Whether mandated by government decree or encouraged by low occupation rates, in the last few months many accommodation providers globally, from worldwide chains all the way down to single property owners, have been forced to temporarily close. But as travel intent begins to rise, properties are quickly gearing up to meet the demands of a new breed of cleanliness-focused guest.
Chains revamping worldwide operations
“We have 4,200 hotels under all of our brands around the world, and we had about 1,500 hotels that closed,” says Ron Pohl, Senior Vice President and COO of Best Western Hotels & Resorts. In addition to closing because of government mandates, some Best Western owners saw little economic choice but to temporarily shutter their doors. “We saw instances where the occupancy had dropped to 4-5% and owners chose to close hotels.”
As the travel industry begins to show early signs of recovery, chains like Best Western have been overhauling their programmes. “We went through all areas of the hotel with a thorough disinfecting and cleaning process, making sure we added appropriate signage, sanitation stations, social distancing markings - all of the requirements we felt were necessary to put in place,” says Pohl.
Implementing changes to the guest experience
Best Western was also forced to rethink some traditional amenities and operations. “We had to reduce our breakfast offerings from our full buffets, but we actually saw our breakfast scores improve with grab-and-go breakfast bags,” says Pohl. And while he points out that these high scores might only be temporary, the chain experienced a similarly positive response to discontinuing housekeeping as a standard practice, opting instead to have guests request housekeeping on demand.
Staying flexible in operations
This new service expectation is already being tested as the chain sees an uptick in business. Pohl notes that in one weekend in June, “We saw Best Western hotels in North America inch closer to a 60% occupancy level. That’s still down from last year, but that's pretty strong business in this environment.”
While it’s always important to make sure you get the basics right, it’s especially important right now that you review your base rate plans to ensure you are capturing your fair share of recovery demand. This typically means offering an early booker rate, a non-refundable rate, and a fully flexible rate.
An upside for short-term rentals?
Simon Lehmann, CEO of AJL Consulting, advises home partners to think positively about the market, which he believes has always had room for growth. “If you are in the short-term vacation rental business, you are in perhaps the best travel vertical at this moment in time,” says Lehmann. “You’re offering a home away from home, which is what many people want.”
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