Meetings & Events Management in Times of COVID19
When times are challenging, and crisis emerges the hotel and conference industry is often one of the first to experience set back.
NB: This is an article from Get Into MoRe
With COVID19 causing major events to be cancelled and large corporations banning employee travel it’s safe to say we’ve entered a period where “business as usual” simply won’t do.
What could you do during this challenging period? Keep reading for our take on Meetings, Events and Groups management in times of crisis.
When making the 2020 budget last summer no one had a crisis this size in mind. We need to be realistic and face the fact that COVID19 has and will have a big impact on revenue. Before doing anything else, grab your Meetings & Events budget and adjust the forecast with new and realistic targets. Re-evaluate every month of the year. Pay attention to fairs, concerts, … nearby that were or are expected to be cancelled, lost inquiries, group- or meeting cancellations and a decrease in demand. Compare this year’s to last year’s revenue and demand.
Keep your forecast close to you in the coming weeks and use and update actively. Past crises have taught us that it takes the industry a few months to fully recover with the impact on revenue decreasing with each month that passes. The forecast will be your go-to tool to keep the team motivated working towards a common goal.
Don’t drop rates
With every change in strategy it’s important to ask yourself the question: “Which outcome are we trying to achieve?”. When you are trying to gain market share on your competitors you could opt to achieve this by yielding group rates. However, in this case the challenge lays in the lack of market. Travel restrictions, the cancellation of events and fairs and personal fear has led the market to shrink drastically. Plummeting rates will in no way lead to the objective of a higher hotel- or function space occupancy. From previous challenging periods we know it takes hotels much longer to recover if rates were dumped. Long term this strategy is extremely harmful for the hotel.
On the other hand, short term promotions might help. Maybe you could offer a discount for groups that are willing to accept a stricter cancellation policy in order to secure future revenue. It’s a good time to come up with deals and value adding options.
Step outside of the box
The dark winter months leave many people dreaming of better days. It should not be surprising most summer holidays are being booked during this period as well. With holiday goers uncertain about the further spread of COVID19 and possible negative effects on their travel plans we will most certainly see a rise in local travel for future holiday periods (Easter, long weekends and summer). Leisure guests might not be your core business but use this knowledge to your benefit. Where you will experience a setback in group business you might be able to create interest from domestic travelers or guests originating from “drivable” feeder markers.
The same can be said about Meetings & Events. There is an obvious decrease in inquiries for international conferences and meetings. Next to that we see many cancellations of previously confirmed events. Challenging times ask for a creative approach so shed a light on dark corners and explore new territory. Your hotel’s denied business is a very valuable source to look for opportunities right now.
Focus even more on the guests
More than ever it is a time to value guests that are coming to the hotel. It’s definitely a good idea to delight groups that are happy to travel anyway with some (un-)expected extra benefits. The likelihood of organizers being local is very high. This is your chance to make a lasting impression and create partnerships that will last much longer than this crisis.
Use your time wisely
With a seemingly endless flow of inquiries coming in and high workload it’s difficult to take a step back from daily operations an re-evaluate internal ways of work, processes and tools. Chances are high you are now unwillingly presented with more time. Use it to the fullest!
Of course, the number one focus point is getting through this period by setting long- and short-term strategies and tactics. But why not also use this time to review the current way of work and make sure you come back fully functional? Gather the team and discuss:
- What is going great?
- Which pain points do we suffer?
- Where do things go not as seamless as they should?
- Could we work with more efficiency?
- Do we have the right tools in place?
- Could we benefit from specific training (internal or external)?
I often meet teams that are not completely happy with the current procedures of working with the PMS but keep going anyway as it’s too time consuming to change. Maybe this is a good time to find a uniform way of work that will lead to the best possible output?
Tackle these challenges for once and for all and return stronger than ever.
Anticipate bounce back
Crisis: noun /ˈkraɪ.sɪs / experiencing a time of great difficulty, danger, or suffering
No matter how shitty (I tried looking for another word, couldn’t think of one) things currently are, like always, the crisis will pass. Q1 and Q2 will certainly be affected by COVID19. But what about Q3 and Q4? These periods are still far away. Bear in mind that some events and fairs that are cancelled now will be re-scheduled within the year. This means you might be able to recover some revenue later on. Keep a close eye on the situation and look for signs of improvement in demand and linked parameters like airline travel.
Always remember when things don’t go right, go left!