect the current situation. Adapt your hotel to the new standards and communicate it to your future customers. Reassure them by showing them how your hotel is a safe and health-conscious place.
  3. Market and communicate positively, en masse. Favor “cheap and profitable” sources of marketing; i.e., local and former hotel guests you can bring back.
  4. There’s clearly a shortage of staff at the moment. So invest intechnology to automate and simplify points 2 and 3.

These 4 points are not a magic formula that will solve all your problems. There’s no such thing. But today they will be able to help you better organize your priorities, better manage this crisis and succeed despite adversity.

Let’s stick together!

Tony LOEB
Author

Tony Loeb started his career in Hotel marketing in 2001 as a webmaster, then quickly became the Technical Director of a web agency specialized in the hotel industry. Passionate about the tourism sector and attracted by the idea of taking on new challenges, Tony took over the management of a team of hotel consultants until 2014, when he decided to make hotel marketing his core business. In 2014, he co-founded the company Experience Hotel and is now responsible for its international development and deployment, improving tools for automating and optimizing customer relations, from booking to customer loyalty.

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