Deborah Friedland Participates on International Society of Hospitality Consultants Panel
The International Society of Hospitality Consultants (ISHC) held its 30th anniversary conference at the 1 Hotel in Miami in October. Hotel News Now/Castell Project Think Tank hosted a panel session, “Planning for a Downturn: Prepare Now or Repair Later?” which represented the type of topics that keep hotel industry leaders up at night. The general consensus by the panel of hotel executives and consultants was to prepare now, fix issues that may impact your ability to react to a downturn and, no matter what, don’t let the guest see you sweat.
EisnerAmper Managing Director and Head of Hospitality Advisory Services Deborah Friedland commented, “Don’t panic, walk through it, talk to your team members and strategize.” She also stressed that a big differentiator in the industry now is social media and the impact it can have when a consumer’s expectation is not being met. “While obviously it’s prudent to cut costs by reducing labor, we should all keep in mind that service has to be maintained,” added Friedland. “We must provide guests with the experiences that they’re looking for and, in fact, exceed their expectations. You want to be careful about where you cut so as not to interfere with the guest experience.”
Jennifer Findlay, founder of Core Essence, suggested that planning ahead with diverse product offerings, packages and amenities can soften the blow, particularly during an economic downturn. “[The last downturn] really put our business to the test, and we’ve now come back to looking at things differently and being (less) reliant on a single revenue stream,” Findlay said.
Also, keep an eye on internal controls. Remaining diligent about identifying and tracking costs sends the message to your management and staff that you’re watching and making sure that you’re focusing on the budget. “Whether it’s having the right procurement program for toilet paper or being more efficient in laundry operations, finding the right balance now could help save hoteliers from making cuts during a recession that could potentially affect guest service,” noted Friedland.
Watching the bottom line is a constant concern for owners and operators, regardless of where we are in the economic cycle. Suzanne Mellen, senior managing director and practice leader for HVS, spoke about the balance between preparing for a downturn and driving revenue while performance is still solid. “Owners and operators must share the same strategy; being a little conservative in operations and pushing to maximize RevPAR can create conflict,” said Mellen. Find a balance between group bookings and maximize RevPAR through last-minute bookings. “The hotels that had been more conservative and made sure that they did have a block of the group-room nights … they just weathered the storm much better than those hotels that didn’t,” commented Mellen.
Making upgrades? Integrating technology and testing new strategies for making the guests’ time more comfortable or unique while times are good is just as important as in a downturn. “I’m not saying that can be a substitute for face-to-face interaction, but there are ways we’re becoming more intelligent in how we’re leveraging our people and meeting guests’ needs,” said Findlay.
For more about this insightful panel, visit Hotel News Now.