By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
HSMAI hosted the final event in a series of three Hotel Management Company Sales & Marketing Virtual Executive Roundtables on June 11 that focused on the impact that COVID-19 is having on sales and marketing at HMCs. Roundtable participants discussed their biggest concerns as hotels are beginning to reopen and shared the best practices they have learned along the way. Here are key takeaways from the discussion:
As some furloughed employees are beginning to return to work, companies must handle the logistical issues of deciding who should be prioritized — and in some cases convincing people to come back. Several Roundtable participants mentioned that through the end of July, many furloughed employees will still be making more on unemployment than if they are working their job again, which doesn’t incentivize them to come back.
Meanwhile, many employees are doing jobs that they never signed on for, such as a marketer working in laundry. This brings another round of complications to the rehiring process, one participant pointed out. Even if the marketing team is ready to bring an employee back full-time, somebody still has to do the laundry, which means that that another employee has to be rehired for that position, or someone has to be shifted into it. “We’re trying to work as a team, because you have to take the staffing levels of the entire hotel into consideration,” the participant said. “We’ve got a lot of requests from different departments and not enough staff to fulfill them. Everyone believes that they are the most important, but we all have to figure out a way to help out other departments and do our normal jobs.”
COVID-19 has brought many changes to the industry in all disciplines, as hotels struggle to stay afloat. But while some changes are only temporary, others are here to stay as the industry reinvents itself.
One change that several participants mentioned is the need for employees to be multitaskers and work in different segments. “Job descriptions need to be updated,” one participant said. “Everyone has to be a generalist, from social media marketers to sales managers. We have to be prepared for everything. This is a call for us to think about hospitality differently.”
Sales departments in particular have needed to adapt very quickly to the new conditions. “We talk a lot about how you’re selling everything now, not just in one area,” one participant said.
“The sales relationship we’ve had for so long is changing and will continue to change,” another participant said. “Our sales teams can barely connect with customers when they’re at home, which changes the need for a relationship role to a technological role. Sales specialists need to be able to use technology platforms and follow through there.”
Roundtable participants offered advice on everything from managing teams to bringing in business. Here in their own words are some of their suggestions:
- “Cross-train everyone. People are willing to do what it takes to survive right now, and they have to be able to work in different areas.”
- “We’re doing weekly reviews to determine what segments are booking. It’s giving us the opportunity to review and redirect from what is not working as we struggle to find where the business is.”
- “Right now, we have team goals instead of individual goals and it’s been working well. Normally this is more of an individual sport, but we have to a team sport for the time being.”
- “The people on my team who are being the most flexible were surprisingly the younger leaders. I thought that the ones who had been through downturns before would be able to pivot and know that they have to try new things, but they’re stuck. We have to get them to think of things differently.”
- “Our teams have to want to stay when they come out of this. We need to have empathy for them so that they don’t regret having to work 100-hour weeks right now.”
- “Think out of the box. One of our hotels’ greatest successes was a having backyard rate and putting out a banner in front and advertising at the laundromat. The never would have expected that a few months ago.”
- “Remember that your teams are having a hard time, too. Our sales teams have been through two-and-a-half months of cancellations and their spirits are broken right now. Be as compassionate with them as you can.”
- “We’re looking at university dorm overflow as a source of revenue for the fall, as schools open back up but still need to keep students socially distanced in their dorm rooms.”
- “There are a lot of owner expectations and pressure from owners who don’t understand the situation fully. That brings morale down for our teams, but we have to bring it up and keep them motivated, even with the lack of business and the increased frustrations.”
Professionals from these companies participated in the HSMAI Hotel Management Company Sales & Marketing Virtual Executive Roundtables: Aimbridge Hospitality; Atlific Hotels; Commonwealth Hotels, LLC; Crescent Hotels; GF Hotels & Resorts; Kessler Collection; LBA Hospitality; M&R Hotel Management; Marcus; Prism Hotels & Resorts; Pyramid Hotel Group; Regency Hotel Management; Remington hotels; Sage Hospitality Group; Sound Hospitality Management; Staypineapple Hotels; Summit Hospitality Group; and Wright Investments.
For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Recovery Resources page.