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Road to Recovery: Planning for a marathon, not a sprint

The following article is part of a series on reopening tips and strategies for hotels, part of our Road to Recovery guide for hoteliers. Click here to access the complete guide

As countries loosen lockdown restrictions, hotels around the world are cautiously reopening and hoping to salvage what’s left of their high season, while simultaneously adjusting to a “new normal” of enhanced hygiene and social distancing in their daily operations. 

Unfortunately, while some countries of the world are confidently past the first wave of the pandemic, others are seeing their cases rise, even after having successfully brought their numbers down. Hotels that had pinned their hopes on reopening on a certain date may have to pause their plans or be ready to close again if lockdown measures are reinstated.

The unpredictability of new outbreaks has stymied any hopes of a quick rebound in travel and has made it difficult to forecast a recovery trajectory. For hotels, this means it will be more important than ever to adopt an agile mindset, particularly when it comes to distribution and marketing. There will be no magic playbook that helps the hospitality industry to recover from this pandemic. Rather, as the World Economic Forum predicts, it will be agility and resilience—the ability to adapt quickly to a changing environment—that will define which businesses recover best from the pandemic

Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable 

U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous quote rings especially true in crisis situations. As your hotel starts building a reopening and recovery strategy, it may be helpful to focus less on the actual plan itself and more on the process of planning itself. A good planning process encourages your team to question assumptions, think critically and creatively, and align around strategic goals—all of which helps your hotel become more nimble and adaptable in a quickly changing environment. Here are some best practices for improving the agility of your hotel team during the crisis and recovery period: 

Plan in shorter cycles. The dynamic nature of the pandemic means that expectations and assumptions can change by the day, which makes long-term planning too unreliable when it comes to revenue and distribution. Instead, plan in shorter cycles of 3-6 months, with more detailed focus on the 30-60-90 day plans. This makes it easier for your team to adapt quickly to news (for example, bookings jumped 52% at the UK’s announcement giving the green light for overseas travel), and it also aligns with the way consumers are thinking about travel right now—booking lead times have generally shortened for both leisure and business travel as consumers navigate complicated travel restrictions. 

Watch trends at a hyperlocal level. Following the initial lockdowns in China, many industry analysts have followed their market to look for signs of recovery. While these reports have provided some hopeful signs, China’s recovery trends can’t necessarily be extrapolated to other markets. Recent data shows recovery has been splintered depending on the region, with China currently showing a domestic rebound, Europe showing slow growth, and the U.S. showing stalled growth. As outbreaks flare in regions across the world and with public health responses varying widely by nation, domestic and regional travel will be the only reliable source markets for the duration of the pandemic. It’s important that hotels focus closely on the travel trends happening locally without applying assumptions from other regions. 

Build checklists for standard procedures. Simple as they are, checklists have been proven to significantly reduce human error and also help to train staff quickly, especially if you’re working with a reduced headcount due to the pandemic. While most hotels use checklists for operational processes, they may not necessarily think to do so for their revenue, marketing or sales teams. Building SOPs for repetitive or mundane projects such as updating your distribution channels, auditing your website, and disseminating guest information can help ensure that important tasks are not missed. Our Road to Recovery guide has a list of practical to-dos for hotels as they plan for reopening.

Empower your staff to explore and implement new ideas. The business of hospitality doesn’t just have to be tied to room nights and heads in beds. From Airbnb’s bookable online experiences, to FabHotels reconfiguration to temporary office space, to boutique hotels offering cooking classes and virtual camps, hotels and accommodation providers all around the world are experimenting with new revenue streams as they wait for guests to return. There’s never been a better time to experiment with these ideas — you never know what will end up being wildly successful. 

Looking for more ideas as you plan your hotel’s recovery strategy? Download our guide, The Road to Recovery, for practical tips, strategies, and checklists for your revenue, marketing, and sales teams.

Nancy Huang

Nancy Huang

Nancy is the Senior Marketing Director at Pegasus and expert in strategic communication, brand development, and content marketing. She is an admitted travel junkie and loves finding amazing hotel deals when booking direct. Contact her at nancy.huang@pegs.com.

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