More than 300 international brand leaders in the European hospitality industry were given valuable insights on how to proactively prepare for and roll-out their business recovery in 2021 and beyond when they attended the HSMAI Europe Day 2021. This included the HSMAI Revenue Optimisation Conference (ROC) Europe and Chief Officers Roundtable (COR) Day 2021 last week.
Speakers and facilitators at the virtual event included industry chief officers, senior management, academics and economists, research and brand strategists. They focused on a range of critical next steps for revenue optimisation, marketing, sales and distribution.
Top insights and next steps for the industry included:
1) Planning for business – start now and focus on the domestic market recovery in Quarter 2 in 2021
Do plan now: It is vital that hotels do not get left behind in the marketplace. Whilst the first quarter of 2021 may be slow for business, the industry needs to be patient and resilient - so now is a critical time to market for business. Whilst timing of international travel is still uncertain, vaccination roll-outs mean that domestic bookings are set to increase in the second and third quarter of 2021. If possible, hotels should look to stay open so they are up and ready for the first spike of the recovery. This is also the chance to market to the more eco-conscious/green travellers where domestic travel is a priority.
2) Get ready for the pent-up demand of leisure bookings starting Quarter 3 of 2021
Research and predictions presented by STR at the conference revealed that, by this summer, the industry is set to see a hike in bookings. Hotels located in high-end leisure destinations are expected to do very well, so it is important they get ahead of the marketing curve to capitalise on the likely opportunities.
3) Changing work practices mean new opportunities for hotel business
Increasingly more businesses, of all sizes, are expected to work from home even after the pandemic, but on a regular basis will have the need to meet face to face for staff and client meetings as well as social gatherings - hotels should look at new ways to market and capitalise given the changing work practices.
4) Focus on anticipated demand of SME business in the Group/MICE bookings arena
Corporate bookings are set to return from Quarter 4 in 2021/the beginning of 2022. Discussions at the HSMAI Europe Day focused on how SME business will probably be the market that will recover first. This demand could be stimulated by applying dynamic, rather than fixed rates.
5) Focus on flexible rates given the climate, combined with a valid distribution strategy
Given uncertainties in the current climate, hotels need to recognise that customers need the reassurance of flexible rates and this trend is likely to pan out well into 2022. Whilst guests are still price driven, flexibility is the core issue. Applying a distribution strategy that optimises the use of your brand website, OTAs, and other distribution channels, will be key to rapid recovery.
“Hotels should consider a breadth of distribution channels (in addition to the brand website) as customers are highly educated in terms of rates and channels/metasearch platforms,” says Sascha Dalig, Regional Director Central Europe, Wyndham and member of HSMAI Europe Customer & Distribution Advisory Board.
6) Stay on top of the digital transformation and data insights to maximise bookings and enhance the customer experience
Increasingly hotels’ customers are more engaged online and expect simplicity and ease of use when they are searching and making a booking. Hotels need to ensure their user experience design meets the requirements – not just for customers but for their own hotel teams. It is important for hotels’ sales and marketing teams to recognise the importance of gathering data insights at different points of the customer’s journey to be able to offer the right personalised customer experience.
7) Be prepared to adapt and innovate loyalty programmes
The industry needs to consider how they can innovate and evolve loyalty to existing programmes. Hotels may want to consider moving from global and regional marketing to local initiatives and providing relevant propositions and experience initiatives to a focus on local. Whilst many customers can’t travel as far in the current climate, they still would like the same experiences they travel for in the first place. Be aware that the loyalty members are loyal to several programmes and platforms. Personalising a guest’s stay is critical to make the difference and to build loyalty and a relationship between the member and the hotel.
“The true constant is that loyalty continues to evolve in our ever-changing travel world. The first step is to understand who the new traveling groups are and how important recognising them close to home has become. Ultimately it’s about being genuine, communicating constantly and being transparent with them,” says Amanda Elder, Chief Commercial Officer, Kempinski Hotels.
8) Consider new KPIs to benchmark your multiple compsets
The concept of a singular KPI concept is obsolete and hotels should look at multiple KPIs including hotels, alternative accommodation, and software platforms. Hotels should consider benchmarking its property/properties with competitors, using metrics such as GOPAR, and segmentation. Sustainability metrics will be increasingly important for hotels given the rise of the eco-conscious traveller.
9) Take care of your (former) colleagues, and the junior professionals in our industry
Protecting a hotel’s company’s culture and associates’ mental health has never been more important. In a few years, people will refer back to the pandemic and remember how a hotel brand dealt with the challenges. For example, guests may ask “Are you still in touch with those you had to lay off?” “Do you provide time for your colleagues to deal with any possible stress?” “Are you supportive to young graduates looking to enter the industry, even when you cannot provide them with current job opportunities?” The answers to these questions will prove to be crucial.
“Are you scheduling sufficient 1:1 time with team members who you suspect are struggling more with the ongoing challenges due to personal situations or their personalities? People will rarely share serious issues on a group call. Are you striking the right balance between being positive and optimistic yet also realistic? Are you celebrating the good news and wins that probably still happen but are overshadowed by the negative that currently surrounds our industry?” says Philipp Weghmann, Executive Vice President – Europe, Preferred Hotels & Resorts.
10) The sales round table confirmed that B2B customers have great need, will and money to both travel and meet again
Vaccine and relief of restrictions will motivate business recovery. The pandemic has resulted in accelerated progress of digital meetings that certainly will affect corporate travel, but also open up different business opportunities such as companies that will only use home offices and utilise hotels as their base for employee interaction and culture-building meetings.
“We believe that people working from home could transform into bleisure customers where they travel and work from any preferred place in the world. One thing is for certain, that the need for face to face corporate meetings will always be there. We are optimistic about the future because cost savings to meet your clients digitally is nothing compared to the loss of relationships when your competitor meets your client face to face and this will drive future corporate travel,” says Anant Vithlani, Vice President Sales, Nordic Choice Hotels and Chair of HSMAI Europe Sales Advisory Board.
“I was delighted to actively take part in this top of the class hospitality event. As usual, HSMAI Europe has done a great job by focusing on what Hospitality Managers really need: that is creative solutions for boosting their revenue in this period of economic crisis. It was inspiring, useful and insightful.” Frederic Toitot, Vice President, Global Learning & Development, ACCOR and Chair of the HSMAI Europe Revenue Optimisation Advisory Board.
Ingunn Hofseth, President & CEO for HSMAI Region Europe commented: “The pandemic took its toll on the hospitality industry in 2020. The industry is a resilient one but after such challenging times, HSMAI recognised the need for this year’s annual event to focus on how best to market and capitalise on their business recovery in 2021 and beyond. Since the event, we have had an overwhelmingly positive response from attendees who feel even more inspired and ready to embrace the opportunities as signs of a green shoots recovery are on its way.”
The HSMAI Sales Leader Forum will be hosted on Thursday 6 May. Further details to follow, see here.
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