At the end of March, we hosted our first Hospitality and the Coronavirus webinar. As you know, things continue to change very quickly, so we decided to catch up with some of our speakers and get their insights into the latest developments.
You can find parts two and three here:
We spoke to:
- Thibault Catala, Founder of Catala Consulting
- James Lemon, Founder of The Growth Works
- Kevin Machefert, Director of Sales, Marketing & Technology for Machefert Hotels
Here's what they had to say.
What’s changed in the month since our first webinar?
James: “The picture's definitely changed. Let's talk first about leadership mindsets. People are now recognizing the need to spend a portion of time thinking about recovery and that takes focus and that actually takes a bit of a deliberate plan.
Whereas, a month ago – quite rightly – it was 100% crisis and protect mode. It's, where can I push my cash payments out? Are my staff okay? Am I going to do anything with my hotel like give it to key workers, or do food delivery?
But now for the first time, led by some big chains coming out and authorities slowly releasing some markets, people are starting to recognize that something's going to come back. We're all watching to see how much and in what way. But I would definitely say the leadership mindset has changed more towards recovery even if the actual picture of demand and who's in the hotels hasn't really changed that much yet.”
I feel that the picture that we have today is much more optimistic and much more positive than what we had before.
Thibault: “I feel it's much more optimistic than it was a few weeks ago. Everyone was really struggling for survival and making cuts – it was very pessimistic and a bad moment. I feel that the picture has changed, and now people see a light at the end of the tunnel because you have some countries in Europe like Austria, Germany and Belgium already talking about the recovery and softening the restrictions.
It gives people hope. And then you have a lot of help from governments, which relieves a lot of pressure from hoteliers. So I feel that the picture that we have today is much more optimistic and much more positive than what we had before.”
Are there any significant shifts in the data you’re tracking?
Thibault: “We didn't see much in new bookings yet, however, we do see a lot of shifting of reservations from Q1 and Q2 towards the end of the year, Q3 and Q4. So some people are still confident they will be able to travel.
70% of hotels in the London market are planning to open by June and more than 90% of hotels are planning to open in July. So it's actually quite positive to see a sign and some data for recovery
We also start to see a few new bookings towards Q4 and 2021, so a lot of people are forgetting about 2020. A lot of events have been postponed in 2020 and moved to 2021, like Euro 2020, Eurovision and the Olympic Games, and hoteliers are so focused on the very operational short term that they forget about 2021. But people are already looking at 2021, so that's actually quite a big shift.
Looking at the hotel recovery data, 70% of hotels in the London market are planning to open by June and more than 90% of hotels are planning to open in July. So it's actually quite positive to see a sign and some data for recovery. We see the same trend happening for Amsterdam, which is a bit earlier, when they start to open by the 1st of June. There's a big correlation between the end of the help from the government and the reopening of the hotels.”
James: “Just as a warning, though, in all of the government recovery plans that we're tracking, no one's got hotels near the top of the list of what governments think should open. And so I think even once we're open, we then need to start that slow, steady buildup of demand – open is one thing, profitable is something else. I don't think people should be too excited about watching room demand bounce back because I think in every segment, we're seeing levels well below this time last year and hotels need to recognize that and build some scenarios which are still relatively modest and cautious.”
Although people are just looking right now – not booking, but looking – the interest is there. We’re getting a lot of emails and everything.”
Thibault: “You can reopen your hotel but you cannot expect to jump from zero to 80% overnight. I believe it will be a gradual recovery both in occupancy and revenue, but the costs will follow because the government help will stop at one point and people who have been furloughed may come back or may not come back. We just need to be careful to track and to capture the demand that we can, though it will be very difficult.”
Kevin: “I don't know if you've seen the car sales in China, but they're skyrocketing. When people feel comfortable travelling again, they are going to privilege cars. Places like France and Italy that have a beautiful coast where the weather is amazing and it's not too far by car, will have a lot of occupancy, I'm pretty sure about it.
I even think that prices are going to be quite high. If you look at anything south of Avignon, in the south of France, demand is high. There are already a lot of hoteliers asking me: "Wow, shall I do yield management this year as usual?" Although people are just looking right now – not booking, but looking – the interest is there. We’re getting a lot of emails and everything.”
What’s the latest plan for Machefert Hotels?
Kevin: “Out of our 20 hotels in Paris, two are open, 18 are shut down, but we're taking really original and proactive measures that allow us to make the most out of confinement. The Moroccan Embassy has sent us a lot of Moroccans that cannot go back to their country because of the lack of airplanes, so we have around 80 Moroccans in our two open hotels, where we have between 40–60% of occupancy every day, so this is great.
We have a third hotel that is open, but on a hundred percent solidarity, non-commercial basis. So, we built a solidarity ecosystem at Kube Paris where we asked people from our staff if they were willing to volunteer. We have 15 people that volunteered and we are now hosting from eight to 20 caregivers and doctors from two hospitals that are 800 meters away from Kube.
We had a lot of suppliers that gave food for free and goods for free. The idea is that it's a full ecosystem where both our staff as well as our food and beverage partners are giving free time or free goods in order to make these key people's lives a little happier.
And they love it. Every time at eight o'clock, I think it's everywhere in Europe, we have people clapping at 8pm. The caregivers are always having a drink in the courtyard, so now the whole street is clapping for them because people can see them. There are a lot of nice moments, a lot of emotions.
We're hoping to reopen two more hotels in Paris on the 11th of May, and Saint-Tropez in the south of France on the 15th of May. So, we'll see if we can – if we have the cash flow, if we can manage to get some government aid by then, if our banks are going to play ball or not. I've never fought so hard in my life to get cash in and to protect our company, but if we do manage to do so we'll be better in three weeks.”
It’s our goal to give hoteliers all the help and information they need to navigate through this incredibly difficult time. For all of our latest COVID-19 hospitality information, events and schemes, view our COVID-19 landing page.