How hotels can embrace agility to be ready for anything
Roman Solyanyk, an Account Executive at Impala, explains how new technology makes it easy to embrace agility.
Recently a whole new set of buzzwords have appeared, comfortably establishing themselves in our everyday lexicon almost overnight. You know the words and phrases I’m thinking of: ‘pingdemic’, ‘self-isolation’, ‘freedom day’, ‘lockdown’.
As quickly as these buzzwords appear, the hotel industry has to adapt to accommodate their implications. From the booking process, to implementing hygiene measures, to reaching changing customer bases.
This unprecedented experience is teaching us that we need to be prepared for the unpredictable. But how on earth do you do that? The answer is—agility.
AGILITY IN PRACTICE
Agility has been crucial in navigating the rollercoaster of the past year or so. Businesses have kept their doors open by adapting quickly to the ever-shifting rules and guidelines. This is true across all industries.
Let’s take pubs as an example. When it was announced that indoor drinking and dining was no longer allowed, many pubs added decking, gazebos and heaters to make outside gatherings feasible. The pubs that embraced these changes not only experienced less of a financial hit, but many actually thrived thanks to their new setup. There’s also the new ordering technology that much of hospitality has implemented. I can see convenient measures such as paperless menus and table service in bars staying put once the restrictions have been lifted. If such changes are here to stay, then the establishments that are already practising them are one step ahead.
As restrictions ease, independent hotels need to be just as agile as pubs have been. This will allow them to smoothly deal with the various opportunities and challenges that will arise. I’ve already seen most hotels adopt generous cancellation policies, which has become almost essential to getting bookings. I’ve also seen many hotels clearly stating what health and hygiene measures they’re taking so that their customers feel reassured.
I can envision both of these are features surviving beyond the pandemic. Not only will some measures be required to stay for a while, but people’s expectations and the way that they holiday is changing. So those hotels that have already been agile and adopted such measures, are ahead of the game.
EMBRACE TRAVEL TECHNOLOGY
Improving your tech stack allows you to respond to change quickly and effectively. This is most crucial when it comes to distribution. As we’ve seen, travel restrictions dictate customer bases and as the restrictions lift, target markets will change again. With the right technology, a hotel can be agile enough to react swiftly to changing demand.
Okay it’s true, Impala is a tech company working in the hotel industry, so it is perhaps inevitable that I would encourage hotels to embrace travel technology. I am also aware that hotels are currently being approached by a whole host of innovative companies and it can get overwhelming. But it’s simply a fact that global lockdowns and travel restrictions have repeatedly altered customer bases and often, with very little warning. In the face of that, hotels need to be equipped to react quickly and tech is an incredible tool to do this.
For a not particularly tech-friendly industry, we are seeing more and more independent hotels shaking things up. In order to respond to a change in demand, they’re beginning to open themselves up to new technology so that they can attract different customer bases, say from the US or UK.
Preparing for what’s on the horizon is a great way to increase your booking power. Being agile allows you to react better to changing travel trends, for example adapting to attract staycations, long stays, or remote workers.
We know independent hotels are under a lot of pressure at the moment, demand in the UK in particular is extremely high and many hotels are booked to capacity. At the same time, the ‘pingdemic’ has resulted in something of a staffing crisis. Hotels certainly have their hands full and it may seem like too much to be thinking in the long term.
But in many ways, short term thinking has always been a trait of independent hotels. This is totally understandable as smaller businesses only have a capacity for so much. But if we’ve learnt anything from the last year or so, it's that things change and they change quickly. Therefore, if we know there's change coming (international travel will open up, customer bases will shift, government rules will ease) then it seems like a no-brainer to do what we can to prepare.
By nature, larger hotels and chains do think in the long term. The fact of having a variety of types of locations that appeal to different segments, means they have to strategize. It’s therefore smart to look at what they’re doing to prepare for the incoming changes. The chains that I am in contact with are anticipating a drop off of domestic customers by the end of summer and are diversifying their distribution, reaching out to international markets and making offers for the autumn and winter season.
Looking at other hospitality players, such as restaurants and pubs, it’s clear that those who were most successful throughout the changeable climate of the last 12 months, were those that put agility at the core of their strategy. It’s clear that agility is key for long term success and getting ahead in challenging conditions.
For independent hotels, the ability to respond to change quickly will be invaluable as we move forward in these uncertain times. Not only on the micro-level, when it comes to the day to day business of running an independent hotel, but also on the macro-level when it comes to thinking ahead and embracing travel technology to open up their distribution. Embracing technology and getting agile will only open doors and position you to be ready for whatever comes next.