The great reopening12 April 2021
Since beginning her career in the early ’90s, Felicity Black-Roberts, vice-president for acquisitions and development at Hyatt Europe, has been responsible for managing, acquiring and opening a range of hotel properties across the globe. To cope with the unique demands of the pandemic, she implores hoteliers to be more innovative in their thinking. As she explains, this requires an open-minded approach, a healthy disregard for convention and the ability to work quickly to test new ideas.
After a year of hard knocks and false dawns, hotel owners would be forgiven for looking at the glimmer of light ahead with trepidation. Yet, for the hospitality sector, the lengthening days of springtime are cause for genuine optimism. Better days will be here before you know it.
If you want evidence of our optimism for the future of hospitality, look no further than the fact that we are planning to expand our hotel portfolio in Europe by 30% by 2023. This is part of our long-term strategy for growth, developing our offering in the locations that matter most to our guests.
It is impossible to overstate the impact the pandemic has had on business. To see hotels temporarily closed or operating on a reduced operating model, deprived of the vibrant humanity that gives them life, is something the world has never experienced before outside of wartime. With staff and guest safety at the forefront of all that we do, our hotels have continued to welcome guests thanks to continued innovation, and it is this ability to innovate that will drive recovery.
Whether they are business or leisure travellers, meeting guests’ distinct needs is what creates a great hotel experience. Wellbeing remains the key focus for our stakeholders and drives our recovery by inspiring us to go beyond clean and safe. When our teams are confident in our care for their safety and wellbeing, they are best equipped to care for our guests. During this difficult time, we have retained colleagues who can thrive in a less-scripted environment where experimentation is celebrated. This means being open-minded, upending convention and working quickly to test new ideas to fulfil unmet needs. Our strategy focuses on building trust, instilling confidence and driving business as we move through the stages of this pandemic.
Go the extra mile
For some years the role of technology in hotels has been growing, but the pandemic saw it shift from ‘nice to have’ to core infrastructure. Digital upgrades have been deployed to roll out mobile key entry, contactless check-in and vital services such as the scheduling of housekeeping. But to build our businesses in the recovery phase we need to go the extra mile, which means catering for the evolution of travel.
As the boundaries between work and home have been blurred, the distinctions between business and leisure are becoming increasingly outdated. This was the rationale behind us launching offers such as the Great Relocate, our long-stay package that allows guests to live and work from a luxury hotel. It offers hotels a new way to generate revenue and directly responds to pent-up demand for travel.
For companies seeking a way of combining physical events with remote meeting spaces such as Zoom or Teams, there is HY-Brid. Recently in Berlin we helped a global corporation lay on a five-star event for their sales team. This was complete with a gourmet cookery class filmed from Grand Hyatt Berlin’s kitchen and 200 event boxes sent to delegates ahead of the event. Going the extra mile like this for our corporate guests is everyday life when you work in a hotel.
Recovery will take time, of course, but Hyatt is continuing to grow its portfolio. A significant element of this is our work with independent hotels, which are increasingly joining the Hyatt family to benefit from our inclusive and forward-looking business model. Brands in our independent collection, such as Unbound Collection by Hyatt and JdV by Hyatt, allow hotels to retain their own unique identity, often reflective of the communities in which they operate. We like all our hotels to be part of the community and, with the changes to flexible working, we see an opportunity to open our doors to both local and non-resident guests.
As the world embarks on the latest – and hopefully last – great reopening, this is a good time to remember just how resilient our industry is. While hotels are often the earliest victims of an economic downturn, they are just as frequently the first to recover. All the signs suggest this will be the case in 2022.