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The Tough Get Tougher

With the eyes of the world focused on a pandemic and drops in hotel demand on an unprecedented level, hoteliers are working to mitigate loss and evaluate options. A recent report by STR in conjunction with Tourism Economics that was highlighted in, it was noted that "hotel closures are expected to lead to a 14.9% decline in room nights available for the year."  As hoteliers are dealing with staggering losses of business and workforce declines, many are adjusting to how they will look at operating hotels moving forward. Today, our guest, hotel consultant Ray Waters will dive into what hoteliers can do today to lead to success in the future.

Ray Waters is a hospitality industry veteran with more than 40 years in leadership in the industry. Through his illustrious career, Ray has served as the Sr. Vice President General Manager of the Opryland Hotel and Attractions Group, President of Hospitality for Turnberry Associates, was involved in early development of the JW Marriott in Nashville, and was opening general manager of the Westin Nashville. After successfully opening the he was promoted to Vice President of Castlerock the company that owns the Westin Nashville, Bobby Hotel and Westin Tampa Bay. Waters is past president of the Greater Nashville Hotel and Lodging Association and the Tennessee Hotel and Motel Association. He has served on the board of directors for American Hotel and Lodging Association, Nashville Sports Council, and BellSouth Senior Golf Tournament. Nashville Downtown Partnership CBID. He won AHLA’s General Manager of the Year for Large Properties and was awarded the Hotelier of the year award by the Tennessee Hospitality Assn. He has since started consulting for hotels.

What can hoteliers do right now to help protect their assets? (What projects can they knock out? How are they staffing if they are open? Is now the time to close for a temporary shut down?)

Just as many of us around the country are using this time to clean out closets and do projects around the house, now is the time for hoteliers to clean up and fix up as well. Hoteliers should be using this time of low to no occupancy to complete deep cleaning of guest rooms and public spaces. Now is an excellent time to tackle those capital projects that would adversely impact the guest experience when business is thriving. Many employees on your staff are experienced and qualified to complete capital projects that do not require a permit and would welcome the opportunity to continue working even if not in the position they were originally hired for. Now is the time to evaluate your team for who they are and what they can do instead of limiting them to how you want them to perform.

How can hoteliers look at their operations moving forward and adjust business accordingly?

This is an unprecedented time in our lives and I believe the American spirit will prevail. Our economy will come roaring back just as soon as the Stay At Home requirement is lifted. So, now is the time to be making decisions on how you are going to retain and bring back your best employees. Did you terminate your employees and not provide insurance assistance? If so, do you really think they will come back to your hotel when this is over? More than likely they will be joining your competitors when things return to normal. People tend to remember when they are not appreciated and will always find a place that respects their talents. Loyalty is definitely a two-way street.

What is the is the biggest thing a hotel can do right now to set themselves up for success?

Less than 6 weeks ago, the unemployment rate in this country was about 3% and much less in some areas so the most important issues at that time were finding and retaining caring and qualified employees. While it will take some time to come back, we need to prepare now to retain any existing and to find the best people as they will be in high demand when the country comes out of this pandemic. You should be personally speaking to your existing employees and letting them know they are appreciated and what your plans are for each step in the near future. If you aren’t, rest assured, your competitors will be speaking with them soon, if they haven’t already. The old adage that your employees are your most important asset is now more true than ever.

With the fast-acting decline of hotel occupancies in the past weeks, hoteliers have the opportunity to look at their operations and find opportunities to adjust. While no peak has been identified and many of us are still working through what this currently means for our industry and what it will mean for the future. One thing is certain and that is that this time will pass and what we did with this time will lead to our success.

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