Focusing now on staffing, systems and sales will ensure your hotel or company is as ready as possible for the next “Voldemort” moment.
There are plenty of ways to say recession without using the “R”-word: downturn, deceleration, slowdown, slump, trough, economic decline, stagnation, drop, downward trend, dip, dive, decline and downswing are some I’ve read lately.
No one wants to say the word, because—like Voldemort in Harry Potter—it might conjure up that which must not be named.
This is especially true when you step away from conference podiums and official news releases and sit down in a hotel sales office. I get it. Hotels need to maintain rate integrity for as long as possible, and if the alarm is sounded, the sales team could start a fire sale.
We won’t know a recession has started until we are in it. Recession is defined by two consecutive quarters of GDP decline, which is by necessity reported after the fact. But the signs of slowing are starting to show, most recently when both Hyatt and Hilton announced reductions in their 2019 revenue projections.
My experience leading sales teams through the last two recessions has made one thing clear: There are simple steps that hotels can take now, while times are still good, to better position themselves for a Voldemort moment.
Evaluate the talent you have. Fill any open positions and complete training to supplement any weak spots. Think about what you will do if your top sales person wins the lottery and moves away. Build out a bench-strength plan that considers internal and competitor talent to backfill all of your key positions.
Get back to basics. If your daily business review meeting has turned into a coffee klatch, or you haven’t updated your Open Selling Guidelines in three years, now is the time.
Use your tools! One of the biggest mistakes I see hotels make again and again is not using the business intelligence tools they are already paying for.
3. Straight-up sales
This may sound silly, but sell something. Group up. Take more catering than you normally would. Extend negotiated rates to accounts that fall below your minimum threshold of annual roomnight production.
The major modern disruptor of the traditional lodging business—Airbnb—was born in August 2008, just five months after the watershed moment of the Great Recession when Bear Stearns collapsed. Think disruptively and be creative about the types and sources of business you pursue.
Remember that word, “pursue.” Your sales teams will likely have never experienced a climate in which they weren’t overwhelmed with leads. Teach them to proactively pursue business now while you still have a training budget.
As president of Hive Marketing, Susan Barry has worked with hotel owners and asset managers to solve top line revenue problems since 2009. In the course of a decade in business, Hive has helped more than 150 hotels in 70 markets across the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean to improve hotel sales, marketing and revenue strategy efforts.
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