How a small chain aims to deliver wellbeing in the time of Covid-19
In a frank Q&A, we hear how My Way Hotels & Resorts is getting operationally on track before re-opening in July and how distributors and suppliers have stepped up to help – or not!
My Way Hotels & Resorts is a Spanish hospitality company that is focused on the “well-being of people and the planet through memorable experiences”. That’s difficult to deliver in a global pandemic, but the team is working hard. Francisco Fernandez, the company’s chief operating officer shares some of the steps being taken in time for opening doors again in July.
EyeforTravel: This is a really tough time for hotels. How are you addressing the challenges?
FF: Our main challenge is to stimulate demand enough to reopen our resorts and get back to day-to-day operations, to get our teams back and inspire them with optimism about the future. We want to welcome guests back as soon as possible. We understand that we are not going to be profitable this year but it is important to ramp up in order to ensure we can be alive and profitable in 2021.
The second challenge, which is equally relevant, is to ensure we can get the right balance between ensuring our guests and associates feel safe, while at the same time ensuring that operationally we can offer our guests a relaxing time. If our guests can’t feel safe and enjoy their time with us, it doesn’t make sense to open.
Finally, it is important for us to find opportunities in the middle of this crisis, to become more efficient and add more value to our guest experience.
EyeforTravel: How have your distribution/tech partners responded to support you?
FF: On a positive note, we have had some positive engagement and contact. Expedia, for example, has announced the reinvestment of relevant amounts of their commissions in ad campaigns to help reboot the industry. Some of our suppliers have stepped up with complimentary webinars and free tools for a limited period in order to help us to forecast business. We have had some pro bono consultancy to analyse how to prepare for the new normal. On the not so positive side, certain other distributors have had an unacceptable attitude. Some big operators froze their payments to hoteliers for stays booked in January and February because of their own financial stress. This hit our cash flow, and was very unfair to hotel suppliers.
EyeforTravel: What measures are you taking to ensure guests feel safe when travelling and how has this been received?
FF: We will reopen once we have completed the four phases of the so call de-escalated process. It is what we call the ‘new normal’. Key measures include:
- Re-Training our teams to operate properly in this ‘new normal’
- Streamlining cleaning protocols in hotels
- Implementing new protocols about social distancing such as greetings, physical contact.
- Providing hygiene stations at key spots around the hotels including at reception, restaurants, and gyms.
- Reshaping outlets and public areas, both indoors and outdoors, to reduce the number of customers to 50% of our regular capacity in restaurants, solariums and bars.
- Speeding up digitalization projects to facilitate reopening. We are looking at new digital tools that improve our operations and reduce contact risks. For example: full online check-in, digital systems to open doors with a cell phone code, digital tools to manage restaurant and bars menus directly from a smart phone etc.
- Improve communication and information between guests and staff.
EyeforTravel: When are you planning to reopen and what is the outlook for occupancies?
FF: We are planning to reopen by early July and our expectations for July, August and September are very modest. We are expecting maximum occupancies of between 20 to 25%. Looking ahead to October through till December we are a bit more optimistic but this is based on the assumption that there are no set backs in our destinations or feeder markets. The winter season in the Canary Islands is our high season so we hope to be able to generate occupancies close to 50% average during these months. Looking ahead to 2021, we are expecting an acceptable season in summer and almost back to Pre-Covid by the winter season of 2021-22.
EyeforTravel: Cost efficiencies are going to be fundamental for hotels going forward. How are you approaching this?
FF: As mentioned above, technology can definitely but also we have to revisit our usual standards and re-invent formulas that have worked in the past, especially at the food and beverage areas. We are also going to need staffing flexibility. This is a must for managing costs in our business.
EyeforTravel: Are there any positive lessons to take from the Covid-19 crisis?
FF: Yes, sure there are. I believe there are many things that we have come to understand and need to pay more attention to:
- The fragility of our global economies when there is a pandemic and how we prepare for the future.
- A new vision about important things in life.
- Sustainability as a common responsibility and a more social approach to business.
- More than ever our industry must be about people serving people. Technology can help but is just a tool.
- Leadership is key, both in families, companies and governments and information must be a human right.
- In the short-term, it is important to survive but we will not succeed without a long-term vision.
EyeforTravel: What is keeping you awake at night and looking ahead, what would you most like to see change?
FF: Honestly I sleep very well but to answer your question, my main concern is about the so poor response by some of the world’s main political leaders, most of which have been elected by citizens! If they reflect the society we are building what kind of world can we expect?