By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
HSMAI hosts regular Executive Roundtable programs for senior hospitality professionals to meet and discuss relevant issues. Typically, these are face-to-face events, but due to the coronavirus, HSMAI hosted a Chief Sales Officer Virtual Roundtable on March 26 that focused on the impact that COVID-19 is having on hotel sales. Here are three key indicators that CSO participants said are helping to guide their actions during the pandemic:
1. FLEXIBILITY AND THE OPTION TO CANCEL:
All of the participants agreed that it is important to be flexible with customers right now, allowing them to cancel or rebook easily, because there is so much uncertainty. “We are allowing flexibility as long as it ties to being illegal or impossible,” one Virtual Roundtable participant said. “People are looking for a COVID-19 clause that gives them a level of protection separate from a force majeure clause.”
Several participants said that they are trying to keep long-term clauses in place but being as flexible as possible in the short term. “There’s still so much anxiety in the near term,” one participant said. And several participants also said they are already seeing a number of rebookings — some as early as June.
2. WAIT-AND-SEE APPROACH:
Several participants said they haven’t seen a huge decline in bookings for June yet and are hoping that things will start to turn around then, but acknowledged that so much is still unclear. “March was brutal, April is a disaster, May is going to be rough,” a participant said, “but June is holding.” Another participant added: “They want to have their meetings in June. It’s still wait-and-see, but we’re optimistic.”
However, several participants affiliated with hotels in Las Vegas said they are seeing massive cancellations through June and even into July, a trend that could continue to other regions as well. “If the CDC makes a further recommendation,” one participant said, “I imagine we will see more cancellations into June.”
3. CONFIDENCE THAT BUSINESS WILL RETURN:
While customers are hopeful that they will be able to travel soon, it’s still unclear just how soon that will be. “People want to get back to business, but how quickly they will be able to depends on how this pans out,” one participant said. “It’s really too early to predict.”
Several participants said they believe that it will be leisure travel that returns first, as people will want to get out and travel after being cooped up. One participant has seen that trend already in China, as restrictions are being lifted. “I won’t be surprised if that happens here,” a participant said, “but the challenging part is predicting where and when.”
For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Resources page.