When should hotels reopen their doors? What do hoteliers need to do differently to keep guests and staff safe, while trying to remain profitable?
There are no easy answers to these questions, but one of the most helpful things hoteliers can do is look at what their peers are doing and take lessons from them. This is the first of our Hotel Reopening Diaries where we’ll speak to hoteliers about their decisions to reopen.
This conversation is with Klaas Jeschke, Head of Sales & Marketing at Superbude. Superbude have two properties in Hamburg, Germany, which foster a strong, authentic community feel with a hotel-hostel hybrid approach.
You recently reopened your properties – what was your thinking with the timing?
There were a few drivers, but the most important is that we are hoteliers and we want to welcome back our guests and create amazing experiences for them. So when we had to close down on 18th March, we already set our opening day as the end of June, in anticipation of the easing of restrictions. We ended up opening a little earlier, but not by much because we didn’t want to rush the process because there was so much to do.
Did you get any help or guidance from government or local authorities?
There is no real clarity in Germany because each state is allowed to make its own rules. While here in Hamburg, we weren’t allowed to exceed 60% of occupancy, in the neighbouring Schleswig-Holstein, 100% occupancy is allowed. For our neighbours to the west, Nieder-Sachsen, a room cannot be resold less than 48 hours following departures. Now we can go back to 100% capacity though.
What has been the most difficult aspect when re-opening your properties?
The most difficult part is that we are having to make decisions quickly and based on very little data and concrete guidance. The situation is so fluid at the moment, restrictions could change any time. The worst situation would be if we opened our doors, only to be told that restrictions are coming back in place. Luckily in Germany, the government response has been okay, and that gives us some confidence that things are moving in the right direction.
So how do you deal with this uncertainty?
Well, we are partially waiting for other parts of the hospitality industry to reopen and see how it goes. We are keeping an eye on restaurants and other venues and as I said we definitely didn’t want to rush and reopen too quickly. But ultimately, we do need bookings and guests, and we're delighted to welcome them back to our hotels.
How are you reassuring guests that they can stay with you and be safe?
We have created a Coronavirus landing page on our site that covers all subjects around the Coronavirus to illustrate what we are doing to keep our guests safe.
We cover things like breakfast, cleanliness and the division of public spaces, among many subjects.
The experience that we are trying to convey here at Superbude is one that is unique and exciting, so many of the usual places that are advertised on tourist boards are not applicable for our guests anyway. We have our own team that is reviewing which attractions are opening so we can update our guests.
Despite all of what is going on, we are clear in our mission and vision for our hotels and want to maintain the emotional connection we have with our guests. And while we cannot have our usual live events, parties and bustling common spaces, we still want to create a unique visitor experience for everyone.
What changes have you made around the hotel itself because of COVID-19?
We worked very hard to get ready for this and offer a safe and enjoyable experience. One of the big practical issues we faced was signage: how do we inform our guests about how many people can be in the lift, what the rules are in common areas, and how to get in touch with our staff without having to seek them out at the reception?
These signs need to be informative but also on-brand and in different languages. Of course, we also want the guest to be able to forget everyday life and enjoy their break too, so we found the balance.
Are you doing anything differently with your room pricing?
The reality is, unfortunately for us, that 5-star hotels are discounting down to our budget price to capture their business. Of course, demand is not that high yet, plus the restrictions mandate that we can only have a maximum of 60% of occupancy. All of these factors are making the situation very challenging.
How do you see the next few months? Do you think people will start to travel again?
I consider myself a fairly positive guy, and I really am hopeful about travel restarting and being able to welcome more customers to our beautiful city and especially our hotels. Since there are still so many international travel restrictions in place, I expect that people will travel within Germany first. I think that the seaside will see the biggest boost in tourism and will be able to charge a premium for their accommodations, but then I think that more travel will spill into our cities too.
If you’d like to see what other hoteliers are doing, read our Hotel Reopening Diaries for Postillion Hotels